A few years ago, I was called out for misogyny.
When it happened, my immediate instinct was to react defensively. It was a male colleague who called me out. He was someone I respected but who still felt comfortable enough with to push back against.
At the time, the irony to me was that, in my mind, I was complimenting this woman who I was acting sexist to. I still remember it clearly.
The woman was a colleague and friend. She happened to be supremely beautiful.
During a text message exchange, I had suggested to this woman, in jest, that she could use her good looks to score more favorable business deals with men. I thought it was an innocent little joke and a bit of a compliment.
The joke didn’t land.
This female colleague mentioned it to our mutual male colleague who got in touch with me and scolded me for making unfunny, sexist jokes.
In my mind, the closer a friend or colleague is, the more I tend to hit them up with inappropriate jokes. Making fun of someone is supposed to be a sign of comfort with that person. It’s a sign of endearment, isn’t it? No? Not really? Not always? Not this time? Never again? Not with some people? With all people? With women only? I obviously had to figure it out.
After letting myself sleep on it, I took a step back and realized that the comment I made, however innocent I thought it to be, didn’t get taken that way. I realized that this “beautiful” woman was probably sick of people only seeing her as that. In my years of knowing her, I know she’s highly intelligent, motivated, and talented.
I tried to look at the world through her eyes and something interesting happened. I understood her frustration.
Very often, men don’t take your thoughts and opinions seriously. They dismiss you and they talk over you. They’re more concerned with hooking up with you than listening to what you have to say.
When you turn down their advances, their ego gets bruised and they turn away– often going so far as hurting you professionally, emotionally or worse, physically. It’s classic Weinstein.
Once I realized that I was wrong, I called my female colleague and left an apology on her voicemail. It was sincere. She hit me back with a text message a bit later on, accepting my apology and clarifying to me just how rampant that kind of talk is to her and how she’s no longer going to put up with it.
My pride was bruised but I’d rather have a bruised ego and be on the right side. The last thing I want to do is to hurt anyone, especially someone who I admire and respect.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about how to deal with women, both in private life and in the workplace. I’ve strengthened my relationship with my now-fiance and we’re more solid than ever. I’m able to understand and empathize with the women in my life more.
With the help of #MeToo, I can now clearly see how rampant and deep-rooted sexism is towards women in our society. I’ve gone from having to “watch my mouth” to just intrinsically being respectful without having to think about it.
I still call myself a “bro”. There’s nothing wrong with that label and I wear it proudly. I’m not perfect but I’m a better bro than I was before and getting better all the time.
I truly believe you can still be a bro and have respect for women. You can still acknowledge the beauty of a woman who walks by you on the street without being a creep. You can still engage in “locker room talk” without degrading women.
There are ways to “bro out” and still support #MeToo. Mistakes will be made and that’s ok. Learning to apologize and mean it sincerely is powerful. You’re no less of a man because you say “I’m sorry”.
See Also: 5 Ways to Say Sorry
For the last couple of years, I have sat back and tried my best to listen. Now that it’s clear that our society has a lot of work to do to eradicate harassment of all kinds towards women, I finally feel comfortable speaking out.
I’m willing to help turn other guys out there into better, more respectful, and successful men. I’m willing to share what I’ve learned and contribute to the #MeToo movement.