Quit playing the fool, guys — you’re hurting our reputation


Oh, god. Could you make it any more about you? Men are wondering if hugging women is still OK.

“Have we gotten to the point now where men can’t say, ‘That’s a nice dress’ or ‘Did you do something with your hair?’” says the veteran sales associate for a Los Angeles company. “The potential problem is you can’t even feel safe saying, ‘Good morning’ anymore.”

The sexual misconduct allegations that have brought down powerful men in Hollywood, media, politics and business are sending a shiver through the workplace. Men are wondering if it’s still OK to hug a female colleague or ask about her weekend. And some are asking themselves if they ever, perhaps even inadvertently, crossed the line.

You can still comment on women’s appearance in a complimentary way, if you’re also the kind of guy who says “That’s a nice shirt” to your male co-workers. You can comment on their hairstyle, if you also say the same sort of thing about other men.

“Good morning” is always safe, you dumbass.

Hugging is also safe, if you ask permission first, and if you don’t use it as an excuse to send your hands on a scouting mission to various prominences in the landscape. Again, I have to wonder, though, how often hugging is an important part of your interactions with other men.

Also, if you have to ask yourselves if you’ve crossed a line, then yes, you have crossed a line.

I’m really getting annoyed with these men who are playing dumb and incapable of understanding simple social cues and rules of behavior. We men aren’t that stupid, and no one is fooled — even you aren’t that dim. Apparently, though, the cost of appearing stupid is the price you’re willing to pay for an excuse to clumsily fondle women against their will.

“You don’t feel save saying ‘good morning’ anymore.” Sheesh. You really are willing to play the imbecile for a cheap feel.

Comments

  1. Rowan vet-tech says

    What I find “amusing” is that while these men offer up innocent compliments in their “confusion”, those aren’t what they actually say. They act as if “you look hot in that dress” is the same as “nice dress” and pretend that hearing we make some cis guy have a boner is something we should appreciate hearing and they just can’t understand why we can’t take a compliment.

  2. Mark Smith says

    I keep thinking: If you look out at a landscape that’s becoming increasingly hostile to sexual harassment, and all you see is treacherous footing, then that’s pretty much on you.

  3. says

    Men are wondering if hugging women is still OK

    Only with permission. That said, why would anyone be trying to hug at the office or other place of work? Not appropriate.

  4. Moggie says

    It’s the war on greetings!

    Yeah, workplace hugging is best avoided. Particularly if the hugger is senior to the huggee: asking permission doesn’t really cut it if your position of power makes people reluctant to say no.

  5. cactusren says

    From the linked article:

    …men do need to recognize that a sudden arm around the shoulder or a pat on the butt isn’t the innocuous gesture some might have thought it was….

    WHO THINKS IT IS OKAY TO TOUCH A COWORKER’S BUTT? Seriously, dudes. You know better than that. Stop pretending otherwise.

  6. devnll says

    If you don’t feel safe saying “Good Morning” anymore… then it’s probably not safe for you to say “Good Morning”. Creep.

  7. embraceyourinnercrone says

    @Caine – when I was at my first duty station there was a civilian contractor who insisted on hugging people, but mostly just the young female people. I was 19 fresh out of boot camp and never had been away from home before. I do not like being hugged by people I don’t know well, when I asked my supervisor to please talk to the guy he said I was over dramatizing and the guy didn’t mean anything by it. Good times… At my next duty station there was an E-6 who gave unsolicited “shoulder rubs” to people. That time I just asked him to stop but then I had to deal with the ” I was just being nice!” comments forever. I have pretty much just learned to just put up with this crap because the passive aggressive crap I get for objecting is just too exhausting.

  8. Jackson says

    I have a lot of sympathy for these men, and it has to do with the changing norms of chivalrous behavior in society today.

    As a real life example: At work the other day I was approaching a clear glass door at the same time a female coworker was from the other side. She got to the door slightly before I did. Normally the man would hold the door for the woman, but in this case she held the door for me. I didn’t know if I should let her hold the door for me and walk through like I normally would, or take off all my clothes and start masturbating in front of her. It’s so confusing to be a man these days!

  9. says

    What they’re really saying is that they want to hump people’s leg like a dog, and then say “I was just trying to hug and say ‘good morning’!”

  10. woozy says

    I can see wondering if hugging is still acceptable (in my region hugging is pretty standard even among coworkers in social settings and occasionally even at work). But, if you aren’t sure …. well, don’t initiate … *nothing* will be lost if you don’t.

  11. says

    I have a theory. They are genuinely confused by the whole “treat women as human” thing because it’s never occurred to them that women are people rather than sex toys.

  12. says

    When I worked for a public agency, I had a rule that I would only touch my employees twice: a handshake at the conclusion of their initial job interview and another handshake upon their leaving the agency. I never asked to hug men or women–ever. It’s not that I didn’t trust myself or them. It is a matter I consider professionalism. That doesn’t mean park humanity at the door–it means keep your hands to yourself.

  13. Gregory Greenwood says

    The uncomfortable squirming going on here is a clear indication that these particular men doing the complaining have something to hide. There is nothing wrong with politely enquiring about a change of hairstyle by a female coworker in the same way you might ask a male coworker about a new hair cut, so long as the two of you have that kind of working relationship. The same goes for new items of clothing. As noted by Rowan vet-tech @ 1, such reasonable conversation is easily distinguishable from holding forth on whether or not a woman’s (or, for that matter, a man’s) hairstyle or sartorial choices are pleasing to your penis.

    As for saying ‘good morning’, you have to work really hard to make such an innocuous greeting creepy, and you simply can’t do it by accident. If your ‘good morning’ is rendered predatory, then that is on you and no other, and your attempt at gas lighting women by issuing such a greeting in a context where your intent to harass is clear is both nauseating and nowhere near as subtle or clever as you think it is.

    When it comes to hugs – ask permission without any hint of coercion, and you avoid any possibility of misunderstanding. If you aren’t the kind of person who hugs men in such situation, then ask yourself why are you inclined to hug women? And could that behaviour be threatening? Finally, handshakes are a viable alternative, being less intimate and potentially uncomfortable than a hug while also being appropriate as a greeting for both men and women. There really isn’t a problem here unless you choose to create one, and that leads me to wonder why these men are so determined to see a problem.

  14. Ogvorbis: Swimming without a parachute. says

    In my years at my current job, I have hugged three people: a co-worker on her first day back at work after the death of her husband (also worked here); a co-worker whose wife had died; and a co-worker who, after we had worked together for more than 25 years, was/is retiring. All three times were with people whom I have known for over a decade (minimum), and all three times I opened my arms to offer a hug and the person stepped towards me to accept the hug. Was I wrong? Don’t think so. Could it have been wrong? No question.

  15. says

    When it comes to hugs – ask permission without any hint of coercion, and you avoid any possibility of misunderstanding.

    I think we need to bring back the courtly bow. Remember, men, extend your leg and flex those calf muscles! Keep the hand loose whether you have a hat in or not.

  16. kingoftown says

    “I’m really getting annoyed with these men who are playing dumb and incapable of understanding simple social cues and rules of behavior. We men aren’t that stupid, and no one is fooled — even you aren’t that dim.”

    I’m kind of shocked no one has called you out on this statement. People who don’t understand social cues are not stupid.

  17. says

    kingoftown:

    People who don’t understand social cues are not stupid.

    People who genuinely don’t understand social cues are not the problem, and they usually don’t commit blunders, because they know they don’t often get social cues, so they tend to be cautious.

    This is not about those people. This is about men making the same old fucking excuses, claiming cluelessness, which is lie. They know what they are doing, and they know what behaviour is wrong. They’re now whining because they are being caught and called out, so of course there are endless whimpers over not being allowed to stick their hands where they please, and acting like all other people are their playthings.

  18. Onamission5 says

    @ lakitha tolbert #6: Thank you. That links needs to be posted every day until the information contained within finally gets read and starts to take root.
    @Jackson #9: I was ready to tear into your comment all the way until the end. Well played, well played.

  19. Mark Jacobson says

    As someone who grew up with difficulty recognizing social cues, I can confirm what Caine says. It had no bearing on my respect for others, and that respect meant that when I knew I couldn’t navigate a social encounter I defaulted to guaranteed safe behavior, because my disability was my responsibility.

  20. Chris Capoccia says

    @kingoftown “understanding social cues”-disabled people – LOL! The point is that no one believes these people actually have any such disability. They are only playing dumb to deflect for their own misbehavior. They display none of the normal caution of a person with a real disability. It’s not OK to be Mr Magoo

  21. Dark Jaguar says

    I’ve met a number of those “I’m sorry, I’m a hugger” types who apologize in advance but then do it anyway. Then I leave and they go on hugging someone else that didn’t ask for it. To the huggers, I’d rather not.

  22. screechymonkey says

    “People who don’t understand social cues are not stupid.”

    I don’t think there was anything that needed to be “called out” there. The comment you quoted referred to “men who are playing dumb and incapable of understanding simple social cues and rules of behavior” The bolded parts are kind of important there.

    From what I understand, “people who don’t understand social cues” are pretty careful about learning and following rules of behavior, precisely because — as you say — they aren’t stupid. Someone who, e.g. struggles to realize when someone is or isn’t receptive to being hugged, will adopt a simple rule of, you know, no hugs without explicitly asking and receiving permission.

    You should save your ire for the asshole men who are trying to hide behind “inability to get social cues.”

  23. opposablethumbs says

    They’re demanding a cheat-sheet. They think there’s some kind of gaming code that has nothing to do with the actual content of their communication (which I suppose is why they say “you look hot in that dress” and then whine and complain “I only complimented her dress, you can’t say anything these days” etc.); they don’t want to acknowledge the other person is in fact a person when they’d rather treat them as NPCs.

  24. kingoftown says

    @screechymonkey That still reads to me like PZ is saying men that claim they can’t read social cues are “playing dumb”.

  25. screechymonkey says

    kingoftown @26,

    Men who claim that they can’t read social cues as an excuse for violating basic rules of behavior are playing dumb.

    It’s the difference between:
    “I can’t understand social cues about when it’s ok to hug, so I always just offer a handshake to be safe.”
    and
    “I can’t understand social cues about when it’s ok to hug, so I just go ahead and hug whoever I feel like, and if they complain, oh well, I don’t understand social cues, whaddayagonnado?”

    The former is reasonable; the latter is bullshit excuse-making and playing dumb.

  26. Rowan vet-tech says

    You’ve got that turned around. These men *know* the social cues… and then ‘play dumb’ and say they can’t read them. These men know exactly what they’re doing.

  27. kingoftown says

    @Rowan vet-tech I fully understand that he is referring to men that are lying to excuse their own behaviour (and to be clear I think those people are complete scumbags). My objection is to calling this lie “playing dumb.” If claiming to not understand social cues is playing dumb, isn’t the implication that not understanding social clues makes you dumb?

  28. jazzlet says

    kingoftown #29
    I don’t think that the implication is there, it isn’t like an equation that works both ways.

  29. says

    As an autistic adult, I understand all these rules. I don’t get to use my autism as an excuse for missing out, so it sickens me when supposedly neurotypical men start pretending they lack knowledge they should have picked up in grade school. Then there are repeat assholes who use my condition as an excuse for why they refuse to learn.

  30. Raucous Indignation says

    I hug patients and their family members in the office all the time, both to console and to congratulate. I spread my arms a bit and then ask. We get very close to our patients; I usually know who will welcome it and who won’t. And yes, I hug both men and women. I sometimes get creeped on when the return hug crosses my boundaries, but what am I to do? I am a hot doctor. Just look at the long white coat and stethoscope! I am asking for it.

    No seriously, it’s so easy to know when your attentions are unwanted. And if you keep doing what you’re doing when the person stiffens and turns away, you’re a creeper. And men admit that kind of shit all the time. To me anyway. Some days it’s like I’m a fuckin’ creeper whisperer.

  31. anchor says

    “The potential problem is you can’t even feel safe saying, ‘Good morning’ anymore.”

    Geezeez fucking Keeriest.

    Actually, the potential fucking problem with this asshole is that he frets that saying “Good morning” may no longer be a sufficiently safe distracting tactic for his ulterior motives.

    That is a cheap and lousy excuse for a ‘man’. I’m convinced guys like him ‘think’ with their scrotum.

  32. cjcolucci says

    “Have we gotten to the point now where men can’t say, ‘That’s a nice dress’

    Most men I know understand the difference between “nice dress” and “nice ass.”

  33. OptimalCynic says

    Although I’m not a woman myself, I can’t help but feel that women will willingly give up workplace hugs and “good morning”s in return for NOT BEING SEXUALLY HARASSED. Just a hunch.

  34. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    My objection is to calling this lie “playing dumb.” If claiming to not understand social cues is playing dumb, isn’t the implication that not understanding social clues makes you dumb?

    No, the implication is that “playing dumb” is a well-known idiom for “pretending not to understand something you do in fact understand, for the purpose of gaining an advantage.”

  35. Aim OfDestiny says

    The other thing I’m getting here is slightly more insidious.
    When men, particularly men in positions of power, say that they ‘can’t even say “Good Morning” to women’, what I see is a refusal to include women. Basically, if a woman wants to be included in the kinds of spaces that are controlled by this type of man, they have to put up with harassment as the price of admittance.

  36. Curious Digressions says

    There were the same complaints in the late 1980’s when guys had to take their “tasteful” girly calendars home. “Next thing you know, I won’t be able to bring in a picture of my wife.” Then they came up again in the mid 2000’s when the rash of corporate harassment training was required. “I don’t know if I’m allowed to even *look* at a woman.” Each time expectation change a little bit, the entitles weasels act like the sky is falling. They’ll get over it.

  37. says

    Fully agree with the spirit of the post and replies here – there’s clearly a lot of disingenuous “confusion” being spouted. But to the few people who’ve expressed the opinion that it’s unprofessional to hug in the office; this is by no means culturally universal. Here in some of Europe hugging a colleague in the office is very normal, as is a kiss on the cheek. As a guy from the UK, where those things are not as normal, I used to find it awkward, but now it’s quite natural and not unprofessional at all.

  38. says

    kingoftown

    I’m kind of shocked no one has called you out on this statement. People who don’t understand social cues are not stupid.

    It was only a matter of time until that bullshit came up.
    You know what, until the person isn’t also getting regularly mauled by dogs and scratched bloody by cats, I won’t buy it.
    Oh, or being regularly cited into office by HR for getting off boundaries with the male superior.
    Seems to me that “not understanding social clues and then violating boundaries” is something that is exclusively reserved for men being inappropriate towards women.
    If you were at all concerned about people with social disabilities you wouldn’t use them as a cheap way to excuse sexual harassment.

  39. kingoftown says

    Ok, I’ve only ever heard the phrase “playing dumb” used to mean pretending to be unintelligent, but I suppose it could also mean feigning ignorance.

    @Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- Like I said, I wasn’t defending the people PZ was criticising, I was just saying his choice of words could be interpreted as insulting to socially disabled people. I’m sure he didn’t mean it the way I read it.

  40. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    kingoftown: “Ok, I’ve only ever heard the phrase “playing dumb” used to mean pretending to be unintelligent, but I suppose it could also mean feigning ignorance.”

    Dude, have you entirely missed all the fricking crime dramas on TV where the suspect is brought in for questioning, denies involvement and the cop says, “Don’t play dumb with me….”? I think they must have a whole day in script writing school devoted to “Don’t play dumb.”

  41. kingoftown says

    Yeah, I know the police drama cliche but I’ve always taken it to mean “stop pretending to be stupid.” E.g. in the Simpsons I think Wiggum says it to Fat Tony when he pretends not to know what a truck is.

  42. says

    If you aren’t the kind of person who hugs men in such situation, then ask yourself why are you inclined to hug women?

    Actually… The thing is, some of this is also social construct. Among some sets of people, with specific assumptions about “normal”, women may hug women, men may, sometimes, hug women, but men never hug men **ever**. So, I can see where a certain level of confusions might come in over why they should stop doing what is normal when confronted with a woman, but is unthinkable with most men.

    Honestly, I do see the place some of this confusion honestly comes from, and it even confuses the hell out of me, to some extent – but, this is because I, for all of my years, am a bit of a social dunce, with little real experience, who gets annoyed when people do social stuff at work, where they should be bloody working, and is just vaguely uncomfortable in every other situation. To me hugging someone, of any sex, is just.. odd, because I know I don’t get when it would be reasonable most of the time, and wouldn’t dare do so.

    That said, I have no clue how many out there are honestly just clueless, like me, and left with ever less clue by the endless commentary on the subject, and how many of them are the ones “creating” that confusion, by literally not getting it anything at all, and lamenting every imaginary case where they might get in trouble (including the ones they should know damn well will get them in trouble). If you don’t get, but avoid, situations where it might be OK, and all your guidance is from an endless stream of idiots that you strongly suspect honestly have no clue what the difference between a hug and an ass grab is, the dividing line, which you honestly want to comprehend, can be as clear as mud.

    I suppose the difference between an ass, and just confused, is in this case whether you freak, back off, and do nothing, out of the vague sense you might goof, or you jump in and just do something, without giving a damn if its appropriate or not (and probably have the answer turn out to be, “yes, it was!”.

  43. Anton Mates says

    “Have we gotten to the point now where men can’t say, ‘That’s a nice dress’ or ‘Did you do something with your hair?’”

    If you’re genuinely worried about that, why don’t you just not say those things? The world’s not going to end because your coworker’s dress and hair go unpraised by you. Just compliment her on the quality of her work and her ideas instead, that generally makes people happy. If she’s utterly dying to have you praise her dress specifically, she’s an adult and is free to bring it up in conversation herself.

    “The potential problem is you can’t even feel safe saying, ‘Good morning’ anymore.”

    …smile and nod, I guess? Then wait until she says “Good morning” first, so you know it’s okay? There are lots of people with actual social anxiety who manage to navigate this minefield, so you can probably pull it off too, Mr. guy who was apparently totally socially adept until the wimmenz surprised you by getting all angry last week

    I mean, most of what these men are saying boils down to, “I’m so confused, I might have to be really reserved around my colleagues because I don’t know what’s appropriate now!” Fine. Be reserved. Women have had to act friendly yet reserved in male-dominated workplaces since forever; it won’t kill you to follow their lead.

    Unless, y’know, you’re being totally disingenuous and the actual problem is that you don’t want to do what’s appropriate. Then you might have a problem.

  44. Onamission5 says

    It’s not the “good morning” that’s a problem, oh hand-wringing dudes. It’s when you say good morning while leering down your coworker’s top, or rubbing against her, or putting your pubic hair on her can of soda, or taking off your pants, or denying your coworker a raise because she won’t have sex with/engage in uncomfortable backrubs/listen to you talk about your sex life/ you.

    But you knew that already, you’re just trying to build a case for plausible deniability framed inside a narrative of “b*tches be crazy.”

  45. Helen Huntingdon says

    Why would dudes even be assuming any of us want to hear what they think of our damn dress anyway?

  46. Helen Huntingdon says

    Chris Robinson, are the guys in your workplace hugging and kissing the other guys?

    I see European colleagues at conferences a lot, and while I’ve seen some of what you describe, I’ve yet to see men doing it to each other.

  47. DLC says

    Simple solution to “is it okay to hug women?” : No, it isn’t. Not ever. under any circumstances. Okay, I grew up in one of those stoic, unpersonal, undemonstrative families. I’m not big on personal contact in public. I may shake hands with you if you put your hand out, but not otherwise. It’s how I am. So no, do not hug women, or men, or children. I won’t hug you, and so I sure as hell won’t be putting my hand on your body. Just live with it.

  48. says

    Helen Huntingdon – Occasionally you’ll see two guys go in for “la bise” (the kiss), but it’s not so common. I’ve seen it perhaps a handful of times. Among guys it’s normally a handshake, a pat on the shoulder, or a hug, depending on closeness.
    From what I can gather, as a slight outsider, men in general aren’t as comfortable with the kiss as women are, and will usually take the lead from the woman upon meeting. Certainly for me I always take the lead from the woman, responding to the kiss if it’s offered or if it’s someone I know will initiate it, or going in for a handshake if not.
    Strangely (for me), the kiss seems to be less intimate than the hug as well – people who aren’t that close willl kiss, but you seem to have to be much closer to hug.

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