Should Men Come Clean On Past Sexual Harassment?

93c3c09517cb7d4b8c52ad89e946cbf0-originaAt Least One Man Did
 
Image courtesy of Ayo Ogunseinde.

By Terry Howard. I didn’t know Morgan Spurlock. Never heard of him.
 
Until one recent Wednesday night.
 
But before I get to the Super Size Me director’s “confession,” in which he preemptively outed himself as having committed sexual harassment in the past, here’s a feedback request I sent in the days before to a number of people, men and women, whose views I greatly value:
 
“Given that women are coming forth sharing how they've been harassed or assaulted years ago, my hunch is that many men are worriedly reflecting on their past relationships with women, hoping and praying that skeletons they recall (or don’t recall) don’t emerge and throw their current professional and personal lives into turmoil. So, what could these men do?
 
“I propose that men in general (and some men in particular) should consider ‘truth and reconciliation acts’ similar to what happened years ago in South Africa post-apartheid. Another example would be something similar to amnesty programs where illegal gun owners could turn in their weapons without fear of arrest. My point is that men could come clean about their past behavior, including behavior they witnessed without intervening, ask for forgiveness, and commit to becoming fighters in their advocacy for the respectful treatment of woman. “
 
As I anticipated, the responses were fast and furious. Here are a few:

Practical and Humane Action
“I like your idea—practical and humane, especially framing the ‘ask for forgiveness’ with active advocating. I am concerned that in reality, fewer women will be hired or included in leadership to avoid messy situations. There needs to be active hiring, mentoring, and promotion involved—with metrics!” 
—Female company president
 
A Fantastic Start
“I think this is a fantastic start to a much-needed movement! It touches on more than one facet where thinly disguised misogyny and patriarchal notions are concerned. I look forward to a place of healing and forgiveness for (us) survivors.”   
—Female public school educator
 
Blurring the Focus on Egregious Behavior
“Not all actions are equal. The difference between rape and an unwanted touch on the shoulder is enormous. To me, throwing them into the same category—call it sexual harassment or whatever—blurs the focus on truly egregious behavior. Your suggestion, though interesting, is not without its flaws.”      
—Male college administrator
 
Doing More Harm Than Good
“We've seen the dumbing-down of such important concepts as privilege and micro-aggressions through their inordinate expansion into covering almost every word or action. I would hate to see the same thing happen with sexual harassment. As for a formal process of confessing, at this point I would neither support nor encourage anyone to participate in it. We went through this in the 1970s when some white people publicly confessed to being ‘recovering racists’ to the mechanical applause of those hearing their confessions. My guess is that this process probably did more harm than good. I would hate to see something similar occur with regard to male-female relations.”    
—Male consultant
 
I Wouldn't Dare "Confess"
“I wouldn’t dare do that and most men wouldn’t either. That would expose us legally and may even encourage those we may have had a past consensual relationship with to ‘suddenly’ become victims. Nice try Terry but a bad idea.”
—Male college director
 
Hum, “bad idea?” That sent my suggestion to the back burner.
 
But then came Morgan Spurlock, who preemptively “outed” himself and, perhaps, added a bit of credence to my suggestion. In his confession, Spurlock shared a detailed account of his own misconduct stretching back to his college days in a post entitled I Am Part of the Problem.
 
“As I sit around watching hero after hero, man after man, fall at the realization of their past indiscretions, I don’t sit by and wonder ‘who will be next?’” he began. “I wonder, ‘when will they come for me?’”
 
Is a confessional a bad idea?
 
Maybe.
 
What do you think?
 
26ede85f5699baaf10c4196fd1f5693b-originaTerry Howard is an award-winning writer, trainer and story teller. He is a senior associate at Diversity Wealth, a contributing writer with The American Diversity Report, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Huffington Post and Catalyst. He can be reached at wwhoward3@gmail.com.
Posted by MARC Catalyst on Dec 21, 2017 2:43 PM America/New_York
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I love the cross-section of opinions you've got here, terry howard‍! I can't help but notice that the women in the group seem open to the idea of healing and reconciliation, while the men seem to be afraid of reprecussions and doubtful about the potential for benefit. Interesting...
  • Posted Thu 21 Dec 2017 02:47 PM EST
Jared, I did get get more responses and, consistent with your observation, they played out precisely along gender lines (except one black women who told me that although she hates the idea the piece will probably result in a bump in her newspaper readership). 
  • Posted Fri 22 Dec 2017 09:41 AM EST

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