Harassment/Misconduct/Criminal Behavior

Well, The Rock Test wasn’t what I was expecting (I was thinking “rock”, not “Rock”), but yes, it’s valid. This all has been yet another revelation in my life. It’s a bit like my experience with work/office affairs (no, I’ve never had one of those, that isn’t what I mean. And I’m not trying to relate affairs to harassment, so bear with me). There was a time in my young professional life when I would hear rumors of Mike who was married to Sally, having a fling with his co-worker Jane who was married to Bill, Or not married. Whatever. And I would think, “no way, they’re married”, or “no way, they’re just friends”. And gradually my obliviousness would be shattered by the reality that Mike and Jane really *were* having a fling, and it wasn’t really such a rare thing either.

Obliviousness has often been part of my character, sad to say.

When it comes to sexual harassment/misconduct/criminal behavior – I think my professional life has been a little different from many, especially in the IT field. For most of my 30+ years in the field, my managers were women. So the environment wasn’t male-dominated, and that made it easy to engage in the thought process that what I experienced was “normal”. My managers treated me as a professional, I treated them, and my coworkers, as professionals, the world turned as it should. Did I know of situations where women were subjected to things they shouldn’t have had to endure? Yes, but those were isolated, and everybody knew those guys were pigs. That’s what I always thought, anyway. And now I look back and realize that once again, I was oblivious to things going on in plain sight. Maybe not in my immediate environment, but still…and I think about the women with whom I’ve worked, and I wonder just how much crap they’ve had to put up with through the years, and I wonder how many signs I missed, how many situations might have been helped if I’d just noticed what was going on. Maybe none – maybe I wouldn’t have been willing to speak up. I like to think I would have, maybe that’s just vanity on my part. But being a white male has meant I could stay safely within my perspective and ignore so many things. As one of my daughters once pointed out, being male, 6’5″, and not a skinny guy meant I could feel comfortable in situations where a woman would feel unsafe. I know, this is rambling but what I’m trying to say is, learning to break from my happy little world, learning to explore other perspectives, learning to have empathy for others, has taken a lifetime for me. And that’s the first step, I think, that people need to embrace. As we began to be inundated by reports of women claiming harassment, my first thought was “really”. And then I began to think “yes, really”. To the women I’ve worked with, if I missed things along the way, if I ignored the signs, I’m sorry. I really am. Being oblivious isn’t an excuse.

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