Hey gang, happy Wednesday! It’s gorgeous here, I spent my cardio time this morning literally working in the yard. (new post holes for a garden expansion and a new deck)
Hope the weather is good where you are, and people are healthy. I needed the sun this morning, and will continue to need it. Partly because I’m chewing on some things that really upset me. Profanity-laden post follows, so there’s that warning.
I had a lovely conversation with a dear friend yesterday, and something they said really shook me:
‘I’m nervous about going to the annual trade show, tho.’
‘Because… of that thing that happened with that one person I told you about? And I’m glad I talked about it, but… now … I wonder what’s going to happen. And who else will creep on me or touch me, or what else will happen.’
And gang, I had trouble sleeping last night because I lay there thinking “This is fucking insane. How can we not STOP this from happening?”
EVERY. SINGLE. CONFERENCE. In which I am involved? I know of multiple situations like this. Someone (generally female) having been pressured/assaulted/creeped on/etc by someone else; (generally male) often MORE THAN ONCE at the same fucking conference.
- “Oh, I don’t want to date you, I just want to fuck you”
- Gee, thanks? My life is complete!
- ‘You know, I told myself I wasn’t going to cheat on my wife with you.’
- Uhhh… Did… you think that was a RISK?
- “I’m very attracted to you, you should send nudes.”
- Awesome! I’m not attracted to you. You should send money.
- ‘You know, we really should just fuck.’
- Alternately, you should just fuck. Off.
Trapping in elevators, touching without consent, snapping photos, sending dick pics. The list goes on and on, and booze is frequently, but not always, involved.
Most of you are probably familiar with the analogy of the Missing Step. If not, here’s the quick and dirty:
‘Hey! Welcome to the house! Oh, watch that second step on the way into the house, that one’s missing. It’s totally fine other than that, just watch out for that gap.’
“Oh, we all know Bob is creepy. But he’s part of the crew! Just make sure you tell the new people not to be alone with Bob, or let Bob make them a drink, and it’s fine!”
(Apologies to Bob the Cat, she’s dangerous… because she’s a cat)
The question is not “why is that step missing?” or even “why is Bob creepy?” … the question is “WHY IS THERE STILL A MISSING STEP? FUCKING FIX IT.” and likewise “… why IS Bob still a part of the crew? That’s just stupid. Fix him, or ditch him.”
And you know what? I am ON BOARD with this concept. If I recognize that someone in my social circle is risky/offensive/toxic and is always so? I think that person needs to not be part of my social circle. I think in any industry we are a part of, if we identify those people, we should make efforts to insist that they change their ways POST. HASTE. Or we kick them to the curb.
But what I don’t know how to address? Is when the whole staircase is creaky, shaky and annoying.
The saddest compliment I ever got from a friend was saying “You know, we were talking about the group and the agreement was that the female peoples had felt creeped out by all of the guys in the group, except for you Greg and like, X and Y.”
… OK, I mean, kudos to me and X and Y for acting like HUMAN BEINGS. But DUDE. WHAT THE HELL?!
THIS? IS. INSANITY.
We cannot continue like this. We cannot be creative and nurturing, and intellectual, and progressive if we lose good smart talented people to the fact that they cannot go up and down the stairs without tripping every time on some step. Fixing the missing steps is Literally. LITERALLY the least we can do.
Let me address some of the issues in simple phrases for people that I devoutly hope will ponder whether they have been guilty of being a creaky step at some point. Look, it happens, ok? If you have, fine. Own it, learn and move on. Maybe you were drunk, maybe you were overly tired, or frustrated or WHATEVER. You said something you shouldn’t. SO HAVE I. (See my previous “me too” post, I’m no saint)
If you’re a missing step, you’re not going to even realize this is about you. So instead, THINK THIS THROUGH:
- If you are in a position of any kind of mentorship or authority with someone? There IS NO OK WAY to approach that someone romantically or sexually. There just isn’t. I don’t care if you think that person is the hottest thing since the big bang, or if you are “sure” they’ve been “throwing themselves at you.” It’s NOT. OK. You are in the wrong. Period. DON’T GO THERE. Don’t say it, don’t do it, don’t imply it. JUST. DON’T. If fate wants you and that person to be together? Five years from now you’ll be in positions of parity and things will click. LET IT GO.
- If you are in a position to control a project that someone works on, or you pay someone? THERE IS NO OK WAY to approach that someone romantically or sexually. Seriously, does it sound like “Hey, that check should be there on Tuesday, and do you have that deliverable for next week, and also do you want to try a new position tonight?” will ever be kosher? If you answered ‘yes’ to that rhetorical question, please find someone nearby to smack you and start from the top.
- If you are a producer of some form of media/entertainment/etc and someone is approaching you to enthuse about your work? THERE IS NO OK WAY to approach that someone romantically or sexually. Groupies be damned, it’s an abuse of position. You’re an asshole if you do that. I know this one seems hard, and maybe … MAYBE if that meeting becomes a friendship over a long period of time, and that person gets to know you outside your role as a performer/creator/etc… ok. But that night/weekend? Ugh, NO.
- If you are colleagues with someone, YES. It CAN be OK to offer the possibility of a romantic or sexual liaison. But people? That is TRICKY AS HELL. Like, take all of the normal level of making sure you don’t create a toxic burned bridge scenario and ramp that shit up to 100. If you’re going to make a pass at a colleague, you have to be on your absolute BEST communication/consent/compassion A-Game. Frankly, most people I’ve met do not have that level of A-Game. My advice: probably best not to go there, and IF YOU DO – make it the most neutral and inoffensive opening salvo you can possibly think of. Like “Hey, if you were ever interested in getting dinner socially sometime, just the two of us, let me know.” Best of luck, don’t be a jerk.
- If you’ve been drinking? SHUT THE FUCK UP. HANDS TO YOURSELF. Look, I know it lowers social inhibitions, and you know what? THAT’S WHY IT TRIGGERS SO MUCH SHIT. Your social inhibitions are a GOOD THING in many cases. Especially the ones that whisper to you “hey, maybe you shouldn’t grab her/his/their ass?” or “maybe you shouldn’t tell that person you want to go down on them” I get it, we have lots of weird puritanical hangups about sex and bodies and stuff… but the solution to that is NOT to stomp through people’s barriers and consent, ok? It’s just not. Learn to view your OWN sexuality without shame, and you’ll be a lot further.
- Finally, and especially when it comes to trade shows, conventions, conferences, retreats, etc: People? YOU. ARE. AT. WORK. FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST! You? You are at work. You are WORKING. The reason the IRS lets you deduct the cost of that dinner, those drinks, the plane ticket? (yes, ok, 50% of the dinner and drinks) IS BECAUSE YOU ARE AT WORK! You’re NOT kicking back, you’re not on the pull, you’re not on fucking Tinder or Grindr or OKCupid or even Match dot fucking com. OK? YOU. ARE. AT. WORK. Maybe, just maybe oh… I dunno… ACT LIKE IT. Can you have fun with your colleagues? Yes! Can you swap personal stories? Sure! Can you become genuine friends with your coworkers? Of course! But you are, manifestly, STILL AT WORK. This is your livelihood, and theirs, and whether you’re freelance or salaried, it’s still work. If you’re at a mixed professional/fan event? See the note about groupies from point three.
I need to get to work, and so I’m going to leave this on the following note:
Fix missing steps. Always. Don’t let your friends get hurt, and don’t make it their job to stay safe.
Question whether the stairs you are on, and the stair you ARE is creaking or wobbling.
Communication. Consent. Compassion.
We can do better, we must do better.
Until next time: keep reading, keep writing, keep listening and keep sharing your stories.
Cheers (and bisous if you want them)
7 responses to “Missing steps and shaky stairs: Wednesday Musings”
Reading this as a woman, dog eared with time & mileage on me – it’s a little like reading a foreign language, I have to blink to clear my confusion and stare a little harder to trust that I’m interpreting the words correctly. Not that you’re wrong in any sense, just your clarity in addressing the issue for yourself is jarringly unfamiliar—almost panic inducing. My breath catches, and little film clips start to roll…and I’m the lucky one, bruised not broken. I’ve been coaching my 17yo daughter for years…crumb by tiny crumb (and by half-loaves the first time she was sent an unsolicited (and are they ever otherwise ?) dick-pic by a sophomore asking for her reciprocal breast shot, at age 14. My latest lecture : “How to survive the emotional battering that comes along with having a vagina.” Sometimes I feel like we are cursed with wandering in this gendered desert. Your commitment to changing this norm is like an oasis on the horizon. Thank you.
I feel achingly horribly inadequate to the challenge, and spend more than a few moments raging that I cannot JUST FIX IT… but by the gods I will NOT be a silent complicit bystander. I’m not under the illusion that Tra Laa Laahh, everything will be magically fixed because the white dude wrote a blog post, but my gender is the toxic pit that has been an anchor around the neck of civilization for too long, and we are the ones who must do the social work to fix it.
I send my heartfelt sympathy to you and your daughter. I had a discussion with mine (14) about WHERE the urge to send dick picks comes from with guys just yesterday, and the shared frustration that it continues.
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Now that would be an enlightening post 😀 You’re a mensch.
It’s shit like this (and things that happened to me) that made me teach my sons how to treat a woman, how to respect her and never, ever, be a creep. I hope I did a good job, I think I did and my sons tell me that they would never do that so I’m pretty sure I did. It makes my blood boil that the women have to defend themselves and mothers have to teach their daughters how to avoid that crap. Mothers and fathers need to teach their sons that it’s not ok to be a creep, to do those things just as much as they have to teach their daughters to defend themselves.
It can only help… and it’s a universal thing. I have seen comPLETELY inappropriate behavior by both women and men at conferences, toward women and men and other gendered individuals.
I think everyone can always be better about consent and boundaries. If we all challenge ourselves to do better in every interaction and think about our impact on others, we will gradually and inexorably raise the bar for the world. Ultimately, those choosing to remain a problem will become SUPER obvious.
YES! Everything in this post is just a resounding YES!
Here’s to trying to make it all a resounding “duh!” and getting BETTER as a society.