20th Oct 2017
Ian Hatton
24th Oct 2017
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Since I wrote about my own #MeToo story, I believe it is only fair to point out my observations about what happens when there is a shift of power and roles are reversed.

In presenting a public speaking seminar recently, I was trying out a technique I have seen others use: I had the whole group stand up, and then move into different parts of the room based on different criteria. For example - those born in Cape Town in one corner, those born elsewhere in South Africa in a second corner, and then those born outside the country in a third. Immediately colleagues are saying things like “I didn’t know you weren’t born here! Where did you come from?” Instant curiously and engagement. Walls coming down and inhibitions lowered.

Then we separate again. Those who own their own business and employ staff, those who are solo-prenreurs, those who work for corporates, and those who work for government or non profits etc, all in different corners. The room is in total disarray for a few moments and then we settle into new groups. New categories. New ways of seeing each other. We could have done many more categories such as the languages we spoke, how far we studied, whether we are married or not, children, sexuality etc. I wasn’t exploring those issues with the room that day, but I did do two more. I had the room separate into two parts - Gen X and above on one side, and Millennials on the other. Two young men and two young women were on the one side. And then I separated the room based on gender. The two young men were left alone with a group of around 30 older women on the other side.

Can you image what happened next?

With the weight of numbers on their side, and relative anonymity of being in a bunch, a crowd, the women started almost immediately, making inappropriate comments to these young men.

I stopped it very quickly and addressed the women. Had this situation been reversed, had it been two young women at the other end of the room with a crowd of men even starting to make those remarks to them, there would be a police docket and disciplinary hearings in place before HR knocked off for the day.

There was absolutely no reason for those comments. No woman would have said that to either young man, had they been alone, but the strength of the crowd allowed them to drop their manners and common sense and behave - well, they behaved like a bunch of men would behave when they had the strength in numbers, positional power, and group think.

Is this an isolated event?

Two years ago, at another women’s event where I was part of the crowd, the woman MC brought the photographer into the front of the room. It was supposed to be to thank him for his work, but she, and I am not making this up, she commented on how sexy he looked, asked the room to agree with her, and then had the young man turn around so that the whole room of women could get a good look at his body.

I am no prude, and in a small group of friends who know each other well, I can participate in a naughty joke or make an inappropriate comment for the fun of it.

But in a public event, with strangers and a predominance of one gender over the other, it is not appropriate to make those comments. Not to anyone. Regardless of gender, race or any other feature that distinguishes them from the rest of the group.

Women cannot cry foul if they are going to do exactly the same thing the minute the roles are reversed. Fully cognisant of the terrible things that have happened to many, many women over the years, we need to behave better than, not sink to the same standards, that we accuse other people of.

It seems very much to me that if ours had been a powerful, dominant matriarchy instead of a patriarchy, it would be men who would be tagging #MeToo because it seems women don’t always behave better given the chance.


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