Misunderstandings in communication between men and women.
The worldwide #Me Too Campaign has created earthquakes in several layers of society. While the campaign has been going on in social media for several months, many men have lost both credibility, honor, influence and positions. Worse than the fall of these men, is it that so many women have been suffering from their harassment at work, and in various contexts among all these bosses and colleagues. Most women have been silent about it until now. Feeling of shame is just one of the problems.
“Some rotten apples in the basket, or just a rotten basket.”
The question I ask is whether “#Me too ” is about some rotten apples in the basket”, or about “the whole basket making bad fruit?” In other words, has this campaign gone viral, mostly because of some power people’s severe deviation from the norm? Or has #Me Too expanded worldwide because there is something fundamentally wrong with the entire culture of interaction between men and women ?
Perhaps there will always be a few who severely exploit their position of power. By going far beyond the limit of acceptable behavior, they expose their fellow citizens of sexual exploitation. (Anthony Storr, “Sexual Deviation”) These actions should no doubt be labeled abusive and regarded as a crime, with consequences for those involved. Punishment for the abusers and help for the victims.
Misinterpretations of the situation and silent acceptance.
I have the impression however, that most cases reported are due to the misinterpretation of signals between the cultures of men and women. Adding to this, men’s and women’s lack of awareness of their own position of power in the hierarchy. This is no excuse for putting others in a very difficult situation.
When the tornados of the #Me too campaign diminish, it may function as an important step in explaining why these incidences happens so frequently. This knowledge may help us reflect on how we behave to achieve a high ranking within the culture of men. We might also become more conscious of the signals we send. Not least, how we treat a person from “the opposite culture”, when we feel attraction. Particularly, such a conscious knowledge can reveal how the recipient of these signals, allows herself to respond. And in the end, how this response is perceived and reacted to by the one in the relationship with most power.
– An example of gross misinterpretation of situation and person.
Psychologist Paul Watzlawick refers in his communicational psychology to a situation that occurred in England during the last world war. Here, young british ladies meet with American soldiers stationed in England. What happens between them in interaction, and the way they subsequently assess each other’s behavior, shows a rather peculiar phenomenon. How dating cultures in two countries can have very different codes for behavior at different stages of the relationship. In this case, stages lasting from the first meeting, to the first kiss, and then eventually sex.
Watzlawick found that it was possible to define 18-20 small stages in each culture, on the journey from the first acquaintance to intercourse. At each stage, there were also cultural codes of what was expected to be the next move. This was due not least to the reaction and perception of the relationship, and what could hurt the other, or possibly unfairly reject a declaration of love.
– “English girls are light on the thread, American soldiers are just looking for sex.”
After the war, American soldiers could tell that the British girls were very “easy” compared to American girls. The English girls, on the other hand, claimed that the American soldiers were overly concerned when it came to sex.
To get a grip of these misunderstandings, Watzlawick systematized the dating sequences occurring, in light of 18-20 stages. In the English culture of dating a woman, the boy should follow her home after their meeting in a cafe, a park, or at a party. After walking her home, she should thank him for the company, and he should thank her for the evening. They should not kiss at this first stage.
In the American culture of dating, however, the boy should both walk the girl home and give her a kiss. This he should do, without signaling anything more than satisfaction with their first meeting. Then he is supposed to leave her like a gentleman.
But for the British girl, kissing was something that would occur at a much later stage in the relationship, about stage 18 and 19 in the sequence. As she perceived him, when he kissed her, he had become instantly in love with her, and seriously wanted her. However, she found that he was very daring in his approaches.
The girl, somewhat astonished, however, did really like the young man. Therefore she altered her behavior not to reject him. This happened even though he had skipped all too many stages according to British manners.
-“She went straight to bed with him!”
Thus, she invited him in. When he on the other hand noticed this, he perceived her as being overly interested in him. For a young woman to invite a man up to her room, that was in fact stadium 19 in America. Then, as he followed her in, he realized that she might just be looking for sex, and he also left his accustomed strategy and became even more ongoing.
For this reason, they went to bed with each other all too early, according to their own country’s standards. This happened first and foremost because of misunderstandings between two different cultures, Watzlawick holds. In addition, they misinterpreted the situation, by perceiving each other both as very daring and ongoing sexually.
This occurred, in other words, because of inequalities in the two countries’ rules and stages for dating and sex. It did not happen because of lacking morality. Besides there was a war going on.
Inequalities like this are less prominent today, because of social media. But the difference in perceiving each other’s signals and means of communicating inside each country, still exists between the sexes.
Judgment and gender differences in reactions.
Men may not come as much from “Mars” as they did before, when women likewise, according to author John Craig, came from “Venus”. (“Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”, 1992) There has certainly been an approach in the gender role models. Nevertheless, cross-cultural surveys show that it is much more expected from a man to take the initiative, than from a woman.
In addition, men appear to be less harassed by sexually aggressive women, than women in the same situation with men. There are also biological differences here. However, they appear to be wiped out on both sides by alcohol and drugs, as is the overall judgment.
Professor in psychology Fanny Duckert uses the term “hot” and “cold” judgment in connection with the brain’s two functional systems. “The hot judgment”, is believed to be spontaneous, emotional and instinctive and linked to the lower and older parts of the brain. Here are survival-based and pleasure-oriented impulses leading the way, without much reflection.
“The cold judgment”, on the other hand, is located in the upper parts of the brain up against the forehead. Here, long-term consequences of one’s behavior are taken into consideration to Control the impulses. Research has proven that we need both forms of judgment in different types of situations.
In my opinion, most of the #MeToo campaign deals with the unfortunate breakthroughs of the hot short-term judgment, and similar breakdowns in the cold-impact-oriented variant. In addition, we have cultures where alcohol has given a license to cross boundaries. And we have cultures where men have made the rules and women have had to subdue to men’s sexual cravings, in order to move upward in the hierarchy.
The cultures on both sides of the genital barrier, has until now either, as in the the culture of men silently accepted this , or as in the culture of women silently submissed to this condition. Here we might add; “under the hash tag; # It’s just the way it is for women in the world of men.”
Blaming the “fruit” or the “basket”.
It seems nevertheless clear that since men usually have been ruling these systems, both by position and age, they must also take the major responsibility for the present collapse of this part of the male culture. #Me Too had to come, sooner or later, and heads had to roll, whether due to rotten apples or filthy baskets
But is it true that “MeToo” is about “a few rotten apples in the basket”? I will say; yes! However, many more apples in this basket have got brown spots, because the basket has never been cleaned properly.
For that reason, it’s important that men with this new knowledge available of women’s dreadful experiences, never allow themselves to harass a lady at work, in the party organization or at the Christmas party.
No one should anymore allow themselves to exploit their position of power to acquire sex, that being with girls or boys, women or men. At the same time, no woman or young man should accept such advances anymore. Thus, I think it will be difficult in the future to continue to apologize for harassment by saying: “I misunderstood the situation or the signals”. That way both “women from Venus” and “men from Mars”, are in the process of landing on the same planet in close relationships.