True Professionalism: Fortify Your Insight and Self-Awareness
With everything that has come up because of the #MeToo movement, a problem I see with the male identity is a reluctance or resistance in taking a woman's perspective. The old adage "don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in that person's shoes" is most relevant here, especially when we take into account the high number of unwanted male attention women receive in the workplace or in public. For providing a platform for exploring the cultural push within myself, I thank my human diversity professor from my doctoral program for the assignment that helped me get a better perspective from "the other person's shoes."
Part of the problem is a male (or female in general terms) inability to take the perspective of another person because of our tendency to get stuck in our stress-fortified beliefs, which gets projected onto the person with whom we have had limited true interactions with, and make hasty judgments largely based on unsupported stereotypes. As a psychotherapist, we are urged to develop and maintain our empathetic skills and perspective taking to limit the unintended effects of stereotyping and its harmful secondary effects.
Here is one such skill building exercise. As a graduate student, we were required to participate in an activity with a group of people with whom we have had little interaction. Some people chose to go to a traditional "Black Church" or a Latin American cultural event, to name a few. Given I had a plethora of intercultural experiences by the time I began my studies, I thought it would be helpful for my development to begin understanding the gay community. So, I went to a gay bar.
The bar I went to was in Chicago's Boys Town. It was on a Friday evening and I had decided to bar that was high end, and with an ethnically diverse male clientele. As soon as I walked in, I quickly noticed that several men had eyes on me, and one of those men followed me around the club, eventually asking if I would like a drink or to dance. As a heterosexual man, I was taken aback by how I felt about unwanted attention. I felt reduced to a physical object of lust, judged by the expression on this older man's face. After saying no with no explanation, the man persisted, trying to chat me up. I wanted to be curt and say something like "I said no!" But felt odd, thinking I'll be rude. Eventually i told him respectfully that I was straight, and he apologized for his forward behavior, and I ended up having a good conversation with him and his two friends, who were in town for a conference.
What I had learned was unanticipated, but necessary. I learned that no one likes unwelcome sexualized attention, especially that kind of attention that will make a person feel objectified, such as what can be found in an eager expression on a man's face when he approaches you. The environment I was in was part of this man's culture, and he assumed that my being there was an acquiescence to expected behavior. I understand that perfectly. But, I also learned that if we change the environment (i.e. club vs. office) without changing the behavior, then situations get dicey, and the potential for harassment multiplies. I learned that these feelings of discomfort, tension, worry, stress is likely what women feel when they are spoken to in ways that objectifies them in the workplace, as a customer, in public areas, to name a few common areas that are not typically associated with romantic encounters. The point here is the impact taking another person's perspective can have on improving insight, therefore improving the social atmosphere in any workplace environment, and can therefore save time, money, and, most important, unnecessary suffering.
In this month, and every month that is not devoted to the woman, I urge to continue to develop an identity of true professionalism that significantly limits sexual politics and emphasizes prosocial values, process and procedures over stereotypes about a person's sex.