In her nationally syndicated column yesterday, Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners, was presented with this whine and offered this sorry advice*:
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I manage a busy office in a large organization that prides itself on its political correctness, among other things.
About two-thirds of our staff are women, who regularly greet each other with hugs, pecks on the cheek or quick shoulder rubs. The camaraderie and team spirit are wonderful to see, but they unfortunately do not extend to the male members of the staff. Our training about sexual harassment has left male staffers wary of touching anyone, male or female.
This leads to awkward scenes, when, for example, a mixed group arrives for a meeting, the women are all greeted with hugs, and the men get a cursory “Hi, John.”
I fear that we are actually creating a workplace that is hostile to men with this behavior, and a few of our male staff have confided feeling this way to me. I have contemplated a “no hugs” rule for everyone, but it seems rather cold and may exceed my authority as the manager of just one part of a large organization. Any suggestions?
GENTLE READER: That you realize that there is something between hugs and cold. In the context of the workplace, that means requiring professional behavior.
However much female members of your staff love one another (and have you considered how this would affect colleagues they didn’t?), an office is no place for such physical demonstrations, whether or not they meet the definition of sexual harassment. There would be no question of that if you hired a married couple, but Miss Manners imagines that you still wouldn’t want to have them canoodling on the job.
Here is the translation:
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I manage a busy office in a large organization that is, unfortunately, in the grip of female and “minority” zealots who, to my inconvenience, wish to be treated like human beings and have therefore instituted a plethora of useless and confusing “PC” rules.
About two-thirds of our staff are women, who regularly greet each other with warm affection including hugs, pecks on the cheek or quick shoulder rubs. I get a buzz from this female-female touching, as would any red-blooded male, but these bitches won’t let us men fondle them in the same way. The bitches, in fact, have, with their tremendous institutional power, forbidden us men from doing anything besides grunt sullenly at each other.
Our little feelings and our sense of entitlement take a blow when, for example, a mixed group arrives for a meeting, the women all greet each other with hugs, and the men don’t get immediate rapt attention from the women. The bitches are actually focusing exclusively on each other for the length of a peck on the cheek!
The bitches have clearly made this workplace hostile to men, who, after all, only want what is due us (because we were born with penises). Despite the fact that we have only ourselves to blame for not being able to handle women (due to our past history of sexual harassment) or to slap other men jovially on the back (because we decided long ago that this “working class” rough-housing did not conjure a professional image), I want to know how we can punish the bitches for ever instituting sexual harassment laws, for actually liking each other, for bringing a part of their female culture into our male workplace, and, especially, for not thinking constantly about how all of this affects us. Us! Us us us! Oh, and I’d like to do it in such a way that my intentions are disguised.
GENTLE READER: Obviously your assumptions and infantile needs should remain unquestioned. Given all the problems that exist in today’s workplaces – downsizing, outsourcing, corporate raiding by CEOs, actual sexual harassment and the like – your letter best captures the number one problem in today’s workplace: that men might feel left out of something kind and warm between women. Here is how you can accomplish your laudable goal:
1. Lie about your intention: state that your only goal is to reduce unprofessional behavior, not to punish women.
2. Pretend that any decent person could see that hugs are the exact same thing as raw sex (touching between women is, after all, always pornographic) and are therefore unprofessional.
3. Act as if this is for the bitches’ own good (to protect the numerous losers whom no one likes). Certainly the women will feel much better once you humiliate them for their previous displays of warmth!
By all means, and by any means, banish all signs of sisterly affection and female bonding from your male club. It is quite bad enough that the women outnumber you. One can hardly have them actually humanizing the place.
* Newspapers can decide how they edit these columns, so you might have read a slightly different version in your own paper.