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Men join in discussion on sexual harassment

Applauding attendance: activist Elaine Butterfield pleased with turnout

A women’s rights activist yesterday applauded the handful of men who took part in a discussion on sexual harassment.

But Elaine Butterfield said she “would like to have seen more men come out and participate” at the Women’s Resource Centre’s #MeToo-styled workshop.

A “more robust” workshop is coming later in the year, the executive director said.

Ms Butterfield, executive director of the Centre, was speaking a week after a discussion at the WRC attracted five men — and one woman.

Ms Butterfield added: “The men who attended are to be commended.

“Their interests included wanting to understand the world that their wives, daughters and mothers live in, as well as being equipped to educate their sons and other men.

“I would like to see more men join the conversation, and corporations implement and enforce effective workplace policies around sexual harassment of co-workers. Education plays a major part.”

The Royal Gazette was invited to attend the “World According to Women” workshop, held at the Centre last Tuesday.

Patrice Frith Hayward, the workshop co-ordinator, was told by four fathers that they wanted to educate their sons and prepare their daughters for the working world.

Ms Frith Hayward’s message was uncompromising. She told one father: “Your daughter is going to experience sexual harassment. Harassment has been around for ever, but we don’t call it that. It used to be acceptable.”

The parent said: “I’m keen to see ways that I can help influence her perception.”

Another man added he had worked in an office where sexism was so commonplace that it was nicknamed “testosterone alley”.

Participants discussed pictures of workplace scenarios where women were ogled and joked about behind their backs.

They also discussed comments in the workplace that ranged from casual banter to veiled sexism.

Ms Frith Hayward told the room: “We’re here to get us all on the same page.

“Sometimes you may not know you’ve offended someone.

“Sometimes women send mixed messages, and sometimes men pretend that they received mixed messages.”

Another man said: “That’s why we’re in this conundrum — because it was allowed for so many years.”

Ms Frith Hayward said: “People have become more aware that they don’t have to listen to comments, or have their jobs threatened because they don’t sleep with the boss.”

She added: “At the end of the day, management must be instrumental in stating what is acceptable and not acceptable.

“But sometimes the trouble lies with management.”

Ms Butterfield said some of the comments made at the end of the workshop included:

• “The things that I enjoyed most were challenging the assumptions that we have made. I found it to be an interesting debate.”

• “Great point of view of what males do and do not have privilege to.”

• “I will try harder to evaluate reactions before making a comment.”

The workshops were part of a pilot series offered from April to June.

Ms Butterfield said: “They included sexism, sexual harassment, bullying in the workplace, and of course The World According to Women.

“We don’t have a set date, but we will definitely be repeating all of them in the next quarter starting in September.”

Ms Butterfield added that “more robust” workshops were planned when the discussion groups return.

For more information, e-mail wrc@wrcbermuda.com.