According to some people, one of the biggest casualties of the #MeToo movement is the good old fashioned office romance. The critics of this social media movement against sexual harassment at workplace, which led to the downfall of many heavyweights in the west, and at least shook the echelons of power, if not moved, in the east, have found yet another downfall to blame on its head. An opinion piece published in National Herald says, “It must be a brave soul who dares to strike up a flirtatious conversation at the workplace microwave these days. Only ten percent of Americans report having met their mate at the office, a level that is half what it was in the 1990s.”
- A report says that only ten percent of Americans say to have met their mates at the office.
- But are #MeToo and resultant strict anti-harassment policies to be blamed here?
- Should survivors stop raising their voice because it discourages prospective romances among their colleagues?
- If you think #MeToo has killed office romance, then you neither understand the concept of consent nor love.
The data which is giving this anti-#MeToo brigade such sleepless nights doesn’t singularly blame the dip in office romances on anti-harassment policies. A big role in fading of office romances has been played by the rise of social media and thus, online dating
But this isn’t the only article which is devastated by the data that only one in ten couples meets in office now. Ella Whelan wrote in Spiked recently, “The #MeToo movement seeks to change men’s behaviour to ‘protect’ the fairer sex from harassment. But in practice, that has meant subjecting our sexual freedom to initiate romantic endeavours to the scrutiny of neo-Victorian regulations and codes of conduct.”
Firstly, the data which is giving this anti-#MeToo brigade such sleepless nights doesn’t singularly blame the dip in office romances on anti-harassment policies. A big role in fading of office romances has been played by the rise of social media and thus, online dating. Second, anti-harassment policies are put in place to deter unwanted advances towards women and even men. They are there to ensure the safety of employees from sexual harassment at workplace at the hands of colleagues and superiors. Yet, again there is this word called consent which no one wants to talk about.
#MeToo didn’t kill the “humane environment” at workplaces, sexual harassment and violation of consent did.
Are the writers lamenting #MeToo saying that women should stop complaining about the violation of consent, reporting crimes like rape, sexual assault, because it kills the appetite of prospective suitors at work? Should survivors of harassment not seek justice because their colleagues are too lazy to look outside of their office for love? #MeToo didn’t kill the “humane environment” at workplaces, sexual harassment and violation of consent did. Besides, how is any environment where people have to endure unwanted sexual advances “humane”?
If you still feel that men are afraid to approach women because of anti-harassment policies, then it raises questions on the understanding of consent among your colleagues. I agree that in many cases the lines of consent and romance to get murky. There is a lot of confusion among both genders, about what is appropriate and what inappropriate office conduct is. The solution for that isn’t crucification of #MeToo movement or anti-harassment policies, because that endangers sexual safety of all working women and men.
Also, this argument paints an alarming picture of what office romances mean to a lot of people. Unwanted advances and pestering aren't romantic gestures, so stop calling them that. #MeToo may have killed a lot of things and it has indeed made men wary of their conduct. But to call it a killer of “humane environment” at the office is disrespectful towards all the brave women who have stood up for justice so that other women and men do not have to experience the horrors that they did.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.