Gender equality is a big buzz word lately. But we can't ignore the fundamental differences between how men and women interact in our culture. Modern Manners Guy explores the gray zone in gender relations.
Speaking of, did you see John Travolta and Idina Menzel at the 2015 Oscars? Ugh, how disturbing. During an on-stage apology for butchering her name at last year's show, Travolta groped Idina Menzel’s face, in such a spine-chillingly awkward manner that he looked like a creepy stalker in front of millions of viewers who couldn't turn away.
He was aiming for sincerity, but it completely fell flat. What would have worked better? Taking her hand and then making a laid back joke about screwing up last year. A gentle, quick hug would have served just as well. Not a kiss on the face, not a grinding hug, and certainly not groping her like a high schooler during a slow song at the junior prom.
As I said above, I don’t want to ban touching, I just think that it’s important for us to respect the cultural boundaries assigned to different genders. I'm not going to give a female friend a slap on the rear like NFL football players do to one another after a big play. And I certainly wouldn’t bring a female coworker in for a deep embrace like I just handed her a rose on The Bachelor. It’s OK to be affectionate, just don’t make it look like you’re going to cop a feel.
Are You Being Funny?
As a fan of The Office, I loved watching Michael Scott’s attempts at humor, especially his go-to zinger, “That’s what she said.”
The funniest part was how indescriminate he was with this phrase. Male or female – he didn’t care who he used it on and it's a prime example of someone not understanding gender dynamics. This happens a lot with men who try to use sexual innuendo as humor, "You know what I mean! Right? Right?..." Wink, wink.
As a humorist, I love a good joke, but I’m not a big fan of offensive jokes that purposely try to hurt others for a cheap laugh. Take the recent Dancing Man situation that blew up on the internet. Some anonymous person with no soul posted a photo mocking an overweight man for dancing at a concert. It was neither funny nor clever - just mean-spirited bullying. Thankfully, in this case, the internet tide went against the grain and after a massive Twitter campaign, a group of people raised over $10,000 to throw a dance party and fly in the Dancing Man from his home in the UK to Los Angeles.
After all, simply because something is meant as a joke, doesn’t make it funny. This is even more true when it comes to the divide between the sexes. The best way to ensure that you don’t accidentally offend is:
A. Don't assume that everyone automatically “gets it.”
B. Don't assume that everyone likes sexual innuendo.
C. Don't be surprised if your offensive comment is met with a withering gaze and followed by a zinger at your expense.
So choose clever, classy humor over middle school punchlines. Before you throw down a Michael Scott line, think twice about who’s around and who may be offended.
As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.
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