Social media lit up last week with controversy surrounding Gillette’s recently released #MeToo inspired ad. The ad has over twenty million views and an astonishing one point two million dislikes. Why did this ad, which at its heart supports the noble initiative that men stand up against sexual and other types of violence, spark such a viscerally negative reaction in so many viewers? The ad has been described as “offensive”, "insulting”, “sexist”, “gender shaming” and “emasculating”. One thing is for certain, if Gillette wanted to create a buzz, they got what they were looking for.
As the former Training Administrator for the Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response Program, I support the idea the ad promotes, that we are all responsible for standing up for one another when we witness harmful behaviors like bullying and sexual harassment. Training in soft skills like how to initiate a difficult conversation, exploring personal and workplace values and unconscious bias conducted by a skilled facilitator in a safe environment is the only way to really promote the societal change needed to prevent sexual harassment.
California just took a step toward fighting sexual harassment by passing Senate Bill 1343 which requires that organizations with five or more staff provide sexual harassment prevention training to all their staff by January 1, 2020. It remains to be seen if this law will affect the change that Governor Jerry Brown envisioned when he pushed it through state legislature before he left office. If companies choose to simply tick the box by providing training that focuses on legal definitions and ramifications then sadly it probably won’t make much difference. Hopefully, however, more companies will choose to invest in offering meaningful training that will provide people with the skills and tools that they need to speak out against inappropriate and harmful behaviors both in and outside of the workplace.