How to Be a Gentleman

Here’s a little PSA from something I witnessed at what was, in fact, a very progressive establishment. Boys and men: When you are talking to mixed company–say to a wife and a husband–you must make eye contact with both of them. Do not direct your conversation just to the man. This is a general rule, of course–and to be fair, it also applies to women favoring women*. But what I notice is mostly men directing their conversation at James, say, even when I’m the one who’s asked the latest question. Very often, this is an unconscious bias. Nobody means any disrespect. But it makes the woman feel uninvited to the conversation. And then she feels angry. And the she feels utterly disinclined to talk to the uninviter ever again. Imagine how that could play out in something like an interview, or other business negotiation. It certainly contributes to (and feeds off) the odious segregation of women and men in social situations. (And yet I’ll admit it’s not the only element at work there.) Bottom line: Check yourself. This is prejudice.

*But beyond that, women can also be some of the most apt to favor men. Some of the biggest misogynists I’ve known have been women.

(Originally posted March 12, 2017)

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