The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Men are concerned about what #MeToo is doing to men at work

The reports about Harvey Weinstein helped spark a movement. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Six months after sexual harassment complaints started piling up against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Americans seem split on what the #MeToo movement has meant for the workplace, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

Sixty-eight percent of Republican men and 59 percent of Republican women say it’s “harder” for men to interact with female colleagues while 45 percent of Democratic men and 40 percent of Democratic women feel the same.

The survey, called “Sexual Harassment at Work in the Era of #MeToo,” sought to measure the labor impact of “increased attention to the issue of sexual harassment and assault,” the authors wrote. (It did not ask respondents to explain their answers to multiple-choice questions or provide specific examples of  how they thought things have changed.)

Sixty-three percent of liberal women and 56 percent of liberal men say there is a “major problem” of women not being believed after reporting misconduct, compared with 34 percent of conservative women and 21 percent of conservative men.

Fewer respondents from either party said the #MeToo conversation would improve women’s economic mobility: 15 percent of Republicans think it will create more opportunities, compared to 39 percent of Democrats. (Twenty percent said it would decrease opportunities, and 51 percent thought it wouldn’t make a difference.)

The survey of 6,251 adults in the United States, conducted between Feb. 26 and March 11, found that political views, gender and age affect how people perceive the consequences of the recent spotlight on sexual harassment.

“The public is divided about whether this is a good thing for women in the long run or a bad thing,” said Kim Parker, director of social trends research at the Pew Research Center.

Slightly more than half of the people surveyed overall (51 percent) said the heightened focus on sexual harassment in the workplace has created new challenges for men at work. Men were more likely to hold this belief (55 percent) than women (47 percent).

Kristina Drumheller, a professor at West Texas A&M University who studies leadership and culture, said men might be more uncomfortable with the increased focus on gender dynamics after a series of high-profile misconduct cases, including Weinstein's.

“They didn’t have to worry as much about what they do and say,” Drumheller said. “This movement has made some men question what they do in the workplace, and it has made some nervous.”

Age also shaped outlooks.

Two-thirds of respondents older than 65 thought gender relations at work seem more difficult in wake of the accusations piling up against powerful men, compared with 52 percent of respondents ages 50 to 64 and 42 percent of those younger than  30.  

Cynthia Deitch, a gender studies professor at George Washington University, said younger workers grew up with knowledge of sexual harassment, a term that did not exist until the mid-1970s.

Anita Hill’s high-profile 1991 testimony about Clarence Thomas, in particular, thrust the concept into mainstream consciousness.

“From then to now is really a generation,” Deitch said. “Sexual harassment is something that has been talked about for 25 years.”

But deeper chasms emerge along party lines, the Pew authors wrote, “when it comes to men getting away with it and women not being believed.”

Roughly 6 in 10 Democrats and left-leaning independents said men who commit sexual harassment and evade punishment are a big concern, the survey found, and 60 percent of this group felt the same way about people doubting women’s claims.

Only 33 percent of Republicans and right-leaning independents said men getting away with sexual harassment was a major problem, and 28 percent reported the same worry about women not being believed.

John Pryor, a psychology professor at Illinois State University who has studied sexual harassment for three decades, said he helped the New York Times last year with a survey that asked 615 men if they had engaged in sexually harassing acts at work.

Those who worked in blue-collar jobs, as well as those who identified as Republicans, were more likely to admit to misconduct, he said.

“They were more likely to say they’ve told sexist jokes but didn’t mean anything by it,” Pryor said. “These kind of put-downs were far more common than sexual come-ons.”

They were also less bothered by women accusing President Trump of sexual harassment, Pryor said, and the “Access Hollywood” video from 2005 that showed the president talking about touching women’s genitals without permission.

“We found there was a higher rate of self-admission,” he said, “among people who also said they were Trump supporters.”

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