Blessed Be the Tie That Binds

by Robert Pendley

When I was a little boy, my parents insisted that I always look nice for nice events. This of course meant that these nice events required a tie. Clip-on ties were first. Then I moved on to “real tie” ties. I didn’t know how to tie a tie until late in high school so my dad or mom would always tie it for me on the rare “nice event” occasion. Ties are now a regular occurrence for me.

In 2018, men need to tie more than just fabric around our necks and laces around our shoes. Men need to tie our privilege to equity gains for women in every-day situations.

On January 24, 2018, it came to light that the Hollywood actress Jessica Chastain had tied a new movie compensation deal with that of her co-star Octavia Spencer. She tweeted out in response to the news, “She [Octavia] had been underpaid for so long. When I discovered that, I realized that I could tie her deal to mine to bring up her quote.” This is what is called a “most favored nation” deal. Basically, the actors who enter into such a deal say “it’s either both of us or none of us and here is the minimum pay we will have together.” Jessica ended her tweet with “Men should start doing this with their female costars.” Jessica and Octavia ended up getting a deal worth more than three times what they had individually. This is ingenious and essential not only for Hollywood but for society in addressing equal pay, relationship culture, and respectable equity.

How can this concept of “most favored nation” deals be applied beyond Hollywood and for everyday people? An obvious first area is equal pay across the board. Male executives, managers, and supervisors should all insist in compensation meetings that they will only accept raises/bonuses/etc. if it is partnered with equitable raises/bonuses/etc. for deserving women. Some reading this would ask “why add the qualifier ‘deserving’ before women? Wouldn’t this provide a way out for men trying to avoid equity gains for women?” I believe that these equity ties will only be effective long-term if men recognize them as legitimate. If deserving women receive the compensation recognition that they deserve then there is no argument that the equity ties are “quotas” or “just-checking-the-box” maneuvers in the name of equity and inclusion.

So who decides what “deserving” means? First, all professional workplaces should have women’s councils/initiatives/committees. These groups within organizations tend to focus on the issues facing women in that workplace. They bring attention to management of issues present for women and work hand-in-hand with managers to implement meaningful changes to the workplace to benefit all female workers. These groups tend to be open to both genders for membership. Once a workplace has such a group, that group should be responsible with defining “deserving” for equity ties and should work with men in the workplace to identify situations where equity ties are essential and which females should be candidates for the equity ties.

Obviously this idea of women’s councils facilitating equity ties by men is much more formal than what Jessica did with Octavia. Hopefully, powerful and influential men who can do this informally would do this without having to consider “deserving” or working with a women’s council to identify women. But, if men are serious about wanting to end the pay gap, this is a bold first step in closing the gap.

It seems cliché now to say that the #MeToo movement is a watershed moment in American cultural history. It is. But looking forward, how does #MeToo become #NotMe? Equity ties can be helpful in this area as well. Men should give our power of privilege to women in social settings.

What does this mean – giving our power of privilege to women? There seems to have always been this unwritten rule in social settings that the man asks the woman on a date, though not perfectly followed (see Sadie Hawkins dances...). The man is the initiator. What we know now is that more often than not there is a power imbalance in relationships between men and women. Men can subtly, even subconsciously, overpower the true will of a woman in a setting because of the inherent aggressive nature of the male psyche. So can women truly say no to the male initiation of a relationship? The Aziz Ansari example (explored in brilliant T+D pieces, check them out!) seems to show that this is where the rub is and how many men of good intentions may be complicit in providing atmospheres of abuse.

In stopping this, make women the initiators. The old-fashioned rule of men asking women out needs to end. Women should ask men out. This should be the new rule. We somewhat already see this trend with the popularity of the dating app Bumble, where women hold the power to pursue a match. Socially, men ceding their privileged power of initiation to women will be a good place to start in allowing women to shape their own social atmospheres. The specter of subtle abuse will begin to disappear when cultural norms change. Women need the power in the relationship and men should provide this through tying the relationship with the concept of women having the power.

Lastly, equity ties should be based on concepts of respect and empathy. I was raised to always hold the door open for women. Apparently it’s just a Southern thing but I practiced it in NYC, in London, and other places out of the South and witnessed many other men doing the same thing. Why is this a thing? Well, misogyny would say “women are weak so men need to hold the heavy doors open for women.” This sentiment is completely false and construes what honestly is a very beautiful tradition into a power grab for men. Men’s rationale for this simple practice should be to ensure that women get to the front of the line, women get to experience whatever is on the other side of the door first, and women get out of the rain and unpleasant outside first. Women first.

Men holding the door open for women is a metaphor for the equity tie! We’re both going to get through the door but in order for us both to get through and be better for it, men need to hold the door open. Men should not view equity ties as some way of allowing weak women to rise to the surface. Women are strong, fierce fighters. For too long, though, and for so many women, the door has only been slammed shut. The new chivalry arising is when men realize that being a gentleman is fighting for women to get through the door first. This is respect.

I don’t always like wearing a tie. A tie tied too tight (say that five times fast!) is rather bothersome. However, you adjust it. You loosen the tie and make it work. There are times when I wish I could go tie-less but certain situations require it. Voluntary and mandatory ties up the ante for any situation. Call it a moral imperative, a religious calling, an up-bringing, or whatever - ties should be used often and more than just for nice events.

Robert Pendley