As The New York Times reported back in October, the #MeToo wave quickly began to have some "unintended consequences," including an increased reluctance from businessmen and male politicians to meet one-on-one with females — something that could have wide-reaching, negative consequences for women in the business and political worlds. Now, #MeToo has begun to influence dating policies in major companies.
In a piece titled "Can You Still Date a Co-Worker? Well, It's Complicated," The Wall Street Journal's Yoree Koh and Rachel Feintzeig describe the new rules of dating at tech giants Google and Facebook that are raising eyebrows.
"U.S. companies are trying to keep romantic relationships from spiraling into a risk factor," the Journal reports. "The national conversation on sexual harassment and abuse of power has galvanized a wider discussion about whether consensual office relationships are OK."
As Business Insider points out, a recent survey found that 41% of people have dated a fellow co-worker and nearly a third of those relationships resulted in marriage. While there's no survey yet to give us any sense of the fallout from Google and Facebook's new policies, it'd be a safe guess that those percentages will soon go down at both companies.
Both tech giants now only allow employees to ask out their colleagues one time. If they are turned down, they cannot ask again.
What constitutes being turned down? Facebook's global head of employment law Heidi Swartz explained the rule to the Journal: Even "ambiguous" responses to being asked out, like "I'm busy" or "I can't that night" are counted as a "no" by the higher-ups at the social media platform.
Another new rule: While Facebook employees do not have to report all relationships to human resources, even those involving someone in a more senior position, they do have to report relationships that might somehow pose a "conflict of interest." If they don't properly report relationships, they will face "disciplinary action."
The new dating policies have drawn some instant criticism, including from those concerned with empowering women. National Review's Heather Wilhelm underscores that the new rules feel "strangely Victorian" and risk infantilizing women.
"[W]hy would you need such stringent rules unless you view women as essentially weak creatures who can’t stand up for themselves?" asks Wilhelm. "Women, the assumption seems to be — and let’s be real, these rules are largely centered on 'protecting' women, not men — can’t handle even the most minor uncomfortable situations, so HR must stop them before they start."
Wilhelm particularly pushes back on the "ask once" rule: "[W]hat if you really are busy? What if you actually can’t that night, but would like to do it another time, but you forgot to add that part, or simply wanted to be asked again? What if you are a rare devotee of the slightly crazed 1990s dating handbook The Rules, and you refuse to accept a Saturday-night date after a Wednesday? What if you would like to present a sense of mystery or are slightly undecided? What if your impressions of the asker change over time? What if you date people only after they’ve proved their persistence...?"