Skip to main content

We men make mistakes. Yeah, it's true. But never has it been quite so obvious as it was in 2011, when men from prime ministers to pop idols suffered public-relations nightmares. From the sexual-harassment allegations at the RCMP to Lars von Trier's idiotic, apparently anti-Semitic babbling at Cannes, it was a big year for man gaffes.

Luckily, there are lessons for the rest of us in their falls, even if those lessons are pretty much in line with things we should have learned in kindergarten.

Don't touch somebody who doesn't want to be touched.

Perhaps little Herman Cain wasn't properly taught that if you want to touch somebody, you should ask them first if that's okay. If they say no, it's probably because they're not so desperate to be employed at your stupid restaurant association to make out with someone who will later use lyrics from a Pokemon movie to promote his presidential campaign before dropping out in disgrace.

If you see or hear of somebody doing something bad, stop them.

Or for those formerly in the Penn State administration who brushed sexual abuse under the rug and might need this spelled out in a metaphorical football scenario: What do you do when your team is down a touchdown late in the fourth quarter in a bowl game, you're on the opposing team's 20-yard line, and the defence is showing blitz? The answer: It doesn't matter if you can't make the right call as a human being.

Know when playtime is over.

The next time a flight attendant asks Alec Baldwin to put away his word game, I hope he complies with regulations and doesn't throw another temper tantrum that'll serve only to remind us all of that time he left a voice message to his 11-year-old daughter calling her a "thoughtless little pig."

Don't expose your private parts in public.

When Mr. Weiner shared pin-ups of the most important member of his personal staff, the only thing not left to the imagination was his overcompensating need to have his masculinity reassured.

Don't be a bully.

Hey Rick Perry, you know what is more "deeply objectionable" than a leader who calls himself a man of faith failing to "love thy neighbour as thyself" and embrace his country's gay men and women? Um, I forget. Oops.

It's rude to eavesdrop.

Okay, I'll admit that I am, on occasion, curious to hear what Sienna Miller and Lily Allen are up to. But when the guys at News of the World – who also targeted families in tragic circumstances – listened in on phone conversations in order to spread gossip, it brought to mind the kind of activity pre-teens engage in. Or, you know, the Stasi in Germany.

Take responsibility for your actions.

I bet Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks it would be really awesome if he had the technology to travel back in time in order to change some big mistake that has not-so-awesome consequences in the present. Since that only happens in Hollywood movies, however, he should have stepped up like a man, avoided the complete termination of his reputation as a good guy, and faced the fruits of his decisions at the moment of their birth. Not a decade later.

It's not what you say, it's what you do.

During a year when the Occupy Wall Street movement motivated people all across North America to speak out for fairer distribution of wealth, Jay-Z put their rallying cry onto a T-shirt in order to sell it for profit, thus appropriating the cause only to proliferate the problem. As a late Canadian philosopher might have put it, where the money from the medium T-shirts ends up is the message.

Everything in moderation.

Okay, but if you have to be a little bad, at least take it one thing at a time. For instance, if you use your ties with the media to bolster your political power and threaten to put all of Europe's economy in ruins simply by the doubt you cast on your leadership abilities, maybe be extra cautious about inviting a minor to your orgy. Si, Mr. Berlusconi?