Do we want to wake up every morning and read a list of liberal men accused of sexual harassment?
Sorry, it gets ridiculous.
Here’s where I draw the line: Garrison Keillor.
Yes, I have my sexual harassment stories, of course, but how can Keillor be fired before the investigation of harassment? I hate Twitter, and would never post at #metoo, but before I proceed in this partial defense of famous men, let me share my worst story. Call it #whohasn’tbeen?
I was at a job interview. I sat for an hour in the waiting room. I was told to pop across the street for a physical, because the interviewers were too busy to see me yet. The doctor listened to my heart, lungs, etc. And then suddenly my shirt was off and he told me to run in place. Before I left he said, “Let’s keep this between ourselves.”
I felt disconnected and rattled, to say the least. I didn’t mention the physical, because it was not the kind of thing you chat about at a corporate interview.
Was I surprised that I didn’t get the job?
After this incident, I became a master of the word “No.” It is very effective.
The daily reports of sexual harassment began in October in Hollywood. Yes, sexual harassment abounds in Hollywood. No surprise there. I’ve always understood Hollywood is founded on sex. Youth, beauty, breast implants, plastic surgery, tight abs, waxed chests… With all this, I’m amazed there’s talent, too.
Hollywood is so far removed from the realm of my experience that I paid little attention to the accusations until the newspapers began to go after writers. I do know writers.
For instance, Glenn Thrush, a New York Times reporter in Washington, was fired after he was accused of sexual harassment, i.e., groping young women colleagues at bars. Let me get my head around this. There’s a lot of groping at bars. And so he lost a book deal with Random House: he and a female colleague had a contract to write a book about Trump. The women who complained, as I understand it, were able to fend him off. Surely the corporation should have issued a warning before firing him.
Which begs the question: Should a person be fired for being an asshole? If that’s the case, I have a long list. But the problem is, some assholes are talented, smart, and powerful. In a strange way, they are our friends; they are allies. Not personal friends, but fellow friends of literature, or friends of art, or friends of democracy. You don’t have to like all your friends.
Every day, there are many new names. So many names. Yesterday it was 78-year-old John Casey, the National Book Award-winning author of Spartina and a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. A young MFA graduate said he inappropriately touched women on the shoulders, back, and even the butt at readings. Ms. X, I don’t know if your accusations are true, but that generation of men is like that. They were not raised by feminists. My advice: Frown, move away, move their hand away, say No, and that will probably do the job. He’s a great writer. Don’t take that away from us.
And today another old man, Garrison Keillor, 75, the humorist, writer, and creator of A Prairie Home Companion, has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio. He is under investigation because of a colleague’s accusation. MPR has banned The Writers’ Almanac and reruns of A Prairie Home Companion. I am not a fan of A Prairie Home Companion, by the way, but whatever the accusation, it should be illegal to fire someone before the investigation is concluded.
And don’t you think the Republicans are thrilled to see the Left divided, and their liberal opponents in the media crushed? The lists distract from the destruction of our society and our country. And the attention is focused on sex, instead of the very important elections and egregious destruction of our country.
Obviously, we need better sexual harassment training and assertiveness training in the workplace. But, more important, we need to elect liberal/radical women in politics, fund Planned Parenthood t, keep abortion safe and legal, assure equal pay for equal work, reverse climate change…
That list goes on.
When this all goes too far, look for a reaction which puts us back where we were — or farther still.
Yes, this doesn’t seem to be the path to change, but we will wait and see.
On Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 6:15 AM, mirabile dictu wrote:
Yes the political parties are now using this as a tool. I will grieve if we lose Writer’s Almanac. I have a devastating “ME too,” so painful to me I can’t tell it. I tried to talk about it on my Sylvia blog more than once: it was part of three years of harassment and defamation I suffered in junior high. It altered my whole life. There is no healing because in my later experience I found sexual predation to be pervasive if one is in a situation where the man has power and you want something from him.
So I take this seriously, But I also deplore the destruction of otherwise good people’s reputation’s and careers: Frankel’s behavior was nothing to Trump’s or Moore’s. One must judge in the full context of the man. Further, imo, I don’t think this will lead to any change. It will pass because the macho male culture and ideals and control of power and money and demands for women to be sexually available and submissive remain in full force.
Yes, there is serious harassment in the workplace. And sometimes it is women being bullied because of their sex, not meaning men are trying to coerce them into sex. It’s a matter of determining the degree, I think. Women do need to learn “self-defence,” i.e., how to manage some of these situations on their own.
On Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 9:12 AM, mirabile dictu wrote:
Is the problem that no clear line has been drawn between sexual harassment and sexual assault? The former needs to be called out and it made clear that behaviour has to be modified whereas the latter calls for the more drastic action.
That is a very wise summing-up.
On Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 9:50 AM, mirabile dictu wrote:
You should check this out:
Filing a complaint in the old boy’s club of congress was made practically impossible. This is something that may change. Bring back Anita Hill — I’d love to hear from her. How incredibly courageous she was.
Anita HIll was brave and I very much respected her! A very good article.
On Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 11:05 AM, mirabile dictu wrote:
Thank God, a voice of reason at last. I couldn’t express it better than you have, Kat. It’s begun to feel like a sort of witch hunt in which all one needs to do is make an accusation and condemnation is immediately imposed on the accused. I also don’t believe that being on the receiving end of an unwanted “pass” should be equated with being the victim of true sexual abuse. They call for different responses. It feels increasingly like being caught in an atmosphere of mass hysteria.
Yes, I do believe this is hysteria! Are we as adult women unable to cope with unwanted passes? Between Hollywood and Twitter, women have lost their minds.
On Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 1:50 PM, mirabile dictu wrote:
I believe in reasonable job security also for assholes. I believe warnings someone given before someone is fired etc (in less serious cases). I also find much of the naming and shaming that’s happening in media to be deeply problematic. In most of the cases I can’t say that there’s a real public need to now the names of the offenders.
However, I also believe that in many of the published cases the time for a warning was many years ago. In my opinion the problem is that there’s been hardly no social or professional prize to pay for being a sexual harrasser. People have looked the other way because these harassers are ” talented, smart, and powerful”. And instead of a single instance which could be dealt with with a warning, or just by kicking the offender out of the bar, we get a long series of incidents and when the employer suddenly has to look it’s no longer enough with a warning.
I don’t believe that not being raised by a feminist is the main problem here, the problem is that they think it’s kind of ok because they keep getting away with it. They’d hardly care if you frowned at them, but I bet most of them would learn quickly if they kept getting kicked out of parties and their friends told them off. Instead it has been ignored until suddenly all that long overdue social cost rushed onto them in all at once. Hopefully the result of all this is that less people will look the other way and problems can be dealt with when they are still small.
Ordinary men do get fired for sexual harassment–for instance, working-class, poorly-educated factory workers. Nobody wants to talk about that! That changes the dialogue. And, honestly, every Latino man I’ve ever known has been flirtatious to an extent of harassment in today’s sensitive environment. So what are you going to do? Fire an entire macho culture? But yes, some very wealthy men are Teflon. Then again, some of the complaints are very slight. Personally I’ve known a lot of very decent male writers, not monsters at all, who certainly take their hands off if you object. They’re not rapists!
I certainly do expect my colleagues to treat me in a professional manner. So far they all have, it’s not that difficult. It’s generally not too hard to tell whether someone is just a physical person or or if they want to sneakingly touch/group and hope to get away with it.
However, I’m not in the US so here we do have decent labour laws which means that even if you are workin-class you generally can’t be fired for a single minor mistake. That also means that it is possible to call out harassers without them losing their job, provided they start acting professionally afterwards. If they can’t do that, then yes, I do believe they should be fired because the alternative is that brilliant women who can act professionally will start leaving for less hostile jobs and I do find that a more serious concern.
I also find it worth mentioning that even if the public complaints are few and slight the employers in these cases may know more. I don’t know who any of the people you mentioned are and have no idea if they are guilty or not but we also don’t know whether their employers were acting cowardly or if it was a reasonable response to the information they have.
ireadthatinabook makes an important observation. I should have noted in my previous comment that my husband falls within “that generation” of men. My mother-in-law may not have defined herself as a feminist but she did teach her sons to be respectful and courteous; (thankfully) my husband doesn’t feel it’s okay to go about hugging and patting women.
Stephanie, you are so right. The majority of older men I’ve worked with have been very polite and decent, men who back off good-humoredly if their advances are unwelcome. There are some harassers and sociopaths out there, but many of these complaints being aired are trivial. I mean Garrison Keillor putting his hand on a woman’s naked back? Really! I’d like to think women feel strong enough to deal with such ordinary incidents without trying to get someone fired!
I agree. Unless the unwanted behavior continues, allowance might be made that a man made a clumsy move and one he regrets. Surely we have all done that? I’m referring to incidents such as Mr. Keillor’s, not more blatant and offensive behavior. Our current focus seems distorted.