Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Mania Over Sexual Harassment

Cathy Young asks whether “Weinsteining” is getting out of hand?

The answer: of course it is.

Manias always get out of hand. That’s why we call them manias. An explosion of moral outrage produces irrational decision making and overreach. It’s part of the game.

It feels like a cultural revolution, where certain people are paraded before the public, humiliated to within an inch of their reputations, and discarded onto the trash heap of history.

Some of the accused men—beginning with Harvey himself—deserve to be prosecuted and even imprisoned. Heaven knows why Harvey has not yet decamped for the sunny clime of Rio de Janeiro. Perhaps he suffers from illusions about more than his sexual prowess. 

But some is not all. And manias normally paint such a broad brush that they sweep up people whose crimes are not even crimes.

It took courage for Young to stand up and tell people to calm down. Thus, her article deserves note:

The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandals and the ripples from the “#Me Too” movement are having indubitably positive effects — above all, exposing and bringing to account predators who have enjoyed impunity due to their power and status. But there are some pitfalls. Many people — not just men with skeletons in the closet — fear that careers may be destroyed over minor misconduct and ambiguous transgressions. Troubling rhetoric abounds, condemning all sexually tinged dynamics in the workplace, stereotyping men as abusers and women as perpetual victims in need of quasi-Victorian protections.

Of course, one of America’s most important predators, Bill Clinton continues to run free. And the enabler-in-chief Hillary herself is still out selling books and persuading people that she was never really "likeable enough."

For your edification, Kathleen Parker traces the current wave of sexual harassment to the Clinton presidency:

… Hillary’s dogged pursuit of women claiming to have been targets of her husband’s unleashed libido and her ultimate metamorphosis into Tammy Wynette cumulatively displayed a contempt for women rather than for her husband.

It is little wonder, then, that other men of the era didn’t feel compelled to curtail their proclivities, or that women felt their power to fight back minimized by the first lady.

For her part, Young makes several important points. In the current mania people have lost perspective and confuse sexual assault and indiscreet remarks. In a workplace atmosphere where men and women are socializing on a daily basis, one must expect that there will be some misconduct and even some unwanted solicitations of intimacy. Some are smoother and some are clumsier. They do not all deserve the same punishment. If every man who ever made a clumsy pass at a woman in the workplace were put in the stocks, the workplace would be sorely lacking in male talent. It would effectively cease to function.

And, what about due process of law. In today’s environment, where outrage rules, it seems impossible. Allow Parker to remind us:

… we are becoming too comfortable with condemnation without due process. Life is unfair — and women inarguably have been on the receiving end of unfairness for long enough. But life shouldn’t be a zero-sum game and men, even those one dislikes, deserve a fair hearing before their life and livelihood are taken away.

As you recall, the Obama Department of Education tried to eliminate due process considerations for accusations of campus sexual assault. You also know that law professors were horrified and that the current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has dialed it back.

Beyond Weinstein and Toback and Kevin Spacey, Young mentions the crimes and misdemeanors of Leon Wieseltier, whose career has recently been destroyed. For what, she asks:

Wieseltier is not accused of sexual assault or coercion but of what Michelle Cottle, writing in the Atlantic, calls “low-level lechery”: sexualized comments, from compliments on a tight outfit to banter during work-related conversations, and unwanted kisses — mostly on the cheek or forehead, on a few occasions on the lips. (He has not denied the allegations and has offered a general apology.)

Or, take the case of Roy Price who lost his job and his impending marriage over an obscene remark to a producer:

In another harsh example, Roy Price, the former head of Amazon Studios, lost his job over a single complaint of propositioning a female executive at a booze-soaked event in 2015. (There is no suggestion that Price tried to retaliate for rejection.)

Apparently, the remark involved osculating his male organ.

For those who like irony, it is useful to keep in mind that in the olden days, when men were gentlemen and women were ladies, no gentleman would ever make such a vulgar remark to a lady. Social codes—the ones that feminism has so roundly rejected—would never have allowed it. Nowadays, at a time when women pride themselves on being men’s equals when it comes to vulgar profanity and obscenity, a reference to cocksucking suffices to damage a woman’s psyche… almost beyond repair.

Young asks whether we will ever allow flirting in the workplace. Because, if we cannot, then the great social experiment of a sexually integrated workplace has failed. If things are as bad as feminists say they are, then one would naturally conclude, as Ruth Graham did in the XX blog on Slate, that we need to scrap the experiment.

In Young’s words:

Can work and sexuality or romance ever mix? For many supporters of this campaign, the answer seems to be no.

Concerns that the post-Weinstein climate may lead to witch hunts against any man who flirts with a female colleague have been met with angry comments along the lines of “flirting in the workplace IS HARASSMENT.” A tweet by singer/songwriter Marian Call that got more than 2,000 retweets and nearly 6,500 “likes” asked, “dudes are you aware how happy women would be if strangers & coworkers never ‘flirted’ with us again … this is the world we want.”

But is it? It’s certainly not the world I want: Except in college, nearly every man I have ever dated was either a co-worker or, once I switched entirely to free-lancing, someone I met through work. This is not unusual, even in the age of dating websites and apps. An informal 2015 survey for the online magazine Mic found that men and women under 35 were almost twice as likely to have met their current significant other through work (17.9%) as through online dating (9.4%). Similar findings have emerged from other such surveys.

And Young courageously steps on another third rail… the one that you have not heard about in all of the brouhaha over workplace sexual harassment: the role of women who flirt, of women who attempt to charm and beguile men. Has it ever crossed the threshold of your pristine mind that the world is full of women who would happily do for Harvey Weinstein whatever he wanted, to get a role in a film. Which is why his crimes are so incomprehensible.

Obviously, we are obliged to say, flirting is not an invitation to assault, but it is also true that women are not quite as innocent as the current mania would suggest:

Even aside from dating and relationships, casual or committed, there is little doubt that many women enjoy some degree of sexual interaction in their work lives. Can anyone claim with a straight face that women do not initiate flirting, ribald humor and sexually themed chitchat in the workplace, just as men do? Much of this behavior is welcome or harmless; some of it can be unwanted and obnoxious.

And of course, some women harass men sexually. Young adds:

Although it is difficult to imagine a woman whose actions come even close to Weinstein’s, women do engage in sexual harassment. A male friend of mine who worked for a small magazine as a recent college graduate in the 1980s has less than fond memories of a female co-worker, his senior in both age and position, who sometimes greeted him with jokes insinuating that he was sexually aroused and once groped him under the pretext of straightening out his posture in a motherly way.

In the current mania, women are not merely reduced to innocents. They are shown to be weak and extremely vulnerable. The point has often been made, but it certainly bears repeating. The current wave of accusations against predatory males is coming from the entertainment industry and the media. Invariably, the men who committed these offenses are serious feminists. Invariably, the women who were victims are serious feminists—strong and empowered, as you are constantly told. And, we also know that these feminist victims kept their mouths shut. Perhaps they were emulating the dowager duchess of Chappaqua. But, the least you can say is that their feminism, whatever purpose it serves, turned them into weak cowards. Put that one in your pipe and smoke it.

Now that we have broached these topics, beyond the fact that the mania will make men think twice about hiring more women and to think more than twice about trying to mentor young women. 

And the current mania will undoubtedly make it more difficult for victims to recover. Simply put, if these crimes are as appalling as the mania says, then a woman who has suffered one must have been scarred for life or utterly destroyed. This requires her to take to her bed, to become a weak quivering human mass. If she can recover from a vulgar reference to her anatomy or even an assault, this makes the crimes less consequential, less damaging, less deserving of punishment. Thus, the worse people say it all was the more damaging it will become. If getting over harassment feels like betraying the cause victims will find themselves obliged to suffer. This is not a good thing.

Keep in mind, Elizabeth Smart was a teenage girl when she was abducted and raped repeatedly for months. She endured far worse than today’s assault victims. And yet, she put it behind her and moved on. No one imagines that her rapist should receive less punishment or that her ordeal was any less horrific.

4 comments:

Ares Olympus said...

Yes, this is what bothered me over the "#MeToo" meme. On the surface it might look like a group hug for victims to see they're not alone, but if the MeToo becomes basically "I was harassed too", which is often about ordinary unwanted attention by men, it trivializing the experience of real victims.

So on the surface I'm always in favor of pointing out the elephants in the room that can't be talked about, but the conversation has to go deeper than blame and condemnation on one side, and victimhood on the other.

I see Christina Hoff Sommers was interviewed on her interpretations she calls "Victim feminism" in regards to the abuse of Title IX to force universities to judge private interactions between men and women, and risks "Blaming the victim" in saying alcohol abuse is a major problem.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/education/edlife/christina-hoff-sommers-sexual-assault-feminism.html
"I think a major source of the trouble is binge drinking. I certainly think alcohol prevention programs are part of the solution. Some women say that is blaming the victim. Teaching people how to avoid becoming victims isn’t blaming the victim. It’s common sense."

And I see David Brooks just wrote an article, showing a progression from personal love to sexual commodification for pleasure to sexual predators for a toxic mixture of power and pleasure.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/opinion/sexual-harassment-predators.html

Suggesting the 3 levels of relationships might give some clarity for action. Is it possible to not outlaw transactional sexual relations for the adventurous and learn how to recognize the real wolves and know how to handle them?

But certainly, if you can't handle the wolves, there is safety in numbers. We can all choose to be like VP Pence and meet ours wifes in church, and never be alone with another woman, and temptations can be eliminated, whatever sin we're afraid of.

David Foster said...

"in the olden days, when men were gentlemen and women were ladies, no gentleman would every make such a vulgar remark to a lady"

But depending on when & where the Olden Days are viewed as having been, a 'lady' might well have been defined based on her family connections...and acting badly toward women outside this category was quite tolerated.

sestamibi said...

"If every man who ever made a clumsy pass at a woman in the workplace were put in the stocks, the workplace would be sorely lacking in male talent. It would effectively cease to function."

Are you kidding? This is precisely what the feminists want!

Robert Barbara said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.