Used to be I could avoid the news. The Internet (and Facebook 😦 ) have made that almost impossible. I get to learn about the multitude of disgusting people who populate the world and make headlines. Many of these people are exceptional only for their nastiness.
There’s the movie producer who has been fired by his own company because numerous women have come forward and accused him — complained of — sexual harassment. And then there are the OTHER actors who said, “I had no idea.” And then there is the outrage.
I don’t understand the outrage. No, it should not happen, but it is extremely common.
My theory is that it wouldn’t be so prevalent if so many women were not complicit, if it didn’t “work” to help further the careers and aspirations of those being harassed.
Even in my little life there was this kind of thing — often. It started when I was a sophomore in college and my poetry prof started praising my poetry and taking me around Denver to read my poems at various organizations and gatherings of poetry lovers. I thought it was because my poetry was actually good, until he hit on me.
Then I saw it in a completely different light. Maybe my poetry was shit, and he was just trying to get into my pants. After that, I was far more aware and it happened again and again over the years. The men who attempted to foist themselves on me, offering what they believed was something I wanted (not them, but things like tenure) took their revenge. I also learned it is very difficult to prove sexual harassment and bosses are unlikely to believe the woman who’s been harassed.
Why? It’s a way to “the top,” and lots of women want to go there badly enough that they’ll put out (on some level) to improve their chances. It’s a cliché. “She slept her way to the top.”
On the other side, as a teacher, I was harassed by students thought sleeping with me would get them a better grade. “I’ll do anything for an A,” said one kid as he pressed himself against my back as I stood in the rear of the classroom preparing handouts for a presentation. The number of disgusting meta-messages in that “offer” is staggering, but on top of the pile is that he thought I might actually WANT him. I was at a complete loss, but having spent a lifetime teaching post-adolescents, I was fairly sure he’d do something to hang and/or reveal himself, and he did.
One of their group projects was to come up with a product and a marketing plan and present it to the class. His group came up with the idea of putting packets of condoms on windshields while frat parties were going on. They dramatized an advertisement for their service. He came in wearing a plastic bag as “Condom Man.” I held my shit together as I evaluated the group’s idea and commercial, all the while I was thinking, “Perfect costume, you dick.”
I have no idea how to stop sexual harassment. NOT giving in cost me things I really wanted over the years, but I didn’t want them THAT bad. I’m sure I’m not the only woman for whom that’s true. I was just sickened and moved on. Twice I tried complaining. Twice it availed nothing.