Archive for November, 2017


Harvey Weinstein. Roy Moore. Al Franken. Matt Lauer. Kevin Spacey. Bill O’Reilly. John Conyers. Garrison Keillor. And yes, Donald Trump. The list goes on and on, and each new day brings more names.

It’s not just these big names who have a lot to answer for, either. Every person who has ever been the reason someone used – or could have used – a #MeToo hashtag must take a share of the blame.

Sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault – all of these occur all too frequently all over the world. America is facing a reckoning today, and similar reckonings in other nations may not be far behind. We have reached a critical mass, the point of no return.

While these incidents have been predominantly actions by men against women, we must acknowledge that in the overwhelming majority of these cases, the underlying motivation isn’t sex – it’s power. Anyone who is in a position of power over another, whether that power is gained through wealth or fame or occupational rank or family standing or even sheer physical strength, these assaults are an expression of that power, a power which for all of America’s history has been wielded by men.

The success of the #MeToo movement has been due to its inherent message that if you have suffered this, you are not alone. It was truly disheartening and distressing to see than well over half of the women among my Facebook friends had reason to use that hashtag. Considering how many women have continued to be reluctant to share their stories, I would at this point be unsurprised if that fraction were closer to three-fourths.

And I’m sure my observation is not a unique one. So consider this: over half of the women you know – friends, colleagues, family members – have at some time been subjected to sexual harassment or worse. That fact should sicken you. It certainly sickens me.

Of course, as with all such things, this is not a black and white issue; there are always nuances and shades of gray involved. Certainly we can concede that an off-color comment, or even a pattern of them, is not as egregious as an outright sexual assault. However, we must also acknowledge that all people should have the right to a non-threatening environment at work, at school, at church, or in any other aspect of their lives.

Perhaps it could be argued that one off-color joke at a party twenty years ago should not be reason enough to demand a person’s resignation or firing today. Shades of gray. But again, these incidents constitute abuses of power, and when a person is allowed to abuse that power, and a blind eye is turned, that forbearance becomes the new normal. It sends a message to the perpetrator and victim, and others around them, that the specific behavior was tolerated, and therefore acceptable. That acceptance paves the way, however unintentionally, for a greater abuse.

It should also be acknowledged that people react very differently to these situations, and what is acceptable flirting to one person may constitute sexual harassment to another. This is indeed probably true not only based on who is receiving the comments, but even on who is making them; the same person may react differently to a compliment from an attractive superior than to the same compliment from an unattractive one.

Another complicating factor is that (with few exceptions) we do all enjoy the freedom of speech. I will not be surprised if at some point a person whose only infractions have been verbal rather than physical does at some point mount a First Amendment defense. These comparatively minor incidents are, therefore, a thorny issue.

However, I’m sure we can all agree that unwelcome touching (or worse) is reprehensible, or that persistence with such behavior after an indication that the behavior is unwelcome should not be tolerated.

Women are standing up and taking back their power, and it’s about damn time that the men who have abused their power over them are held accountable. And, in those rarer but no less problematic cases where the incident has been perpetrated by a woman on a man, or the two have been of the same gender, those people should also be held accountable.

Interestingly, the pattern thus far has been that the media personalities have been held accountable and the politicians have not. This too must change. Why should we tolerate behaviors from our nation’s leaders – regardless of party – which we would not accept from people in other positions? Nobody, not even a President, should be considered unaccountable.

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