Does anyone else think it’s odd that so many claims of sexual harassment are being filed these days, or at least people—usually men, so far—are being accused of this? I have no doubt that sexism is real and that harassment of any form is prevalent. But much like bullying, let’s stop and think about this.
Is a one-time comment harassment? Not in my opinion. What about several comments, or a paragraph or speech, or continuous conversation, or, of course, a physical encounter. This, I believe, is coming closer to the true definition. But mostly it depends on the person being targeted.
Think about the bullying epidemic: a kid tells another kid that he’s ugly and his mom cries, “Bully!” Honestly, I’d call that an opinion; come on, even our friends sometimes say something hurtful, right? Doesn’t make them a bully. Now, if that same kid kept saying that every single day or every time he saw the other kid, that could be called bullying.
Back in the day, we were told to stand up against this and/or walk away and ignore it.
Now, it’s grounds for parents to run to the media. Of course, we also recited, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Sure, words can hurt. Who hasn’t laid awake at night remembering some childhood incident? But we grew up, put on our big-girl panties, and keep moving on . . .
So, how do you know if you’ve been sexually harassed? Let’s see . . . once upon a time, I was in my early 20s, and that jerk Keith responded to my query of when I could expect a raise with, “When are you going to give me one?”
Sheesh. Grow the hell up, Keith. Not what I said, of course, I was still trying to figure out what the heck he was talking about. Naivete at its best, I guess. The point is, I walked away. Sure, I remember it. I remember lots of things. But it still wasn’t harassment. It was a one-time Keith being a jerk; he was a jerk about other things too, but so what?
In my late 20s, I had a boss who’d get drunk and call me up late in the evening. I’d listen to him ramble and make an excuse to hang up if he got too personal. This went on every couple nights for a few weeks. He never mentioned it at work. Weird, right? But not harassment.
You might have a different opinion. That’s okay. Let’s just remember the media likes to blow things up and sensationalize everything, and next thing you know, everyone is thinking back over their lives and trying to determine if they, too, have been sexually harassed.
I have no idea what most of these celebrities have been accused of actually doing. Well, except for Al Franken, we’ve all seen that picture of his hands on a sleeping woman’s boobs. Come on, folks, he was a comedian before he became a politician and he probably thought it was funny at the time. Probably so did the people he was with; heck, maybe she wasn’t even asleep and was in on it. Or maybe not. Maybe she woke up pissed. Maybe she didn’t even remember it or know about it until that picture was circulated. Probably she was mortified when it showed up—and maybe she accused him due to her own embarrassment.
Still not likely harassment. Maybe assault. By a pretty weenie definition. These days, anyone brushing against you in a crowd is often considered “assault.” Sheesh.
But, let me also add that yes, sexual harassment does occur and I know people to whom it has indeed happened. These are things that should be reported immediately, through respective channels up to and including law enforcement. But sometimes they aren’t, for a lot of reasons. Think of domestic violence—why do women stay? Lots of reasons. Looking in from the outside, you can’t know. You just can’t.
One more example, and this is relevant: once, my dad beat me. I mean throwing me on the floor, slamming me into a wall, chasing me when I tried to run, breaking down the door to my room. I was sixteen; it was January, 1980. I went to school late the next morning and straight to my guidance counselor’s office.
He asked if I wanted to press charges, and I said no. That was it. No mandated reporting. I’m sure he asked why and I’m sure I answered, but I don’t remember that part. That was it. End of story.
Well, sort of. I ran away.
I took the bus home with a friend, to her house; the mother of another friend picked me up, and then my mom came to take me to yet another friend’s house, where I stayed for a week or so. I had to come back, for school and all, so I went to my grandmother’s for a couple more weeks. Then my dad called, not to apologize, but to say my mom missed me and I should come home.
And that was it. We never talked about it. Never.
Over the years, things have changed about reporting abuse—and bullying, and harassment—that doesn’t mean I’d arbitrarily report something now, nearly 40 years later and assuming my dad hadn’t passed away in 2001. Neither would I report the jerk or the drunk, the former of whom is still alive and kicking; I doubt the other one is but I haven’t checked—in fact, I just now remembered his name. Ha.
What would be the point? To call them on the carpet because they did something decades ago? Everyone has done something stupid over their lives, yes, even you. You might remember it, it might haunt you, or you might be saying, “Huh? What?” And if I did, or you did, report some ancient incident, would that erase your memory of it? Of course not. Just like the slavery issue: my ancestors may have owned your ancestors, but *I* did not own *you.* Or them. It doesn’t mean we forget, it means it’s not relevant now.
IF you were to report something that happened 30 or 40 years ago, to whom would you report it? Law enforcement? Likely the statute of limitations has expired. So, to whom? Where has all this information lately coming from? The media. For what purpose? To bring up a person’s past? To punish?
Should people be held to a certain standard? Absolutely. Should government officials or politicians be held to a higher one? Perhaps. But they are people too, even if they aren’t quite like the rest of us peasants.