I wanted to venture into a subject that is not political but is rapidly having political ramifications. I am talking about sexual harassment of women both in the workplace and in life. My wife and I raised four daughters and I am sure that all four experienced some form of harassment in their lives. This type of behavior has existed in society for centuries and in many cases, is as much cultural as much as just men behaving boorishly.
Women throughout history have been relegated to a secondary role in society. They were viewed as the weaker sex and considered, in some cases, the property of their husbands. In some cultures, they have to cover themselves and cannot even be in mixed company. In our own nation women did not have the right to vote until the 1900’s and even then, they were considered less than men. My aunt went to medical school in the 1930’s and after graduation, many of the male doctors refused to call her doctor. It took World War II to begin changing attitudes towards women. As the men of the world went off to fight women stepped in and took jobs that were normally considered all male. We all have heard the stories of “Rosie the Riveter” and my own mother dropped out of Drexel University to run a crane in a factory.
After the war men returned home and wanted to restore society to what it was before and found that women had a new sense of value and many were not ready to just give up their jobs and go back to being housewives. Many no longer had husbands and needed to work. It was the beginning of a cultural revolution in our nation and while it had a long way to go it was not going to stop. Women were now in the workforce and while not always in the jobs they wanted they were there. This was part of the problem. Many men viewed these women as threats to their power and so they sought to make sure they knew their place. If you have ever watched the award-winning show “Mad Men” you saw how women were viewed in the workplace as sexual objects and the men would make comments about them and laugh. Sometimes they made these comments in front of other women. Set in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s this show was a microcosm of what many women face in the workplace. Flight attendants on airlines had to be a certain weight and once they got married they were terminated. They were considered pretty sexual objects for the male passengers to fantasize about as they flew on business.
Fast forward to today, 2017, and sexual harassment is on the front pages of every newspaper and every day we hear new reports of new allegations against men in power. Matt Lauer has been skewered in the news and apparently, the number of women harassed by him grows by the day. Harvey Weinstein, the predator that started this latest go-round, used his position to abuse women in multiple ways and then has the temerity to ask for forgiveness and say he is seeking help. Al Franken now has a list of accusers that appears to be growing and John Conyers finds the number of his accusers growing every day. Then we learn that Congressman Farenhold used taxpayer money, like Conyers, to pay a former staffer $84,000 to settle a claim against him. I am sorry, but you don’t pay that kind of money if you are not guilty of something.
In some ways, we set this all up with our previous blind eye towards men in power abusing women. I know that it was a generation ago but we sure let Ted Kennedy off the hook with the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne. Does anyone think that there was no sexual activity in that entire debacle? Yet he stayed in the Senate, allowed his family to buy off Mary Jo’s family for about $150,000 and he became a revered icon to liberals. Some of us that are old enough remember the escapades of Bob Packwood and how he was hitting on women all the time. And then we have the Clinton problem. He was accused of raping a woman, exposing himself multiple times and in the end engaging in what any wife would call “sexual” behavior. And how did the liberals react? You know, the ones that defend women’s rights. First, led by his wife Hillary, they attacked the women from Arkansas and even Kathleen Wiley, as part of some conservative effort to get rid of Bill Clinton. They denounced these women as white trash and other names. They defended his actions with Monica Lewinsky as two adults. They ignore she was an intern in the White House and it was his position as President that allowed him to engage in this lewd behavior. How many of you honestly think a young woman barely over twenty would be sexually engaged with a man in his fifties if he was not in a position of wealth or power?
So to be clear, I think Franken, Conyers, and Farenhold need to be gone from public office. There is no place in our halls of government for those that abuse women. Now I am also ready for the immediate comeback on Donald Trump. There are multiple accusations against him as well. I discount the vulgar comment that he made with Billy Bush because I am honest enough to know I have heard worse from men of all persuasions. Does not make it right but it was talk. Was it offensive, yes? But I dare any man to say he has not said something that many women would not find offensive. I wish he was not the President and I wish we had someone of better moral character in the Oval Office but we do not. There is a way to remove him from office but reading the Constitution his offenses do not rise to the level of an impeachment. For members of Congress, they can simply be forced to resign by the body itself. They can be censored and removed from all committee assignments. In effect, they can be reduced to a meaningless status.
So how do we go about fixing this problem? It is a societal problem not confined to any one segment of our society. When I was growing up social norms were much different. Lucy and Desi Arnaz were married in real life but on their TV show, they had to sleep in separate beds. We have evolved from that sort of prudish behavior but have we crossed too far to the side? Today the media thinks nothing of showing rampant sexual behavior by everyone and we have come to accept it and are no longer offended.
I have spent 41 years working in our nation’s Capital and I have witnessed a marked change in behavior by both men and women. I have sat in a meeting where the women use coarse and vulgar language that would make a sailor blush. They have dropped more “F” bombs than the men. Perhaps they think they need to do this to show they are equal? I have sat and listened to women openly talk about their sex lives and who they are sleeping with that week. I know I am treading on dangerous ground here but women now want to flaunt their sexuality and are then offended when a man makes a remark about it. Both are wrong. I was at a restaurant recently where a young woman was wearing a dress that when she sat down it left no doubt about the color of her underwear. The four of us at dinner, my wife, myself and another couple, all noticed it and all commented on it. So, I kept asking myself, does this young woman realize that she is showing everything she has or does she just not care? Does she somehow think this will make her more attractive in some way?
All of these are questions that I think many people wonder about. At what point are women complicit in encouraging sexual harassment? In my mind, there is no doubt that no man has a right to impose himself on a woman and there are no circumstances that would justify it in any way. For women, if you feel that you are being harassed speak up and report the behavior. But how about all of us taking a step back and looking at ourselves and occasionally looking in a mirror and wondering if this is the person I want to be.