The Real Driver of Sexual Harassment

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Let’s not start at what is perhaps the most obvious place to discuss a national climate that enables sexual abuse and harassment, our pussy-grabbing braggart-in-chief. (Too on-the-nose, as they say.)

Let’s first think about the tech industry. Reports of the harassment of and prejudice against women are everywhere in tech and reported widely in industry media. No surprise, some would argue, because tech is not only male-dominated and male-led, it is an industry with very few women at any level of hierarchy.

True enough, I suppose.

Without a diverse critical mass, tech has a stereotypical “bro” mentality that fosters thinking of women as the “other”, not to be accepted as colleagues and leaders but to be demeaned, objectified, sexualized and feared. There are precious few women engineers in tech organizations, much less leaders of them.

Most appalling may be the reaction of these tech “bros” to criticism of their industry’s record of marginalization and harassment of women: insinuations of male tech genetic superiority, critiques of women’s contributions to tech (which are historic and substantial), and flat-out threats to those who speak up.

Eyeball social media and see what I mean; it’s sickening.

The case of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has created increased awareness of sexual harassment in America’s workplaces, and we should be grateful for that contribution to our social health. Women in entertainment have been the unwilling subjects of male domination since the industry’s earliest days. And that subjugation has taken on near-legendary status: countless stories of leering producers and casting couches and coerced dressing room assignations.

That a powerful man in Hollywood preys upon the beautiful, young and powerless can be no surprise to anyone at this point. That particular cases, and particular predators, are widely known in the industry, and have been widely known in the industry for long periods of time and have not been called out for their behavior, much less stopped, is disappointing to say the very least.

As human beings, presumably, we wouldn’t want to think colleagues, investors and partners would allow sexually predatory behavior to continue unabated, just because a particular predator was good at getting awards and making money.

But there we are: enablers exist in Hollywood too.

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The most well-documented cases, of course, are likely those of the enablers of sexually abusive Roman Catholic priests. For many decades, the church not only looked the other way and enabled ongoing abuse but shielded the abusers from legitimate law enforcement, from their accusers, and their communities.

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It was only after numerous civil lawsuits and very high-profile journalistic investigations that the church admitted (some) instances of abuse (and the church’s efforts to hide them) publicly.¬† The conscious and purposeful cover-up reached to the very highest levels of the global church and continues to erode public confidence in the institution.

Worse, it is completely at odds with what the church claims it stands for.

Harassment and abuse also exists in scale, of course, at our schools, colleges and universities, abetted by the typically decentralized structure of academe (especially in higher education). And many educational institutions will not report instances of abuse when they actually occur, or are learned of, only when institutions are faced with public reports and lawsuits.

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All this I know too well from personal experience as a communications counsel to many institutions dealing with sexual harassment and abuse: many people know of the harassment and abuse and too few (if any) will move to stop, or even report it.

After the fact, that is to say after the harassment has already ruined psyches and careers and lives, people will share that “Everyone knew about Harvey,” or “I heard the rumors about Father Timothy,” or “Professor Herman was a well-known pervert,” or “Coach Johnson was always giving rides to his players.”

Let me say this directly and as straight-forwardly as I am able.

Sexual harassment and abuse cannot exist in any institution without the forbearance and enablement of a great many people. People knew that Harvey Weinstein was assaulting young women and DID NOTHING. People knew about that tech venture capitalist and DID NOTHING. People knew about the priests and the coaches and the professors and DID NOTHING.

Why?

Greed. Loyalty to the institution. Sexism. Fear. Personal discomfort. Other reasons.

Several years ago, I told a colleague about a coach who had raped a series of his players over the course of several years, with the knowledge of his school’s administration. My colleague, himself the dad of a little league baseball player told me with firm conviction that, were he presented with that kind of information about one of his kid’s coaches, he’d kill the guy (or at least take serious action of some kind).

And I said to him I hoped so, but based on my substantial experience, I supposed he would instead convince himself he’d obviously been mistaken (because the coach was too nice a guy) and do nothing.

Without our silence and cooperation (active or tacit), sexual harassment and abuse cannot exist in our institutions.

 

Oh, I Understand Plenty

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I honestly and sincerely swore I wouldn’t write about politics again this election season but conditions impress upon me the need, the obligation, the responsibility to speak.

This year, many commentators are wondering aloud how we could have gotten to the place we today occupy – an ignorant, narcissistic sociopath is a major party’s nominee for the presidency. And, let’s not be coy, I’m talking about the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

In the course of the period of my lifetime, barely one-fourth of the total period of American history, politics have devolved to the level of apes – no, this unfairly devalues ape society. When I was younger, Republicans stood for something understandable and American – main street sensibility, small central government, an ethic of hard work, economic opportunity. I may not have agreed with all of it but I understood and appreciated it as a coherent political philosophy.

What today’s Republican Party stands for isn’t beyond my comprehension exactly, more beneath my contempt. Today’s GOP is proudly bigoted, ignorant, racist, sexist and materialistic. It is anti-American, at least as I understand and use that term.

Let’s get concrete.

A man of color has occupied the White House for almost eight years. Republicans have never accepted him as the legitimate president of the United States. They have done everything possible to thwart his due exercise of office. Indeed, they have tried to de-legitimize him at every opportunity.

How? By supposing out loud that he was born in Africa, that he is a secret Muslim, that he is a sleeper agent of a terrorist cell, that his election and re-election were illegitimate.

He’s been made out to be foreign. We’ve been shown pictures of him with a bull’s eye on his chest, dressed as a witch doctor, as Adolph Hitler, in minstrel-show blackface. The entire media apparatus of News Corp (Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, et al.) was purposefully arrayed against him in vile and personal attacks.

And why?

Simply because of the color of his skin.

The same rough-justice mechanism is now being deployed against the Democratic Party’s next standard bearer for the unpardonable crime of being a woman.

Here is the truth: American demographics are our destiny.

Some years ago, Republicans made a pact with the devil – the Tea Party and other anti-American extremists – in the vain hope of remaining politically and socially relevant. It was a fool’s bargain. Our country is changing, has changed. Any party that caters to white male resentment as its backbone is doomed. The fact is, Republicans are already dead; they just can’t bring themselves to acknowledge it.

And yet, TV pundits feign confusion about what’s going on in the American political landscape. As if they didn’t know.

I beg you, in the deepest way I know how, to say it simply, plainly and out loud: the Republican Party has staked its life on appealing to the basest instincts of a declining portion of the American electorate and it will die as a result. And it will die very soon. And there is nothing the party hierarchy or its craven media whore can do to stop it.

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He’s Simply Perfect

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Now, finally, several months into this dystopian circus, media pundits and Republican Party officials are wringing their bony hands, wondering how it happened. How, they ask in their pathetic and whiny columns and commentaries, could a person like Donald Trump be on the verge of gaining the presidential nomination of a major American political party?

As if they didn’t know a single thing about the real America.

In point of fact, Donald Trump is the absolutely perfect man to represent today’s America to the world. He is a more accurate mirror of our country’s character than any major candidate for the presidency.

  1. He is vulgar.
  2. He is impressed with all the external trappings of money. He is all surface and shuns substance at every opportunity.
  3. He is racist, sexist and bigoted.
  4. He embraces greed.
  5. He practices a faux Christianity, without any grounding in or awareness of the foundation of the real religious tradition behind it.
  6. He is full of phony man-bluster, a classic limp-dick, chickenshit bully. Never engaging in any actual fighting but consistently threatening something big and severe.
  7. He doesn’t read, doesn’t know history, doesn’t understand government, or how things work. He is proud to demonstrate his ignorance, as Sarah Palin did on the campaign trail before him. Her endorsement spoke volumes about his suitability for the presidency, his suitability to represent us.

He is, in short, the perfect man for the job of representing America.

 

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Phoenix Convention Center Saturday, July 11, 2015. (Cheryl Evans/The Arizona Republic via AP)