For fark’s sake. The guy’s accused of rape, by more than one woman. What sort of behavior does she think “invited” that? Even his somewhat less egregious offenses are inexplicable in terms of an invitation. Does anyone think Lauren Sivan put out the vibe upon meeting famous Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein that she was hoping to watch him furtively whack it into a potted plant in a dark corner of an empty restaurant kitchen?
The more aggressive harassment is, the harder it is to explain in terms of a misconstrued female “invitation.” Actual assault is plainly indefensible, yet here’s Eddie Bernice Johnson talking about women’s power to “control the situation.” Of course there are things a woman can do when they’ve been harassed; the question is whether those things will do any good. Megyn Kelly wrote about that today for Time:
“Report it!” we say. “You have rights!” Easy to say; much harder to do. The thing that keeps harassment targets quiet, in my view, is not that they do not know their options. It’s that they know their options stink.
Go to HR? HR may have to tell the harasser — and he may survive the bout. “He cannot legally retaliate,” people tell us. We know. But we also know the practical realities of starting wars with powerful men. So most women stay quiet. And then if they do find the courage to come forward, the first thing they’re asked is, “Did you report it?” (In my case, I did tell a supervisor that Ailes had harassed me. Nothing was done.)
As a woman friend said to me recently, if a woman claims harassment but doesn’t name names, some critics will say “Name names!” If they do name names, other critics will say, “What about due process?”
Mary Katharine Ham has her own piece out today about being harassed on the job, which she duly reported to HR after it happened. The harassment stopped but the discomfort didn’t:
Someone had taken a job I enjoyed, and work that I was proud of, and in an instant, turned it into an awkward, daily exercise in anxiety and anger. He made me question all my accomplishments and everyone’s perceptions of my accomplishments. I knew everything had changed in that instant, but I damn sure wasn’t going to let it pass without him knowing I was pissed about it…
The sad, common thread in all these incidents [experienced by friends and colleagues], reported or not, was that they were eventually resolved by the victims moving on. It was our way of life that was disrupted. It was our plans that changed, our career trajectories shifted. We made adjustments, physically and emotionally, while the offenders went unpunished, and sometimes got promoted. That is, to put it plainly, wrong.
Johnson’s retort: “I think that many times, men get away with this because they are allowed to get away with it by the women.” Women *should* be scrupulous about reporting these incidents when they happen, however intimidating that may be, but if your instinct in l’affaire Weinstein is to go looking for things the victims might have done differently, maybe have a think on that. The whole point of the Weinstein scandal is that he had everyone in his pocket — Hollywood players who feared they’d lose work if he crossed them, media outlets that feared losing scoops or facing lawsuits if they spoke up. It wasn’t his victims who allowed him to get away with it. It was the web of enablers who made the price of speaking up incredibly steep. Who are you supposed to complain to when everyone’s effectively on the take?
And no, Johnson’s not saying the same thing that Mayim Bialik said in her unjustly lambasted op-ed for the Times. Bialik’s point was that dressing modestly is comfortable for her and that flirting or dressing provocatively, especially in Hollywood, is unfortunately apt to catch the eye of creeps. A statement of fact, not a statement of blame. She left no doubt who she deems “responsible” for instances of harassment: “Women should be able to wear whatever they want. They should be able to flirt however they want with whomever they want. Why are we the ones who have to police our behavior?”
Needless to say, being a Democrat, a woman, and a minority, Johnson will be completely insulated from meaningful political blowback for this third-degree transgression against feminism.