The current and ongoing dialog about sexual harassment, somehow sparked by Harvey Weinstein who sounds like a sleazebag, is a conversation long overdue, and I heartily cheer it. I particularly applaud that growing public acknowledgement that harassment, like pregnancy, is not just a female problem. Harassment, in fact, is not even a shared problem like pregnancy: it’s solely a male problem. I shared a post on the use of passive voice—we should say men raped women, not women were raped; boys impregnated teens, not teen girls got pregnant. They didn’t do it all by themselves!
But I have an almost embarrassing confession: I have not ever been harassed. I shared this at dinner with my daughter and her husband, and when I said, oh sure, there was the professor who hugged all the girls a little too long and too tight, and the osteopathic physician, a lifetime friend, whose hands wandered a bit when he was treating me, but I don’t call that harassment. At that point, Jordan called for another glass of wine. But to me, the term implies, “Sleep with me or lose your job,” and I’ve never been in that position. The worst I’ve felt is patronized, like the man who once said to me, “Dr.? Really?” Yes, I have a Ph.D., and yes, I can run an academic press. Oh and there’s the man who hired me for a good-paying job and then took me to dinner and explained how oversexed he was. I told him we weren’t going there because I was newly divorced and vulnerable, and that was the end of that.
In truth, the fact that I’ve never been seriously harassed makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with me as a female. Am I not attractive enough? Maybe it’s a compliment, and men saw strength. Whatever, that’s beside the point.
I am interested at how quickly the “Me, too” suggestion went viral on Facebook. The idea was to post that simple phrase if you’ve ever been harassed, and it’s spread like wildfire, which is good recognition for the enormity of the problem. I have special praise for a male friend who chimed in with “Me, too.” I’m sure it related back to his childhood, but brave of him to join the chorus.
I found myself today in the strange position of agreeing with Woody Allen, not one of my heroes, who said he was afraid the current revelations would ignite a new set of witch trials. I think though I’m not sure we saw that in cases like accusations against Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby—women came out of the woodwork with accusations, and I can’t help but wonder about the veracity of some of those charges.
Will the same thing happen again? If I, as, I hope, a reasonably attractive, accomplished woman, at one time a divorcee and a single mom, have never been harassed, surely there are others. The numbers of victims is epidemic, and I recognize that with sorrow in my heart and anger in my brain, but I fervently hope that a lot of neglected women don’t see this as a way to draw attention to themselves.
Harvey Weinstein is going to suffer the just rewards of his long and unpleasant career and, probably, many more men are going to join him in punishment, financial or otherwise. But I hope it doesn’t get out of control. Remember the McCarthy era, those of you who are old enough. And teach that lesson to our younger sisters. Let truth ring out, but let’s not the rest of us try to ride on its coattails.