In this time of the destruction of our democracy as key institutions are run by people hostile to them or hundreds of posts in them allowed to go with no one in them, our right to vote attacked so that a minority of wealthy people can deny us our right to spend our taxes on ourselves for needed social services, education, individual futures, people who demonstrate thrown into jail as felons, the prison system itself used to incarcerate, silence, black and poor people, the military an instrument against us, nuclear war threatened, it might seem the pervasive sexual harassmet of women everywhere in our culture is secondary. Not to women. One of the things I have been taught in the last weeks is that my idea I have been super-sensitive, unusual somehow when I so disliked and feared the abrasive humiliating experiences I had between ages 12/13 and 15 is not so. My feelings among women are commonplace. They just didn't tell. So for me personally some good has come out of the continual evidence pouring from so many professions places ages. I know I'm not alone.
Between the ages of 12/13 and 15 I was stigmatized and harassed to the point that I stopped going out and went into a reclusive existence. I didn't kill myself (almost did) but moved to protect myself in every way I could. I also became anorexic at age 16 and weighed 79 pounds until I was about 21 -- this from family pressure; see Maria Selvini Palazzoli's Self-Starvation: from Individual to Family, on the treatment of anorexia nervosa. There are many books by women, from Slut to Fraternity Rape so you would think I would know I was not alone but individual woman really telling their cases has been rare. For my part, it took me a long time to come out of that experience and I have never altogether. It altered my life because ruined my teenage years and altered my personality. I know of women who left a profession for which they were gifted (acting) rather than endure rapes in order to get a job during an "interview."
So I care.
The problem is that I am not sure that when this phase of "shouting" or "calling out" and litigation is over, there will be any change in the day-to-day behavior of many heterosexual men towards women (and homosexual men towards other homosexual men), especially when one is in a powerful position. Only if structures, rules like those unions and court decisions and laws can effect are created, with proportionate punishments that appear to all just, to have equity, set in place, will any change come. That would have to be supported by a change in ideals and norms from macho male aggressive behavior, attitudes of possession, competition, using others to build male egos, and images as powerful controllers of families they support, to treating women as equal human beings first, as people who should not be judged adversely if they chose not to marry, have children for whatever reasons or circumstances. Many of these instances of males now accused or exposed were men who had powerful positions in areas women wanted promotion, jobs, equally fulfilling work. Women are stigmatized by their very bodies the way African-American people are the color of their skin. Further, what is happening is that people are not differentiating a man who has spent a lifetime as a sexual predator (Roy Moore) from single or a few incidents of bad behavior encouraged by the culture (Garrison Keillor, Al Francken) and a whole life time of service to others ignored. I also wonder if the same powerful people destroying the gov't are successfully going after liberal men. The irony is that the left cares far more about women's liberty and integrity than the right which claims to be more moral because they are religious. I see also women who see a main chance for revenge no matter who or what this is hurting. I'd like to see a few convictions in cases of egregious rapist behavior, marital violence: e.g., Cosby; Trump is president though he boasts of making women accept his physical demands on their bodies, and we see litigates to silence women he has been grossly violent to. Instead I'm seeing decent men hurt worse than the hypocritical predator. While I agree with Chris Hedges that this public movement is about more than male sexuality as it's practised by many in our society, but rather the whole corporate culture entwined with this, and I understand the full truth of what Laura Kipnis writes, "Kick against the Pricks," in the NYRB (December 2 issue), a review of Gretchen Carlson's Be Fierce:
After news of the lawsuit broke, thousands of women in every sort of occupation—waitresses, Wall Street bankers, oil rig operators—wrote to Carlson about their own experiences, and most of her book is devoted to their stories. None of the news is good. Harassment of every sort is rampant in every industry, ranging from explicit quid pro quos to nonstop entreaties for dates or sex, to egregious sexual hazing of women in nontraditionally female occupations like cop or soldier. The less job security you have, the worse it is; fast food workers are especially vulnerable.
What happens to women who try to resist or report harassment is also uniformly bad, Carlson reports. Human Resources offices are unresponsive (there to protect the company only); harassers who respond to complaints with defenses such as “You think I’d hit that?” (Trump’s defense too) are believed over accusers. Women who come forward are likely to be passed over for promotions and good assignments, or find their jobs mysteriously eliminated. On rare occasions when a boss-harasser is actually fired, the woman who brought him down often gets treated like a leper by his allies. The majority of those who report harassment end up in different jobs, which makes it understandable that, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 70 percent of women who are harassed don’t report it. The Bureau of Justice Statistics keeps a separate category for workplace rapes and sexual assaults, which number upward of 43,000 a year, but Carlson notes that “women’s advocates say that this number vastly underrepresents such crimes.” Then there are the psychological effects Carlson catalogs: depression, sleep disorders, lost self-esteem, even suicide attempts.I also agree with Katha Pollitt's assessment in her most recent essay in the Nation: "Will we Believe her now? These individual accusations and lawsuits will not bring change without structural, legal contracts in place, a way to sue and win and a deep change in norms not happening.
Now on 12/8/17 as I feared, it is turning into an excuse to take liberal democrats down, including long-time decent and effective men. Al Franken hit the dust yesterday. I did not foresee this: the alt-right is now using this for further anti-feminism: see there is a witch-hunt going on among Democrats fueled by these witch-women.
Here is the Woodruff segment from PBS reports. Note that the two officials include a woman from a union, and what she says is women need union organizing for and by them, and they have worked to set up rules to protect women but they don't function because the social and sexual mores are so anti-feminist:'
Alas, the result of this two pronged political and cultural time may be a further destruction of progressive liberal institutions and the people who have built them with women treated worse than ever because as circumstances stand now they need as much as minorities, the poor, and their children the socially just world that is was fragilely in place for a few decades and is now being torn apart openly and ruthlessly. I know for me access to a voice, to a flow of information, to friends the open internet provided has given me what career fulfillment I have known because after my experience of sexual harassment self-protection became a key element in my choices of social behavior. I see no permanent change for women in the works at all. Read the New York Times and you'll see for many men the solution is to re-exclude women. So for me and vulnerable women and men too (for men are also the targets of bodily harassment, especially gay and transvestite and bisexual men) the coming privatization and exploitation for profit of the internet plus the coming cutting of medicare and social security and the results of this deficit a probable new recession at least a triple whammy.
I end on behalf of all those women harassed, humiliated, soul-destroyed, and raped too, not because they were seeking power, hanging around men of power, in an interview for a good or any job, but just because they were women, vulnerable, walking, shopping, in this case in the train:
-- JC Reilly
He mumbles, Fuck you fat bitch
And scuttles off at Lindbergh. The doors close
The voices of a thousand women well up,
-- From Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, edd. Grace Bauer and Julie Kane.