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Furthermore! – Memo to Men: “Get It”

November 7, 2011

Furthermore

Furthermore! – Memo to Men: “Get It”

Now that Nancy and Michelle are here, the ladies outnumber the men in Árbol Squirrel. (We don’t really have a Casa.) I kept tabs on the campus even when I was on class war correspondent duty, and I read that members of Congress who have daughters are stronger on women’s issues than those who don’t. I think I was an enlightened squirrel before. I tried to steer Regis, formerly known as the baby, away from sexist video games and other such things and we never let him chitter disparagingly about female squirrels. We have since passed that task on to his guirrel friend, not that she’s had many reasons to complain. Regis usually gets it.

I’m not a member of Congress, but I do have daughters now. So I get even grumpier when I research 21st Century Political Nuttitude and come across a history and journalism professor writing that the media should Leave Herman Cain Alone Already. David Greenberg teaches at Rutgers University and wrote the piece for The Atlantic. It’s not quite a sequel to his piece last month about Sex and the Married Politician, but it’s close.

Dr. Greenberg’s argument, reduced to its essence, is this:

Indeed, as I tried to suggest in a longer historical piece for The Atlantic earlier this fall, our judgments as to what even constitutes sexual misbehavior have varied enormously over time, in accordance with ever-changing social norms. That fluctuation should induce some humility and restraint among pundits inclined to decree that a particular deed – whether harassment or adultery, divorce or homosexuality, or even sending lewd pictures over the Internet – presumptively disqualifies a politician from holding or seeking office.

Dr. Greenberg cites the usual rogue’s gallery of politicians who faced sexually-related scandals, and the widely-varying outcomes, as evidence that the media’s treatment of such scandals is a scandal all its own. While he defends Politico‘s original story exposing the allegations, he says that sparked a “feeding frenzy” that has “gotten wildly out of control.” It is time, he argues, “for the press to relent and let Republican primary voters decide whether they believe or care about these still-vague charges.”

So I included Dr. Greenberg’s name personally in this memo….

From: The BPI Squirrel
To: Men, including David Greenberg

Subject: Sexual harassment

Get It.

Sexual harassment is not like adultery, divorce, homosexuality, or sending lewd pictures over the internet. With exceptions for conduct involving minors, society has come to see those other acts as private. Dr. Greenberg’s prior article makes a reasoned point that those other acts are private except for politicians. I could quibble that other very public figures – entertainers, athletes, etc. – face similar scrutiny. But I’ll grant that, absent some public misconduct, a politician’s adultery, divorce, homosexuality, or lewd internet practices should be as private as anyone else’s.

That’s exactly the point about sexual harassment. It is illegal and thus, by definition, “public misconduct.”

Get It.

Sexual harassment is at minimum an obliviousness to power and privilege, and too often a calculated abuse of power and privilege. It says “You work for me, and your job description includes enduring my sophomoric jokes, suggestive comments, requests for dates, casual touches, and sometimes worse. You are not and will never be just another employee. You are a woman employee, and I won’t let you forget that.”

Get It.

Men, that is what women experience when you treat the workplace like a single’s bar or a high school locker room.

Get It.

Whether you intend that or not when you make a joke – or a pass – is irrelevant.

Get It.

When women object to that, it’s not “greenmail.” They are asserting their legal right to a non-discriminatory workplace.

Get It.

Stop complaining that “the rules are always changing” and “I don’t know what’s okay anymore.”

Get It.

Stop pretending a trivial handful of examples are evidence that every accusation is false unless the woman has a videotape, witnesses, DNA, and a signed admission.

Get It.

Pause to ask yourself: “How would I feel if some man did this to my daughter?”

Get It.

The problem is not that women or the media need to “get over it.” The problem is that you need to:

Get It.

Good day and good nuts.

  • MKSinSA

    I’m happy that this issue has come up so early in the campaign and forcing people to discuss it. HoneyDo “encourages” me to keep my eye on the issues of women’s equality and reproductive freedoms (although we won’t be availing ourselves much of the latter, but we’ve got MiniDo to think about).

    As for Cain, can there be better news than he’s about to get the Full Allred … coming to a theater near you? :!:

    • http://bpicampus.com The BPI Squirrel

      He got the “Full Allred” today indeed. Unless I’m misinterpreting the howls of disgust from the mail room, the accusations raised in that press conference will be tonight’s Campus Question.

      Good day and good nuts.

  • winterbanyan

    Excellent rant, Squirrel, and I’m glad somebody said it. Sexual harassment is not all that difficult to “get”…at least not if you’re a woman. When some man’s behavior starts to make a woman uncomfortable about coming to work, starts to make her feel that her job or her advancement in her career depends on enduring that daily, stomach-twisting, maddening discomfort and concern for how far it will go… then you have sexual harassment.

    Work is indeed not a locker room or a singles bar. And while many coworkers can and do ask each other out, they are usually equals, and power and privilege do not come into play unless it becomes something far less savory than a simple, “Want to do lunch together?”

    When someone with power over you, the power to hire and fire or grant promotion does any of these things, including asking for a date, it enters a whole new realm. A woman is apt to feel she cannot say no. And from that point, the stomach churning fear begins.

    It is not so hard to avoid explicit jokes. It is not so hard not to touch a fellow employee. Guys, you know darn well you wouldn’t touch a male coworker except to shake hands. So what can’t you get?

    • http://bpicampus.com The BPI Squirrel

      This is the gist of it, winterbanyan:

      It is not so hard to avoid explicit jokes. It is not so hard not to touch a fellow employee. Guys, you know darn well you wouldn’t touch a male coworker except to shake hands. So what can’t you get?

      If you wouldn’t want your daughter to see it, hear it, or put up with it … don’t do it at work. Period.

      Good day and good nuts.

  • addisnana

    Excellent rant! I could write for hours but you’ve said it so well I’ll just say, Amen.

  • glendaw271

    Thanks, Squirrel. Nancy and Michelle are lucky squirrels.

    • http://bpicampus.com The BPI Squirrel

      Thank you for the kind words, addisnana and glenda. Sincerely.

      Good day and good nuts.

  • Lake Toba

    I can understand some of what it’s like to face workplace harassment. I had rolling arguments with someone in my office about politics that I repeatedly said I wanted to stop. After one heated exchange, I went to my supervisor and said I wanted it to stop immediately, or I would escalate to management.

    Finally it stopped.

    • http://bpicampus.com The BPI Squirrel

      That must have been very uncomfortable, Lake Toba, and it was ‘only’ about your political positions. Now imagine that during any conversation you had, or when he noticed what you wore to work, or the way you sip coffee or sit in your chair, his comments conveyed not “Does Lake Toba agree with my politics?” but “Would Lake Toba be good in bed?” That you were just “a coworker,” but “a coworker-and-potential-sex-partner” … or “a potential-sex-partner-he-happens-to-see-at-the-office,” with “coworker” hardly in the equation at all.

      I’m glad your supervisor stopped it. Now imagine if your supervisor were the one doing it. And imagine if you knew that complaining about it would likely get you fired and your reputation dragged into the mud.

      Good day and good nuts.

  • trs

    Squirrel, you got it right, as usual. I like to think I do “get it” after growing up in a household of three older sisters (and three older brothers, at least one of them doesn’t “get it”). I dated (and lived with) a co-worker for about 4 years. When we broke up, we both went out of our way to make sure one of us didn’t make the other uncomfortable in work situations, especially since we had to work together on several projects. Whoever Kidlet dates had also better “get it,” because both iriti and I have taught Kidlet that she doesn’t have to put up with anything less than being treated well. As she told one boy, “My dad has power tools, I know how to use them, and I have access to the key to his truck.” It worked quite well.

    • http://bpicampus.com The BPI Squirrel

      Kidlet is lucky to have you and iriti. My favorite part of this …

      “My dad has power tools, I know how to use them, and I have access to the key to his truck.”

      … is the confidence she expressed. Some of that will get dinged once she gets a job. That happens to all of us. I hope she retains enough to stand up for herself when coworkers or bosses cross the line, and I hope she always remembers that you and iriti will stand up with her.

      Good day and good nuts.

      • addisnana

        The power tools sound almost as good as karate.