Tuesday, December 26, 2017 1:00 am
Harassment accusations: Have they been taken too far?
Gloria Johns is a freelance writer living in San Angelo, Texas.
In a Nov. 10 column, the New York Times posted a lineup of more than 40 powerful men who, since Harvey Weinstein's downfall, have been accused of sexual harassment of women.
Borrowing a line from the 1976 movie “Network,” as one voice women are saying, “I'm mad as hell and I won't take this anymore!”
As a member of the #MeToo club, I have no compassion for men who are paying a high price for attempting to own women, in any sense of the word, as if power and privilege were synonyms.
And it's affirming that justice has been so swift.
In fact, punishment has been so harsh and so quick you have to wonder whether the television networks, especially, actually knew about this behavior all along, and are now trying to put daylight between themselves and the accused in order to protect their own interests.
But recently three things happened that if they become a trend could turn a very real problem into the ridiculous.
First, Girl Scouts of America put out a holiday message that cautions parents not to force their daughters to hug relatives if it makes them feel uncomfortable. And that even from an early age, consent is theirs to give or not.
There's some common sense in that message, but using the word “force” is subjective, and it's pretty strong language. Should we really have to warn parents not to force their daughters to take part in unwanted touching?
If that's not what the Girl Scouts means, then what are they saying?
Of course we don't want our children to suffer trauma at the hands of the crazy uncle, or be dragged kicking and screaming onto Grandpa's lap.
Then again, floating the notion that Grandpa might be a pedophile is pretty traumatic too. And so as not to appear to be gender biased, daughters have to be careful around Grandma who's baking cookies in the kitchen.
If any of that sounds absurd, it's because it is. Plus it serves no purpose to teach children absolutes over instinct and reason.
And I also thought the accusations against Elie Wiesel by Jenny Listman were dishonorable. She wrote an entire blog about Wiesel grabbing her rear during a photo shoot when she was 19 years old, then running from the room like a 12-year-old.
And she quotes Wiesel himself as justification for coming forward: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.”
But Wiesel is a Holocaust survivor. His parents and sister were murdered as part of the Final Solution.
I don't think Weisel was referring to Listman's story when he spoke about “suffering and humiliation,” and it's outrageous that Listman seems to draw a parallel between the two incidents.
And perhaps most importantly, Weisel is dead and unable to defend himself.
And then, several women came forward to accuse former President George H.W. Bush of groping, and they have similar stories of that happening during photo shoots. In fact, a photo from one of the events looks as if Bush had indeed acted boorishly, and very likely on more than one occasion, and he admitted to such.
Not to defend any man who behaves badly, but you have to ask yourself, or at least I did: Does Bush's name really belongs in the same conversation as Harvey Weinstein's?
More than a contest between individuals – male and female – focus must remain on the systemic problem of men abusing women. What we're witnessing is a monumental cultural and gender paradigm shift; the 21st century version of women who triumphed for the right to vote, wear pants, own property and work outside the home.
But even though Goliath may be mortally wounded, the giant isn't quite dead. And it's yet to be seen whether the victory trickles down to women in middle-America and the mom who can't afford a Gloria Allred, or to anger the boss.
It's crucial that women who are leading the charge not deviate into trivia, or present as the stereotype of the shrew or wilting lily.