THE topic du jour is the widespread oppression of women by powerful men in the media and politics. About damn time. Men have been using their physical, economic, social and religious power to oppress women from the dawn of recorded history, and probably since the origin of our species. Religion is probably the worst offender. Almost all of the world’s religions are and have been profoundly chauvinist. The Aztecs weren’t sacrificing male virgins to their gods. Most old priests live in comfort. Most old nuns live in poverty. Muslims and Hindus aren’t engaged in honor killing about male infidelity.
It is a wholly encouraging development that bad actors are being exposed, and the process should continue, but I would like to insert a few caveats.
Just as we make a distinction between involuntary manslaughter and murder one, we need to distinguish various levels of sexual oppression. Vulgar language and unwanted requests for a date need to be outed and shamed. Unwanted physical contact should be punished. More importantly, the exercise of power to demand sexual favors or silence about sexual misconduct needs to be dealt with by immediate termination, followed by a financial penalty. The way to end the misuse of power is to take it away from those who misuse it. The murder equivalent is rape, which should be punished by a long prison stretch, preferably in an institution where the perp will have the opportunity to be a rape victim.
Second, allocations of sexual misconduct need to be taken seriously; so do denials. Not every accusation will be valid. I have seen no studies on the subject, but my experience is that the human tendency to lie and rationalize and exaggerate is an equal opportunity defect–regardless of gender, race, color, creed, national origin or sexual orientation. We need to search diligently for the truth of assertions, not just decide whether we like the accuser or the accused.
The situation is particularly bad on college campuses where academic panels of Inquisition decide the fate of students accused of misconduct with total disregard for basic due process. If I had a daughter in college, I would give her the choice of tuition support or attendance at fraternity parties. In my view, a young woman showing up at a House of Testosterone, to attend an event whose main activity is ingesting chemicals that lower inhibitions, is the height of insanity. If I had a son who was expelled by an Inquisition panel without basic due process, I would initiate a legal proceeding designed to end with a cringe inducing letter of apology and readmission.
A related issue concerns alcohol and drugs. A whole lot of the sexual behavior generating charges of abuse takes place when one or both parties are drunk and/or under the influence of drugs. Testimony from someone whose memory is impaired or non-existent should be regarded with great skepticism. Independent confirmation is vital in such circumstances.
Finally, and of greatest importance, the urge to revert to a tribal crouch should be avoided at all cost. In part, that’s what delayed the moments of truth so long. Sexual oppression cuts across the entire ideological and employment spectrum. It may be more prevalent in media and politics, but it’s everywhere. Defending or excusing “our guy” enables all guys.
The dam might have burst with Anita Hill’s charges about Justice Thomas. She was recruited by a lobbying group opposed to his nomination. Her testimony had a political purpose, but it should have been investigated as a harassment matter. Were there other victims? Did anyone observe his misbehavior toward her? Why did she follow him from one agency to another if she was offended? Instead, his partisans called it a high tech lynching (his phrase, but widely adopted) and her partisans printed bumper stickers saying “We believe you Anita”.
THE egregious lapse was Bill Clinton. He probably raped a woman. Then, he probably told her that her license to do business in the state where he was Attorney General would be lifted if she said anything about it. He was a serial offender. A groper. As Governor, he asked a low level state employee to come to a hotel room, where he dropped his pants and told her to perform oral sex. When he was sued by the victim, he perjured himself (not an allocation–he stipulated to it and surrendered his license to practice law). He used the Oval Office to conduct an affair with a 22 year old intern who snapped her thong at him. All the while, his minions and his wife attacked the women. It doesn’t get any worse.
Tribal crouch has set back the cause of properly responding to sexual harassment by decades. The Republican response to Clinton was to overreach and impeach him. They should have encouraged the Attorney General of Arkansas to indict him. The feminist response was to rush to his defense because he was “pro-choice”. The grass roots response of the left was to demand that we MOVE ON! As a result, Harvey thought he could dodge the bullet by promising to contribute to Planned Parenthood. Kevin tried to dodge by saying he was gay. If we let that sort of thing work; if we let Ms. Pelosi get away with giving Conyers a pass because he is an “icon”; we will have failed.