The latest scuttlebutt involving Governor Andrew Cuomo and his alleged sexual harassment of female underlings is all over the news. It’s been hashed and rehashed on talk shows. Cuomo has been vilified ad nauseum on Facebook and Twitter.
Of course, his behavior was wrong. And the fact that at least some of Cuomo’s actions appear to have occurred after #metoo became a thing makes it not only wrong but arrogant, obnoxious, boorish, tone deaf and just plain dumb.
When he offered his first sorry/I’m not sorry apology, the ick factor only increased.
But, ho hum, this is nothing new. Men have been doing this kind of stuff for decades. I’m not talking about sexual assault. To me, that’s a different animal entirely. I’m talking about women putting up with inappropriate, unwanted sexual trash talk and bad behavior.
If I sound like I’m bashing all men, I apologize. But there are enough men guilty of this behavior that I’ll go out on a limb here: I believe most women have experienced it by men in positions of authority.
How can I be so sure? It’s happened to me and women in my circle many times–often, but not limited to, work-related situations. The powerful intimidate the powerless.
It doesn’t happen to me now. I’m ancient. I’m deemed invisible (one of the few benefits of getting old.). But it certainly occurred when I was younger– in both white collar and blue collar situations.
It happened when I worked in a supermarket deli which shared partial space with the meat department. On a regular basis, several of the all-male meat cutters would make fun of my butt, or lack thereof.
Was I going to report them? No. I wanted to keep my job, and I thought no one would do anything anyway. Back then, I would laugh it off, but inside it undermined my confidence. I went along to get along.
When I was first looking for a position as an advertising copywriter, I interviewed with creative directors at various ad agencies. Big agencies with big accounts as well as small, boutique agencies.
Two of the creative directors asked me out on dates during the interview process. In order not to offend, I politely said no in both situations. Neither one offered me a job. Would I have gotten offers if I had said yes? Who knows? I did get multiple job offers from other creative directors, however.
In my 20s, I was enrolled in an acting class. One of the wannabe actors in the class thought it was really funny to swirl me around by my waist for what seemed like minutes. The rest of the class looking on.
Round and round I went until he finally stopped, and I was dizzy. I didn’t like it then and don’t like it now. What gave him the chutzpah, the gall, to think it was OK to do this to me?
When a 50-ish friend of mine was in high school, she worked part time at a shoe store at which the manager was in the habit of pinching the teenage girl employees’ butts when they went in the back to retrieve shoes for customers.
I could go on and on with these stories. By now, I think you get the point.
But just because male bad behavior is nothing new, doesn’t mean I’m saying nothing should be done about it. But what are we going to do? Fire a large percentage of the male population?
Should we round all the offenders up and put them in bad behavior jail? From some of the comments on Facebook, some women seem to think we should chop off their you-know-whats.
I do acknowledge there are and will be situations in which boys and men don’t know what the right thing to do is anymore (is flirting a thing of the past? Is giving someone a compliment in the workplace now a no-no?). Still, I do think there needs to be sweeping changes with the way men and women, in general, relate to women.
Perhaps, this needs to be addressed early on–maybe taught in school along with math and English. And businesses should have a no sexual harassment tolerance policy that’s clear and enforced.
A lot more honest, uncomfortable conversations need to take place between the sexes. Men–especially those in positions of authority, should never feel it’s okay to degrade and intimidate women.
Getting back to Cuomo, no, I don’t think his head should roll, i.e. impeached and convicted, for his bad behavior (unless you want to fire him for being stupid). If he is axed, an awful lot of other men would have to be fired along with him.
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