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#MeToo

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I was 25 years old when I became aware of the workplace sexual harassment of women and what a terrible problem it was.

I was working as a cook at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Brattleboro, Vermont, where a number of women friends of mine were waitresses, both on the floor and at the counter. We used to commute to and from work together. One night, on the drive home, the women were unusually silent. I tried, in my usual clumsy fashion, to lighten the atmosphere with wise cracks. One of my friends then explained to me that another of them had been mercilessly propositioned and insulted by a male customer. On our 30-minute drive home, the women proceeded to enlighten me about the extent of such sexual harassment. All of them were in tears, or close to it, as they told me how much it hurt—how powerless they felt—how there was no way I could understand it unless I’d gone through it myself.

Of course, as a man, I hadn’t. And as a gay man, I’d certainly never approached women sexually. Nor had I even been party to that “locker room talk” (as Trump called his pussy-grabbing braggadocio) that young men are said to engage in. Maybe my chums were raised better than Trump, but I never heard them talk about girls in crude, vulgar ways. So the reports from my women friends shocked me.

A few years later, I had my one and only experience of #MeToo. I’d moved to California and my first job was as a short-order cook in a greasy spoon restaurant. My boss, the owner, was a truly despicable man. About 60 years old, fat, and single, with the worst toupee I’d ever seen. We got paid once a week. Every time, he’d sneak up behind me and slide my paycheck into the breast pocket of my white cook’s blouse, always making sure to touch my nipple with his fat fingers. He asked me out to dinner with him all the time. I always declined, politely. Finally, things came to a head. He demanded I dine with him. I refused. He fired me.

Keep in mind, this was well before there were sexual harassment and anti-retaliation laws against this sort of misconduct. Before I was fired, while the harassment was going on, I used to come home after work and rant to my family about how sick and tired I was of getting felt up. But what could I do? I was broke and powerless. I needed that job. I had no choice but to let the sick situation continue.

My experience was nothing compared to what many women go through. It pissed me off, but I could handle it. But I can completely understand what the women who have been in the news lately are talking about. Whether they were harassed by Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump or anyone else, they were treated inhumanely and disgustingly, and the men who so treated them ought not to be allowed to get away with it. Fox News’ rehiring of O’Reilly yesterday is especially egregious; at least the Weinstein Company fired Harvey, but Fox—the Catholic network, the family values network, the network that screams every time a Democrat is caught in scandal—didn’t have the decency to let O’Reilly go. He’s good for the ratings, I suppose, and decency be damned.

I don’t see why we can’t all agree that sexual harassment, particularly in the power-imbalance of the workplace, is wrong, whether it’s performed by Democrats or Republicans. Neither side ought to be finger-pointing since both are culpable. I do think, morally, that Democrats have the stronger argument. When Weinstein broke, the “liberal” media—New York Times, MSNBC—were all over it, and continue to be, with their female reporters in particular damning the practice. But when a Republican is busted for a sex scandal, you hardly even hear about it on Fox News or the Wall Street Journal. So I’m #MeToo, and if you’re a moral, ethical person with any human empathy, you should be too.

  1. Sad, sad story.

  2. Sad story, good lessons learned.

  3. Pawineguy says:

    I agree with almost the entire premise of your post, and am sorry for the harassment that you experienced. There is no excuse for that type of behavior and it’s truly sad that so many men and women still have to deal with predators in the work place or elsewhere. There are hypocrites on both sides of the aisle, but leaving that aside for the moment, I believe you are giving the press way too much credit.

    The media sat on this story, not for months, not for years, but for decades. Everyone knew. Every time a writer was on his trail, he had buddies like Matt Damon make phone calls and optioned writer’s stories to create conflicts of interest and purchase goodwill. Everyone knew. Female NYU students were warned NOT to intern with him. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason warned numerous high level political operatives that there was a need to distance themselves from his fundraisers. For every star’s carefully worded statement that “they never saw this type of behavior from him,” five others pop up to say “everyone knew!”

    How many stars participated when Roman Polanski, who drugged and raped a 13 year old girl, received a standing ovation (in absentia), for his Oscar win? (Meryl Streep) How many voted for him? What I would love to see from this horrible Weinstein episode is (besides the obvious awareness and end to this type of behavior) would be a rejection of the glorification of our Hollywood stars, the parade of them lecturing to us, testifying before Congress, etc… Hollywood pays its female stars significantly less than its male stars, it abuses young men and women while protecting their abusers, and yet so many Americans elevate the Damons and Clooneys to a moral pedestal that they have neither earned or deserve.

  4. PAwineguy: So what? Weinstein was a single case. There are millions of men like that. Just because “Hollywood” didn’t rat him out years ago proves nothing. Let the court cases proceed. Besides, the Republicans are just using this to deflect attention away from Trump’s own scandals–including at least 15 women who accuse him of improper sexual advances. Attacking “Hollywood” has long been a Republican device to appeal to the resentments of their under-educated supporters. Look, most of these Trump supporters are struggling, blue collar, rural Christians. They suffer from all kinds of mental instabilities, but this resentment of “coastal elites” is one of the worst forms of prejudice. Nobody “elevates” Damon or Clooney any more than people “elevate” Pat Robertson or Ralph Reed. All these men are wealthy and famous and are able to inject their views into the national conversation. Nothing wrong with that. You can disagree with a Damon or Clooney on any one issue, but you do not have the right to suggest that they ought to be muzzled just because they’re rich and famous, or condemned because they didn’t do something last year or the year before that. That they might have spoken earlier about Weinstein is obvious and they’ve admitted it; but these cases bust wide open when they do; we can debate whether or not a case should have been talked about earlier until the cows come home, but what good does that do? None at all. So it’s asinine for Republicans to attack Hollywood. It’s also hypocritical: I could spend the next hour Googling “Republican sex scandals” and trade you Roger Ailes, Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly for every Harvey Weinstein. I doubt that that would convince you, because you seem to have your mind made up in an anti-Democratic way, and there’s nothing I can do about that. Meanwhile, the case against Trump is the important issue, not who was diddling whom in Hollywood, or who revealed it, or when. I don’t mean to underplay the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, which I wrote about in my blog. I do mean to suggest that Republicans WANT you to get distracted by Harvey Weinstein, so that your anger will be displaced from Trump onto something else. Don’t let them succeed. Trump is no different from Weinstein: both were rich bullies who demanded sexual gratification from unwilling women. The only difference–and it’s a big one–is that Trump is president. If you’re really concerned about America, then getting rid of Trump ought to be your priority, not some Hollywood scandal.

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