Are you fed up yet?
I’m talking about the onslaught of nearly daily revelations of yet another goliath being caught with sexual harassment and sexual assaults against female colleagues or those that report to the men.
It’s not the reporting of such heinous harassment and assaults that’s giving me mental diarrhea. It’s the goliaths – the people in power, the Weinsteins and the Lauers of the world (and sometimes, not even goliaths, sometimes it’s your average Joe next door) – that don’t think twice about abusing their power to abuse, manipulate, control, damage the ones that work with or report to them that’s making me having so many god-damn-it reactions lately.
The assistants, the associate producers, the ingénue actors, the veteran filmmakers, the bright-eyed women trying to make a difference in their professions– these women, and women all over the world in all walks of life, have been compromised in their humanity in such a way for so long that makes me believe manhood needs a massive overhaul, a reset button, STAT.
At what point did the men being accused of sexual misconduct – and let’s face it, sometimes it’s a lot more than “misconduct”; sometimes it’s rape and let’s not smooth it over by calling it “being forced to have sex with another” because it’s rape and it’s a crime – think that they are entitled to do what they have done? The coercion, the power play to threaten women’s jobs and livelihood, the manipulation, the blackmails. At what point did these men begin to think, “Hey this is a good idea. This is what I can get away with so I’m going to keep pushing the button”?
Anytime I hear about or see stories like these – and there are so many variations of the same story – about women being harassed or degraded or assaulted all because the perpetrator believed he’s entitled to the victims’ bodies, I can’t help but think, don’t all the perpetrators have mothers? Or sisters? Or girlfriends? Or any female in their lives they would put their lives on the line to protect and love? Why is it that they think it’s ok to treat a female this way when someone else could be treating their mothers, sisters, aunts, girlfriends/wives with the same abuse? Or, even if they didn’t grow up with a single feminine influence in their lives, didn’t they grow up in the same civilized society as you and I? Didn’t they also get the lesson as a 4-year old that if the cookies in the jar don’t belong to you, that you best ask for permission before you reach your grubby little hand into the jar to grab one? And that if you don’t have express permission to take a cookie, you are still not allowed to take one when no one is looking?
How the hell did these men get so far off the rails? How did they lose so much of their humanity that they think they could treat an entire half of the human population with so much contempt and so much disrespect and incivility?
The answer is, there was no one single point in time when these men decided that they were going to use their power to sexually assault women. The buildup has been gradual and certain. And anytime, any bystander – you or I or anybody – and the men’s company and the company of the women they hurt – tries to laugh off the sexual innuendos, the jokes, the attempted assaults – that, in fact, builds up the confidence of the perpetrators gradually and surely. “Well, not one is doing anything about it. So I will keep doing whatever pleases me!” is the mentality of these men when reports go uninvestigated, when stories and rumors of misconduct get buried, when whispers of sexual manipulation and assaults get hushed.
The bystander syndrome is just as much a damaging problem as the perpetrator’s psyche and actions.
But we can and NEED TO do something about the bystander syndrome.
We need to annihilate it, nip it in the bud, vanquish it before a probable sexual harassment or assault situation worsens.
When we see or hear it, we need to call out those perpetrators, whether or not we are the victims.
We need to not just tell, but YELL, “STOP!” when we know they have an on-going harassment volleyed against people we know. Or even against people we don’t personally know.
We need to tell and INSIST that others in power to cut off the power of the abuser, because the truth is, seemingly charming and powerful assholes can be replaced. Do you think Weinstein is the only one who can run film studios and produce blockbuster movies? No. We have the power to speak up and replace him with someone with more talents who actually respect women. Do you think Matt Lauer is the only anchor on a major network that can engage the audience? No. For every Matt Lauer, there’s another 10 equally charming, intelligent anchors that can get audience to tune in and they will not treat women assistants and producers like possessions that he can corner behind his door operated with a remote control lock (yeah, Lauer actually had a push button under his desk with which he could lock his office door whenever he felt like harassing female colleagues so that he wouldn’t get walked in on.).
It also means doing something about a horrible situation that you hear about even when it happens to someone you DON’T KNOW.
I was so incensed last night upon reading about a woman’s –a public media figure, actually – account of her being sexually harassed for 3 hours on an Alaska Airline flight by a fellow first class passenger; that he wouldn’t stop harassing her after she repeatedly and strongly told him to stop making lewd comments and come on’s at her as well as making comments about female passengers’ bodies as they boarded the plane, and that the flight crew refused to move him or tell him to stop when she reported this incident mid-flight to the crew. The crew actually told the woman that the behavior is “just how he is. He has not filter. Don’t mind him” and that he’s a frequent flyer with the airline, that that’s how he has treated many other female passengers.
That male passenger’s humanity was lost. And so was the flight crew’s when they chose bystander syndrome and chose to protect his VIP frequent flyer status with the airline above the woman passenger’s safety and self-preservation.
Like hundreds others who read her account on social media – and yes, she went to the executive board of the airline to report this and is cooperating with the investigation on this harassment – I was outraged. Outrage that the incivility to another human being has gotten to the level where no one would do anything about it even when they saw it playing out, in public, in front of their very eyes.
And this is why sexual misconduct, harassment, assaults continue to happen – nobody cares enough to enforce civility and mutual respect, that even as a behavior that should be enough to get someone thrown off the plane is displayed right in front of you, and you have the power to stop it but you don’t, then you are part of the problem.
When is this shit going to stop? When a full on rape is happening in front of you? When it’s your own child or wife being hurt? What is it going to take?
I was so outraged that even though I didn’t – and still don’t – know the woman personally who went through several hours of harassment on her flight, I felt compelled to also in-mail (direct message system in LinkedIn) two of the three executive board members working with customer service and in-flight services of the airline to point blank ask them what they plan to do about this incident. These were the same board members she has written a letter to and shared that letter on social media. In my email, I wrote that nothing short of revocation of the male passenger form the incident’s frequent flyer status (although permanent black list expulsion would better), and a public and private apology to the female passenger from the airline should be called for.
This is the state we are in: That unfortunately, to the detriment of society and all those who have to interact with them, some people grow up to be extraordinary assholes who don’t respect women, who feel entitled to women’s bodies. That we now need to make sure other powers that be who can police and exact consequences on those who abuse their power and position to actually do the policing. That if we have the power to call out, to hurt back, to stop those in power that’s harassing or abusing others, that we absolutely need to, regardless of whether we have a stake in it or not. Because the truth is, we all already do have a stake in it – a stake to wrestle humanity out of the flames that are trying to destroy it. We are but only a few links away from the would-be victims. We always have the power to speak up and do things to stop their victimhood from taking place, so we have to do it – for ourselves, for each other, for humanity.