Monday, November 27, 2017

Zero tolerance for sexual harassment

Globally, the sheer number of women who have told their stories of sexual harassment in the #metoo campaign astounds me. Here in Norway, 487 actresses joined the campaign, and many of them told their stories anonymously to the newspaper Aftenposten (https://www.vg.no/nyheter/innenriks/metoo/aftenposten-487-kvinnelige-skuespillere-tar-et-oppgjoer-mot-sex-trakassering-og-overgrep/a/24189361/). When you read their stories, it is both heartbreaking and infuriating. Over 1000 artists in the music branch in Sweden did the same, and my reaction was the same. Who do these men think they are? And how did we get to this point in 2017? Where women are groped, probed, and violated against their will? Many of the stories describe attempted rapes—criminal behavior in other words. Do these men think they can get away with treating women like this? Apparently they do, because in truth, they get away with it, and have gotten away with it. None of the sexual harassers here in Norway have been named and shamed. Personally, I think they should have been, but it hasn’t happened and isn’t likely to happen. That makes it all the more important that men like Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose are held accountable for their disgusting behavior. I am glad that they are toppling, one after the other. I have zero sympathy for them, because they had zero sympathy for the women they abused. My reaction to most of them is that they can rot in hell.

But the entire campaign begs a larger question. Why are men behaving this way, and where were their parents in all of this when they were young boys? Why didn’t their parents teach them respect for women and for others generally? Did their schools fail them also? I went to Catholic school and we were clearly taught right from wrong from day one. Is it so difficult to behave correctly, to behave decently, and to behave respectfully? No it isn’t. It’s just that these harassers did not want to behave. They wanted what they wanted, when they wanted it, and it didn’t matter that the women didn’t share their desires. These men had immense power, and they abused it, as many men in power are wont to do. Otherwise, the old saying would never have been uttered by Lord Acton—‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. These men are corrupt degenerates, loathsome individuals, and terrible people. Perhaps they can change, but most likely they will not unless they are forced to do so, or forced to spend some time in jail for rape/attempted rape.

It infuriates me that some men (and a few women) are already calling for an end to the #metoo campaign, giving as the reason that not all men are sexual harassers. We already know this; #metoo is about some men's behavior, not all men's. But this is not the point. It is not up to men to decide when this campaign is to end. It is not their call. We have to be able to discuss this horrible behavior ad nauseam if need be. It has to be made clear over and over that men do not own women. They do not have any say over women’s bodies. Women are not their property; that idea went the way of the dinosaurs at the beginning of the 20th century. The only way things will change is when the discomfort is so great, so painful, and so crystal clear, that male leaders and male employers wake up and do something about this behavior. If the campaign makes some men uncomfortable, good. That tells me that they are being hit close to home. Are they closet harassers? Do they have their own episodes of harassing behavior of which they are ashamed? That’s just too bad. Deal with the shame and the discomfort, the insecurity, and the nagging feeling that you are not good enough. Deal with feeling uncomfortable around women, of not knowing what to say. Drop the arrogance and the power plays. Drop the brutality. Drop the attempts to be cool in the eyes of other men. Drop the bullshit and learn to behave as a decent human being. Step up to the plate and call a spade a spade when you see sexual harassment of women. Call it out for what it is. Don’t stay silent, don’t be complicit. We’ve had enough of that in society. Stand up for women, treat them as your equals, be kind, be fair, be good men. 


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