This One Really Hurts

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  1. Avatar Mike Dwyer
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    says:

    “If we’re ever going to end sexual assaults and harassment of women, we all have to agree that we’re not going to give these guys a pass.”

    It’s kind of interesting to contrast this with yesterday’s post from Em. In the comment section there several commenters were opposed to any kind of legal penalties for certain types of public bullying. They said that because so many people engaged in digital bullying it would be impossible to police and would fill our prisons.

    Obviously we aren’t going to ever give sexual assault a pass, but when it comes to sexual harassment, maybe that deserves a closer look. Not being a lawyer, I had to look up the definition of sexual harassment. From Wikipedia:

    “In most modern legal contexts, sexual harassment is illegal. Laws surrounding sexual harassment generally do not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or minor isolated incidents—that is due to the fact that they do not impose a “general civility code”.[4] In the workplace, harassment may be considered illegal when it is frequent or severe thereby creating a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim’s demotion, firing or quitting). The legal and social understanding of sexual harassment, however, varies by culture.”

    This all makes sense to me. While I am certainly no angel, I feel confident saying I have never harassed anyone at work, sexual or otherwise. Can I say the same thing about my online habits? Probably not. After participating in chatboards, blogs, etc for two decades, there have been many times I have carefully crafted some stinging rebuttal designed to prove my intellectual superiority, take my opponent down a few notches, and add another stripe to my Internet Black Belt. Maybe my opponent laughed off my comment. Maybe they didn’t. Judging from some of the angry responses I have received over the years, I certainly triggered something in people from time to time. I know that I have also felt so angry and/or attacked at times that I had to walk away for months to regain my composure. How many times have I done the same thing to someone else thinking this was just how the game was played? Increasingly I realize I need to do much better.

    So my question is, if some people feel compelled to give a legal pass to a campaign of intense harassment that ultimately resulted in a women’s death, why do we have such a zero tolerance attitude towards sexual harassment? My position is that they are equally bad, but others see a gradient. Curious to explore that dichotomy.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Who gets the benefit of the doubt and inspires a philosophical musing on the letter of a law versus the intent? Who inspires a spittle-flecked rant about how *WOMEN* are *PEOPLE*?

    Oh sure, it’s easy to believe about a politician from THAT OTHER PARTY, but not about someone you personally voted for.

    This shows up from time to time with the Al Franken thing even now.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      The best Al Franken analogy is with Republicans on race:

      ‘”Why should we do the right thing if we’re not going to get credit for it?”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Man, imagine what questions Franken would have asked during the Kavanaugh hearings!

        Those women who came forward really should have remained quiet and taken a couple for the team. Look, I’m not saying I *CONDONE* what Franken did…Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          I’m not saying I *CONDONE* what Franken did…

          Unfortunately, that’s “alleged to have done” and not “did”. The basic process of finding out what happened and letting him defend himself apparently wasn’t followed. The New Yorker had something more in depth on this and if it’s accurate it puts everything in a much different light.

          https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/07/29/the-case-of-al-frankenReport

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to Dark Matter
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            says:

            The basic process… kind of wasn’t really a basic process?

            I’m ambivalent about this, TBH.

            Going through the Senate Ethics Committee would have been better, and what limited precedent we have suggests that it would have had real consequences (by which I mean kicking him out of the Senate) if the allegations held up.

            But it was still an inherently political process, he did choose to resign rather than fight (in part because of the politics for the rest of the party) and while it’s probably wrong to tar the Senate with the incredibly horrible way the House had been handling sexual harassment allegations… it would also be inevitable.

            So less than perfect, but not a horrible injustice as these things go.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to pillsy
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              says:

              So less than perfect, but not a horrible injustice as these things go.

              If we assume that the New Yorker got it right and isn’t spinning some narrative; Then the allegations perfectly match up with a comedy skit they’ve done and that photo was him putting on the game-face of a character from it for a brief moment.

              That and the rest raise a lot of questions, like whether she meant her allegations to be taken this far or this seriously, and several of her statements seem less factual and more designed to create drama based on feelings.

              Him being innocent of the core of the accusations is within the realm of possibility.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                Sure. If he were sued for harassment, a pretty high probability of him being innocent of the underlying charges wouldn’t preclude him losing. The jury would have to conclude that it was more likely than not that he did it.

                And this isn’t that. Both in terms of the actual underlying interests at stake and what happened.

                The other thing is that there were other allegations. That tends to suggest that yeah, he was engaging in highly inappropriate behavior there, too, and also those other allegations themselves would have gotten a lot more attention and could well have held up.

                So we’d have somewhat more certainty and he might have been expelled anyway. Over a Senate seat which he did resign from, no matter how much political pressure he was under to do so.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to pillsy
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                says:

                The following is speculation rather than informed judgement. If you’re looking for flaws in the reasoning the easiest is to not view the New Yorker as a serious source.

                The other thing is that there were other allegations.

                With Cosby, “other allegations” meant “other women stepped forward without knowing about each other and without a media frenzy”.

                With Kavanaugh, “other allegations” meant “during the media frenzy other women stepped forward knowing about each other”. The problem is anyone whose desire for drama/revenge/whatever is greater than their honesty can also step forward.

                As far as I can tell, with Franken we used the “Kavanaugh” style of looking for other allegations, so we should expect there’s less there than meets the eye.

                Worse, Tweeden was hardly the first woman to run that comic-letcher-chases-gorgeous-women skit with Franken, he’s been running it for years. If we narrow the universe from any-woman-who-may-have-met-Franken to women-in-Tweeden’s-place/profile we end up with a small enough number that we can ask all of them. That article claimed they all said there weren’t problems.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dark Matter
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            says:

            The big problem was that they fell back into the whole “One Free Grope” rule that was so popular when Clinton was President. Sure, maybe Franken *WAS* inappropriate with that sex worker when they were visiting the troops! But people make a lot of assumptions about sex workers and he made one and took an inappropriate picture and WHO AMONG US HAS NOT? And then they came out and said “It’s not like there are *MULTIPLE* accusers.”

            And then more women popped up and said hashtag me too.

            If the opening bid was “of course this is awful behavior and the Senate needs to investigate it to its fullest ability!”, then maybe they could have gotten away with multiple names popping up.

            But the opening bid was “he didn’t do anything wrong and, besides, she’s a bad person and it was only one time so he should get a pass.”

            Which pretty much made calling for his resignation inevitable.Report

  3. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    I’ve cautioned before that sex scandals have no political orientation because sex and powerlust are universal.
    The corollary is that no institution or person is immune no matter how spotless their record.

    And I keep hoping that we as a society develop some cultural tools of confession, repentance, and rehabilitation.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      As I was saying on the Epstein post, we have given up on repentance and redemption and rehabilitation in favor of cruelty.

      And I will tell you why we did this.

      Because no one is willing to believe that someone is actually penitent and rehabilitated, and thus worthy of forgiveness and redemption . At least, not if that person is the wrong race, or religion, or sexual orientation, or political bent, or… etc.

      I see that even in the comments on this site, where if someone is on the wrong team, every effort they make is seen as disingenuous. And if Team A can’t bring themselves to believe that Team B is truly sorry (and vice versa), then all that is left is cruelty.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        says:

        But you can’t deny that the old tools of redemption have taken a beating during our lifetimes. If someone publicly said “I’m sorry” thirty years ago, you might be inclined to believe them. These days, you’d assume that their PR team had told them that an apology was a good tactic. And you can bet that the PR team includes some lawyers, because in our litigious society, every statement has to be audited for potential damage, and that usually leads to apologies being so vague as to be meaningless.

        Now, from my political perspective, my instinct is to blame all of this on Bill Clinton. But we have been on this bus ride for a long time, and he was as much a mile marker as an engine. I think it’s possible for us as a society to earn each others’ trust back, but re-earning trust is a lot harder than earning it.Report

        • Avatar jason in reply to Pinky
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          says:

          “But you can’t deny that the old tools of redemption have taken a beating during our lifetimes. If someone publicly said “I’m sorry” thirty years ago, you might be inclined to believe them. These days, you’d assume that their PR team had told them that an apology was a good tactic.”
          You’re right, but often it’s because the PR team doesn’t let them say they sorry. Instead they say things like, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or some other non-apology.
          (I’m sorry-really!-if this is too much of a tangent, but I fishing hate non-apologies)
          More related: I also think many public figures hesitate to apologize because of our “gotcha” culture. Me, I think plenty of people would think an honest apology was refreshing.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to jason
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            says:

            I agree. The callout culture apology is like a devalued currency, and the PR non-apology is like a forgery. We’re in hyperinflation, the currency is worthless, and most of us are just trying to figure out how to manage normal exchanges.Report

          • Avatar KenB in reply to jason
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            says:

            Sort of related — I recall seeing a story a few years ago about how doctors who’d made a medical mistake were regularly advised by their and/or hospital lawyers not to apologize to the patient because of how that could be used in a lawsuit — but the journalist talked to a number of such patients who said that if they’d just gotten an apology, they wouldn’t have been motivated to sue.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
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          says:

          Thirty years ago was 1989, the era of the Iran Contra scandal when Ollie North refused to apologize for selling missles to Iran and funding the Contras.
          When James Watt resigned for saying his committee included a “woman, two Jews and a cripple.”

          Forty years ago was 1979 when Earl Butz resigned for telling a joke whose punchline was that black people only wanted loose shoes, good sex and a warm place to crap.

          I’m trying and failing to recall any episodes of public apologies and redemption.
          I’m not saying there weren’t any, I just can’t recall them.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
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            says:

            North didn’t apologize because he thought it was a neat plan.

            I was thinking more about athletes, actors, and preachers, I guess. But Nixon was able to rebound as an intellectual, in a fashion, and Gary Hart kept getting government positions. McCain made it through the Keating Five scandal, and the recent celebration of the moon landing means that it’s the 50th anniversary of Chappaquiddick.

            I still think 1998 was a big turning point. The Lewinsky affair was unfolding, OJ was insisting on his innocence, and baseball was on the cusp of the era of big home run hitters.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Pinky
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          says:

          I wouldn’t blame all of it on Bill Clinton, but despite my political perspective I would blame a whole lot more than none of it on Bill Clinton.

          I also think there’s this thing where we have such short (and ever shortening) news cycles that if you can just hold out for long enough, you will end up being almost entirely forgotten, and chances are your transgressions will end up being almost entirely forgotten too.

          And the nature of viral outrages is that the amount of anger is… loosely correlated with the severity of the bad conduct, which leaves a ton of room for people to make excuses and rationalize away wrongdoing, making the actual demonstration of repentance and improvement all the more optional.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        says:

        I think it is more that people don’t repent or redeem. They may say they are sorry, sometimes they do it well and sometimes not. Then that is it. Redemption requires effort and action. Rehab requires work and change. Change that you show. A good apology is a start, not the end, of dealing with screwing up.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        says:

        Because no one is willing to believe that someone is actually penitent and rehabilitated, and thus worthy of forgiveness and redemption . At least, not if that person is the wrong race, or religion, or sexual orientation, or political bent, or… etc.

        Picture Bill Cosby stepping forward and saying something like “I’ve been drugging and raping women for 50 years but now that I’ve been caught I realize it’s wrong…”

        If that seems unbelievable it’s because it is.

        if Team A can’t bring themselves to believe that Team B is truly sorry (and vice versa), then all that is left is cruelty.

        It might be a good time to revisit Kavanaugh and Ford.

        All but one of the named accusers have admitted their stories were false, fabricated, or could/should have been leveled against someone other than him (which is to say “false”). Ford’s story remains fact free and has internal conflicts, and could trivially be re enforced by Ford if she’d release the evidence she claimed to have.

        With the benefit of hindsight, it looks like “cruelty” and/or politics was the entire purpose of the exercise. At best (worst?) it means “believe” easily is subordinated to “what is good for me or my side must be true”.Report

  4. Avatar Aaron David
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    says:

    Right now we are at an inflection point. Along with what is sexual harassment, racism and what that consists of are being challenged. And like other things that have been challenged along the way, it forces us to look at what is oftentimes an ugly set of truths. One woman’s harassment is another woman’s flirting. One man’s racism is another man’s history. OTer Dennis pointed this out quite well with a post on Dukes of Hazard and the civil war not long ago.

    But, some people want these changes to land at a specific point and not a point that is necessarily better. Only more advantages to them. This is how movements such as #believeallwomen get waylaid, what with Jackie Coakley and Emma Sulkawitz. Turning a ship at sea is an endeavor that takes time and distance, and culture is so much more massive than any constructed edifice. There is no switch to turn that will make this happen overnight, and any attempt to do so will end up much like the cultural revolution in China, with bodies floating down the river.

    But the fact that we are even having this discussion, and having the ability to have the conversation at all, means that we are moving the culture forward in this regard. Where we end up is anyone’s guess, but, hey! we’re moving!

    It does suck to have your idols be shown as fragile and made of cheap glass. No denying that. It’s one of the shitty parts of growing up.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Aaron David
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      says:

      This is why I mentioned sexual harassment vs. online harassment. It seems like we are much less willing to accept the first because at this point I think it’s safe to say most people know better. The latter is still decades behind in terms of people being self-aware of their behavior, and more importantly, the willingness of people to hold other people accountable for their behavior.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Mike Dwyer
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        says:

        Years ago, in my first management position, a woman who was older but worked under me, said (she had been a manager herself at times) “it isn’t sexual harassment when they are attracted to each other. Then they are just flirting.” This was during the Clinton admin, when all the problems were starting come to head, so to speak. Her point was simply that time and intention make all the difference in the world in cases like that. And she also pointed out how there is a limited time frame here, for as soon as one or the other is no longer attracted, all previous behavior is seen in a new light.

        You are right that online harassment is not looked at in the same frame yet, but it is a newer phenomenon and people will see it differently simply because of that fact. Only now, after who knows how long, are we starting to look at bullying in general. Queen Bees and Wannabe’s and all that pecking order, put them back in there place type stuff.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Aaron David
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          says:

          Yeah, whenever I hear that two management employees (or very occasionally a management and non-management employee) are dating I always think about who made the first move and what a risk they were taking. So yeah, totally get what you are saying.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Aaron David
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      says:

      I remember how broken up I was when I heard rumors swirling that Gene Simmons was not quite a proper family man under all that makeup. Then I heard the same about Tommy Lee, and suspected as much about David Lee Roth. I went back and researched older musicians like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and even Lemmy of Motorhead.

      I reached the awful conclusion that some rock stars behave rather inappropriately with thousands of hot young women, and so, in disgust, I went out and bought a Stratocaster and a Marshall amp.

      Them opera folks might be all high society and present themselves as all prim and proper, but how many times are we supposed to pretend to be shocked that gambling was going on in the casino?

      Your class distinctions may vary, but are the concert people in tuxedos and ball gowns really different from Ozzy Osbourne or the Wilson sisters other than what they consider socially acceptable public behavior? That difference might be extreme, since we’re seeing outrage over Placido Domingo’s alleged transgressions that, summed over the span of thirty years, would be easily topped in the span of two hours by many touring rock stars.

      We have contradictory standards in our heads:

      1. Any inappropriate behavior is inappropriate and shouldn’t be tolerated!
      2. When the number of instances of inappropriate behavior top one thousand, you reach legend status!

      This might be difficult to untangle in any coherent manner.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to George Turner
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        says:

        I’m not going to claim that every one of Mick’s misdeeds was preceded by formal, sober consent. But I don’t know that he ever pressured anyone (ok, aside from the lyrics to She’s So Cold). Domingo is being accused of more than cheating on his wife with groupies.Report

  5. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    says:

    For sheer vocal quality, I think I give Pavarotti the edge over Domingo, though Placido had a lot more range in what he could/would sing.

    I recall hearing that Luciano had an affair, but I have heard nothing about sexual harassment. Of course, I’m not that plugged in, so I might have missed it.Report

  6. Avatar CJColucci
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    says:

    We must always remember that we don’t know these people. They are marvelous talents who do marvelous things. They may even employ the wealth and fame they have gained from exercising their talents to do great good in the larger world. But whatever we think we know about them as private human beings is an artifact of public relations and hero worship. While I prefer to think well of people until I have some reason to believe otherwise, I have been too frequently surprised to be surprised anymore.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to CJColucci
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      says:

      Well, I’m not sure how #meToo translates to countries like Italy and France. Is there such a thing as unwanted kissing on both cheeks? Accepted norms vary wildly by country. In Norway, talking to a check-out clerk is considered a sign of mental instability, whereas in other countries they greet a stranger by all but trying to marry them into the family.Report

  7. Avatar George Turner
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    says:

    Well, first off, I don’t believe any what any soprano says.

    Whew! That out of the way, my issue wasn’t with the original #meToo, which was about the silence surrounding Weinstein, it was with #believeAllVictims, which is contrary to virtually everything we’ve learned about justice and the law over the last thousand or more years. #figureOutTheTruth would make a much better hashtag.Report

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