Anita Hill was a horribly flawed standardbearer in the fight against sexual harassment. Her accounts were suspect to many, and they came amid a whirlwind of partisan motivations and machinations.
But her claims managed to shed light on untold numbers of women put upon by slimy creatures under this enormous rock.
It’s clear the creatures learned next to nothing from the whole national dialogue.
The sexual harassment rock has had to be lifted yet again, prompted by victims of alleged Hollywood harasser Harvey Weinstein. And in the days and weeks since, other women have come forward to accuse other high-profile men.
The latest is NBC commentator Mark Halperin, accused this week of harassing at least five women over the years at rival ABC. He was quickly separated from NBC and its sister MSNBC.
No network has suffered more from harassment allegations in recent years than Fox News, which lost its chairman and CEO and its top ratings draw to sexual harassment claims.
But that suffering is self-inflicted – unlike that of women in the workforce who are trying to support families and advance careers while warding off unwanted advances of co-workers, bosses and powerbrokers.
And that’s what these cases all have in common: power. It’s powerful men, full of themselves and using the leverage of their positions to try to extract sexual favors, often with the threat of retaliation hanging over the women’s heads. Even rich, powerful actresses have been thusly propositioned – and many aspiring actresses no doubt have felt obliged to endure the harassment to get their shot at stardom.
In truth, the starlets’ story is but the glimmering tip of the iceberg. Most women who are subjected to sexual harassment toil in the obscurity of the day-to-day working world. The major media can never tell all their stories. But those stories are out there.
It was quite moving, for instance, to read in syndicated columnist Cal Thomas’ column Thursday (“‘#MeToo’: Granddaughter recounts ubiquitous sex harassment”) that his granddaughter had multiple run-ins with predatory superiors – even as a nurse working in the health-care field.
Disgustingly, many of the men around her have wanted to play doctor.
“All the jobs I have ever had, there has been sexual harassment,” she wrote to Thomas in response to his query. “These are doctors I have needed orders from for my patients. The last thing I need is for them to be mad at me. So, when I see the ones who have made inappropriate remarks, I smile and say hello. …
“Females deal with this (nonsense) constantly…”
Note two things from her testimony. First: She endures much of the harassment out of fear for her patients, not herself. Second: her sweeping statement that “females deal with” harassment “constantly.”
That’s horrifying – and, decades removed from the society-changing Anita Hill brouhaha, unforgivable.
Certainly we need to be careful not to overreact – particularly when harassment can be a subjective thing, and spurious allegations of it can be wielded as a weapon. But in this case, underreacting has been a much larger problem.
When will some people learn that other people have a right to be left alone when it comes to their personal lives and most intimate realms?
We can and must create a society where neither girls nor women are subjected to the intrusions and contusions of sexual harassment.