Sexual harassment: now that we know how common it is, what do we do?

It’s a good thing that so many women are talking openly about harassment. But now what? Sure, exposing harassers and dealing with them is good, but preventing harassment is better. As Echidne says, the pendulum could swing the other way, or it could wind up like the reaction to mass shootings — shock after a new revelation, then back to status quo. Which would be bad.

Echidne says, permanent change would require men not supporting or defending other men who harass; punishment that puts a penalty on the harassers (someone else suggested it’s also important punishment be frequent enough to be actually intimidating) ; and changes to the underlying culture.

How we get there? That’s tougher. Worse the solutions some people want are the same they always want: women have to behave better. Sexist antifeminist Matt Walshl f0r instance, says we fix things by having people “observe the Mike Pence Rule” (never be alone with a member of the opposite sex), emphasize chastity and also modesty.

As noted at the link (not direct), men beiing chaste would help — but I doubt that’s what Walsh means. It’s just part of his general view that premarital sex inevitably leads to rape (part of the conservative myth of the golden age of chastity). And “Modesty” only makes sense if Walsh thinks it’s slutty behavior or clothing that causes rape/harassment. But Weinstein’s assaults were carefully planned; Roy Moore often asked girl’s parents for permission to meet with them. That’s predatory calculation, not blind lust.

Ross Douthat (who blamed Harvey Weinstein on sexual permissiveness) suggests we Do Something to prevent men in patriarchal systems from using their authority to abuse women. True, but as Echidne points out at the link, it’s the nature of patriarchy that men rule over women; conservatives in all three Abrahamic religions impose rules of modesty on women, limit their freedom and promote male dominance (and Douthat’s cool with that stuff). Sexists say patriarchy protects women; exploiting women is actually part and parcel of patriarchy.

As for the Pence rule, why should women be shut out of mentoring or meetings because Pence can’t trust himself to stay chaste? I can just imagine if it were a woman in power making that decision: right-wingers would be shrieking about how the Evil Feminazi is discriminating against men by refusing to meet them or they’d declare that nobody would want to rape the fugly old bat. The Pence rule will only be considered a good solution by right-wingers as long as its women whose careers are affected (some of Weinstein’s victims, for instance, were afraid refusing a meeting would be a career-killer).

On the left, following Al Franken admitting to a charge of sexual harassment (dating back some years, to when he was just a comedian), there’s been debate about what the right “strategy” is in this situation (there’s much discussion about that in this LGM post). I have no opinion on whether an incident of harassment (taking place while someone else was around, Matt Walsh!) years before his election is grounds for resigning  but I don’t think “he should resign or the right-wingers will say that’s proof ‘the left’ is just smearing Moore” is a good argument. If Franken resigns, it should be because that’s the right thing to do, not just a political tactic.

Why? Because right-wingers can just as easily hold up Clinton or Edward Kennedy or a myth like “pizzagate” if they want to prove it’s the left that’s really the problem. And they’ll jump on how liberals are hypocrites regardless of  whether liberals denounce the behavior or not., Maureen Dowd, for example, predicted in one column that in the alt.America where Clinton beat Trump, Weinstein isn’t exposed because of his political ties.

What’s a good solution? As  I’m inclined myself to rephrase one of Cato’s letters from 1721: “The only security which we can have that men will not harass, is to make it their interest not to harass; and the best defense which we can have against their being predators, is to make it terrible to them to be predators. As there are many men wicked in some stations, who would be innocent in others; the best way is to make wickedness unsafe in any station.” But again, how?



Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

6 responses to “Sexual harassment: now that we know how common it is, what do we do?

  1. Pingback: Sexual harassment, taxes and net neutrality | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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