I got sexually harassed by an 85-year-old man yesterday.
I run into him a few times a week while I’m walking the dogs and we usually have a brief chat.
He knows I’m looking for a job and asked if I’d found anything yet. When I said no, he said he’d like to employ me … but I’d have to sit on his lap.
Seriously, he actually said that.
I think men have been saying stuff like that to women in workplaces since women were first in workplaces, but it wasn’t until I turned 53 that something so blatantly inappropriate was said to me.
Ironic and also thought provoking.
I’m paid to write a feminist blog post each Friday and last week’s topic was NY governor Andrew Cuomo, 63, who has been accused by numerous former employees of harassment. He insisted it was a witch hunt and refused to resign, but finally gave in yesterday and sulkily removed himself from office.
Initially, Cuomo filmed a video statement denying he had acted inappropriately and saying he apologised if his demonstrative nature had been misconstrued by women he was simply trying to mentor and support.
To support his claim that he was simply a warm, affectionate person, he displayed photos during the video statement of himself embracing and kissing male and female celebrities, politicians and other New Yorkers.
“This isn’t an apology. It’s a defense video,” Nicole Bedera, an expert in sexual violence at the University of Michigan, told USA Today. “He’s abusing his position of power to take control of the narrative and tell us that he’s the one with the authority to define what sexual harassment is. And that’s a problem.”
I feistily wrote: “While it’s horrifying that Cuomo spent years creating a toxic workplace environment for women, his victim-blaming reaction to the results of the investigation is a deplorable example of workplace gaslighting. It’s time for Cuomo to go – and make a more sincere apology to his victims on his way out the door.”
As for why the incident on my dog walk was thought provoking, it’s how I reacted. I stared at him in surprise, he laughed and said it was just a joke … and I smiled and nodded.
I didn’t tell him it was inappropriate, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings or cause a scene.
Why is it that our first thought is that we don’t want to hurt men’s feelings or cause a scene? We pretend it didn’t happen instead of calling it out.
The 85 year old is completely harmless and I wasn’t distressed by what he said, but it did make me realise how it could feel if he was my boss and I was younger and less confident.
I hope my daughter has the confidence to disregard men’s feelings if they act inappropriately in the workplace.
She certainly seems to have a well-developed sense of what’s inappropriate after I watched “Election” with her. Have you seen it? In the 1999 film, a young Reese Witherspoon plays Tracy Flick, an ambitious young woman campaigning to be high school president.
The film is based on a novel by author and screenwriter Tom Perrotta and has a lot of fans in high places.
“Barack Obama told me twice that it was his favourite political movie,” Payne revealed. “I met him once in 2005, and he had just been elected senator, and again in 2008 when he was running. Both times when I introduced myself, he said, ‘Oh, Election is my favourite political movie.’”
The youngest hated it. She was appalled that Tracy Flick’s teacher had an affair with her and that another teacher fantasised about her while having sex with his wife.
Teachers having affairs with their students was pretty par for the course when I was a high schooler, so I didn’t think much of it when I first saw the movie.
However, as the NY Times notes, what happens to Tracy in the movie is “a textbook case of predatory grooming. [Teacher] Dave undermines Tracy’s self-esteem and separates her from her peers by telling her how lonely she seems to him, and offering himself as a special friend, someone who understands her in a way nobody else can. He swears her to secrecy, takes her to his house, puts “Three Times a Lady” on the stereo and drags her into the bedroom.”
Matthew Broderick plays the second teacher, who spends the movie trying to sabotage Tracy’s campaign because he despises her naked ambition and holds her responsible for his friend and fellow teacher losing his job over the inappropriate relationship.
As the NY Times concludes: “Some of what Tracy does is surely unethical. But Jim McAllister is thoroughly immoral.”
It’s funny the stuff you only get decades later.
Song of the day: The Police “Don’t stand so close to me” (I also didn’t have a problem with the scenario in this song when it was released)