By Ken DeLaat
Lately the rich, famous and powerful have been falling at a rather rapid clip when it comes to sexual harassment. Well-known names from the entertainment industry, corporate heads, folks from the media, and, of course, politicians have all come under the microscope for past (and/or present) behavior of an unwanted nature.
My cynical attitude regarding our career seeking politicians whose role on the public dole seems to be sustained incumbency aside, my hunch would be the outing of this particular group might be just starting to get a little traction for the runaway train looming ahead for them.
And if you look at the list of people being outed and their response? Some are apologetic and contrite, some (particularly pols) publicly deny deny deny, some (CEOs, etc in particular) have attorneys who perform their denying for them…
And some will say “Yes that was wrong, BUT…….
I learned long ago that generally everything anyone says before ‘but’ is B.S.
“You might be right but...
“I’m sorry but…
“I don’t mean to be rude but...
Each followed with a statement negating the pre ‘but’ phrase.
“Ken I don’t want to hurt your feelings but...
‘Then let’s agree to stop right there because my hunch is what’s about to follow will most certainly hurt my feelings.’
So here are a few apres ‘BUT’ lines that have thus far been associated with this issue. And while it is doubtless there will be more excuses, sidesteps and elaborate defenses forthcoming this trio most assuredly deserves response.
....it was a different era.
Different era? Seriously? You mean back to a time when it was ok?
“Yeah we bought and sold human beings. Yep, owned them like you would anything else ‘cept they could talk and all. ‘Course that was a different era.”
“Well, I reckon you could say the so-called Indian Wars amounted to a huge number of massacres involving as many men, women and children as possible so we could take their land and all but, hey, that was a different era.”
“Of course we kept women from voting. We felt like it was for their own good. But, you know, that was a different era.”
Different era? Geez, who thinks up this crap?
...it’s not like he was the only one doing it right? Look at all the others, like…..
So let’s say this once and hope that it perhaps sinks in.
A misdeed isn't redeemed by its prevalence.
The fact that ‘others are doing it” didn’t get me far when used as an argument with my parents and in turn when my own children employed this time honored rationalization (Parenting: All about paybacks) it equally failed to move the decision dial even an iota.
When this classic defense emerges and the ‘it’ involved is unmistakably wrong there’s a cultural problem. And believe me, it’s a much tougher road to impact an atmosphere allowing for misdeeds than to punish a group who violate trust.
...you can’t say she was totally innocent in it all...
It is clearly not ok to blame or discredit the victim or in a cultural sense, victims. Not now not then not ever.
Consensual? Rarely is it one and only one person making the accusations right? When someone comes forward generally others follow because someone has ‘broken trail’. Thus the defense of assuming there existed mutual interest loses a bit of luster when it seems to happen so frequently. Unless, of course, one is self deceived as to the sheer magnetism they exude, a possibility unfortunately not as far fetched as it should be.
And yes, I know there are false accusations. Truth is, they don’t come close to the number of those that have merit. They don’t even comprise a significant percentage.
Granted, it’s discomforting to say the least to have inappropriate personal behavior brought to light. Embarrassed and exposed, the tendency when one is in such distress is to find an escape hatch. Denial and projection are the most common reactions. So when denial falls short the true villains become the accusers, and, of course, those who put them up to it (we all love conspiracy theories), and, let’s not forget that damned media pushing out their ‘Fake News’.
(Side Note: Come on, really? Isn’t crying ‘fake news’ a bit like a playground “Am not!” these days? It’s not even a real defense anymore, just a knee jerk reaction when nailed for something that might not behoove one to fess up to. If anything, crying ‘Fake News’ has become so trite it should be a clear clue that the person is lying.)
After all it’s not like we’re in some golden era of accountability here. If there is one thing rampant in our society it is the absolute endless array of ways to fend off responsibility for one’s actions.
Those punishing emotions that often accompany true accountability can spur change in a person (sometimes) and certainly change in a culture that is hopefully beginning to get it about harassment being (in the words of an old friend)’serious as a heart attack’. It might not bring the the red light we’re looking for but perhaps a yellow light of caution could help people make better decisions and alter assumptions of ‘how things work’.
No one deserves unwanted and undesired attention of a sexual nature. Whether it’s a comment toward a passerby, a too long stare not involving eye to eye contact, suggestive statements or more overt gestures it’s simply unacceptable.
Such dynamics can shift roles toward an imbalance of power to dramatically transform the playing field.
And underlying the many reactions to these overtures from bravado to disgust to indifference there generally exists a bit of fear. That despite progress in many areas a sense of vulnerability continues to dwell at the core of it all.
And that is truly not ok.
We need to be better.
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