50 Shades of Sexual Harassment?
After the surprising accusations regarding Senator Franken yesterday, I started thinking about the varying differences in what is considered sexual harassment. NONE of it is appropriate under any circumstances, but I am realizing that there are certainly varying degrees of harassment, and a huge difference between a sexual predator, a pedophile, and an inappropriate comedian.
If suddenly we hear more revelations against Senator Franken, then certainly this post will be updated, but for now, I realize that if we look for sexual innuendos on both sides of Congress, we are going to find them everywhere and probably occurring daily. So, unless Americans want to kick out every man in Congress and replace them all with women, (Sounds like a good idea to me), then we pretty much have to look at each and every person independently and determine what was heinous or habitual behavior, and what was perceived as harmless, but incredibly poor and insensitive taste.
I do hope all these women coming forward will finally enlighten the vast amount of men on the planet who still haven’t gotten the memo, and allow them to understand that ALL sexual innuendos, unwarranted touching, and groping is WRONG! But, we also have to be realistic. In our society polite flirting and casual innuendos sadly, have been a way of life in this country as far back as I can remember. And evidently it continues to this day. We women have to clearly and precisely define to those males who are still behaving badly, just exactly what is NOT acceptable behavior towards women. Because apparently they haven’t been able to figure it out on their own. So I am suggesting we give them a step-by-step manual!!
This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is a sexual harassment issue. If nothing is said and people are not held accountable then this good old boy mentality will continue on til the end of time. And by the way, teaching respectful behavior needs to start at the very top of our chain of command! (YES! I mean the grabber in chief.) And sexual misconduct should be made aware to both men and women so that neither gender behaves inappropriately. As a matter of fact, I questioned myself today on what exactly determines sexual harassment when women are in power?
Here is a scenerio: I moved into a 55 and older community after my second husband passed away a few years back and most of the residents here are widows of varying ages. And let me tell you, when the UPS and FEDEX guys come to deliver their medication or a package they ordered, they are all peeking out their windows giggling or running outside onto the catwalk to wave at them. Actually, it’s rather cute to see Granny smiling at Mr. Hunky UPS or FEDEX driver. I mean you know she’s NOT going to cast aside her walker and stick her tongue down his throat. (Like members of Congress have been known to do.) But, you see, society has forgotten that women over 50 are still sexual beings with brains and beauty, and some of these women rarely get to see a man under 70, so they do take notice when these muscular men drive up in their delivery trucks. Is that considered sexual harassment? I am not sure.
Perhaps these ladies are just trying to remember that once upon a time they were young, pretty, and desirable. To the world, or at least in the USA, women of a certain age become invisible. So maybe these ladies just want to take a peek so they can remember what a handsome man looks like. And I have to admit; there are even some days I’ve taken a quick glimpse at the drivers too. (Yes, I confess I have glanced their way. It is difficult NOT to notice them when everyone else in your community is 55 or older!
I will admit that I do have a tiny crush on my UPS guy. He’s a nice looking 40 something Hispanic man who is always friendly and pleasant. AND, because I live in Florida, he wears a uniform that consists of a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. (Like the uniform the guy in “Legally Blonde” wore). I don’t personally ogle, but when his truck shows up almost every woman in the complex runs outside to get a good look.
However, I can assure you that none of the ladies in my building, who probably represent the ages of most of Congress, have ever grabbed the behinds of a mail carrier, a UPS or FEDEX man when they turn and leave. That doesn’t mean they don’t check them out in their uniforms and then go have a cup of coffee together and giggle about what it was like to be young and in love. But there is definitely NO GROPING going on!
I think that’s probably the difference in how women behave as opposed to some men. However, now I am wondering… do these deliverymen think they are being harassed? Could that be possible? I think harassment occurs when one person feels uncomfortable or threatened. And I highly doubt these mature widows threaten the UPS or FEDEX men. Then again, I’ve never asked them. So, I don’t really know.
For a year after I moved into my condo, rumors abounded that I was having an affair with the UPS man because I had so many packages delivered to my condo. The truth was that I was still teaching at the time and would stay late at work to write educational grants. So I ordered my coffee on line, used amazon for everything, including my shampoo, did holiday shopping online at Toys R Us for my grandkids, and my list goes on. I am always clicking away rather than dealing with going to a brick and mortar store. It is just easier. That gave the ladies in my building the perfect opportunity to create fake news and fake gossip! They all thought I was getting frisky with Mr. UPS man. Sadly, it wasn’t true and I only saw him in my dreams! Uh…wait a minute… Is it harassment if you wake up and realize that the UPS guy was in your dreams??? Hmmmm….
Seriously though, and THIS IS a very serious topic because there is nothing funny about sexual harassment or being physically assaulted by someone who forces himself on you. I know first hand the horrible consequences of being an assault victim, so humor helps me deal with this serious topic and allows me to be able to write this blog. But, I truly have been thinking about the differences between men and women and how we view sexual harassment.
I am sure there are some women of power who may use their sexuality, but I personally believe they use their power in different ways. I don’t see power for women as being predominantly sexual. They may show condiscention or leadership in strength by expecting perfection, or trying to prove they are in control at all times etc. but it isn’t about sex. With many men, it frequently seems to combine sex and power.
So I thought… was there ever a time in my life that I sexually harassed a man or used my own sexuality as a tool? I remembered being in middle and high school in the 1960’s and back then we had separate PE classes. Which actually was a good thing since the girls had to wear these shapeless bloomers that made us all look like potato sacks. However, since I have a name that can be male or female (Lesley), every single year I would be accidently scheduled to have PE with the boys. I dreaded having to go up to the boy’s PE instructor and get him to sign my schedule stating that I was indeed a female and didn’t have to attend his class. I received snickers and everyone pointed at me the first few weeks of school and I was humiliated at the beginning of every school year in junior high. By high school I really didn’t care any more. But, in those early years it was mortifying.
I DO remember one time, however, when I may have used my sexuality. It was in 1967 right before my 18th birthday. I got a draft card. I had to go down to the draft board and prove that I was a girl and didn’t need to be drafted. I called the draft board office and they said I had to show up in person with the appropriate ID. I asked my Dad to go with me since I did not want to be alone in a room filled with army officials. BUT, the rebel in me decided to have some fun with this. It was 1967 and I was already in an all girls’ rock band and fighting for equal rights, so I took this time to play a little trick because of the government’s mistake. I teased my hair, wore an iconic 60’s flip, used Twiggy style eye make-up and light pink lipstick, put on my best mini skirt and go go boots, and slid into the front seat of my Father’s car with my draft papers in hand as my Dad drove me to the local draft office. When I walked in every army officer about knocked each other out of the way trying to help me. I played dumb and batted my fake eyelashes. (Hoping they wouldn’t fall off since I wasn’t used to wearing them. I just wanted to look like all the female icons of the day.) I certainly did get their attention. Yes, THAT day I suppose I used my sexuality.
I innocently explained that I had received a draft card by mistake and since I was a girl would they please straighten out this mess and excuse me from being drafted into the United States Army. Well, they all thought it was adorable and the funniest thing they had ever heard. All these men in uniform, young soldiers, and even the older gentlemen responded with comments like these:
“Of course you are a girl, honey.”
“Now sweetheart, don’t think any more about this, we’ll fix it right away.”
“Well, aren’t you just the cutest little thing. A draft card? Doesn’t that beat all?”
“I can’t imagine a sweet little angel like you fighting in Viet Nam.”
The comments about how darling I was and how sweet little old me wouldn’t have to worry because all those big strong men would help me out of my dilemma went on for quite a while.
I knew enough to bring my father but I glanced over at my dad who was rolling his eyes and totally knew I was milking the situation. Now keep in mind, my father was Military. He was a decorated WWII Lieutenant with a drawer filled with medals including a purple heart. So he thought the men were acting like idiots fawning over me, especially since he knew his daughter well. He knew I could throw a football, play basketball and shoot hoops, run faster than a speeding bullet, swim under water in a flash, and do just about anything I set my mind to do. (Including playing guitar in an all girls’ rock band.) But, he let me do my thing and just let me handle it without saying a word. When we got back in the car to go home, we both cracked up laughing.
My father said something like, “Lesley, the ONLY reason you couldn’t go to war is because you’d hate the dress code and having to make your bed every day. NOT because you couldn’t fight. That being said, I am really glad my children don’t have to go into combat. War is a heck of thing. A heck of a thing for anybody…” My father never swore into front me or any of his family, so he wouldn’t even say the word Hell. And My Dad never talked about his war experiences. It wasn’t until a few years before he passed away, and only because my youngest son interviewed him for a Veteran’s Day report that I heard him discuss some of what happened during those WWII years. My mom had already died and I was making him a lasagna and I held back tears as I listened. I was really proud of him. He was a hero. He never bragged about it. But he was.
My Dad is one reason it is hard to look at these old fools who are predators running for office when my role model was a man of integrity. He was always a gentleman. A real hero who respected human life, fought against fascism, and respected women. If he were alive today he’d probably go up to Trump and Roy Moore and punch them right in the nose for de-valuing everything he fought for. Both my parents would be shocked at what is happening today.
I think about this issue seriously and I hope that all these women will be believed, that men will reconsider their groping hands and their frivolous comments, and that more women will become leaders and stand up to the men who are still trying to keep them from speaking out and succeeding in this society of ours.
My humor in this blog was all true, but I used it to make it easier for me to discuss this topic. I had several uncomfortable harassment episodes when I entered the work force in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. And that still bothers me to this day. Most all of my female friends also had similar experiences. And as a young divorced mother in the late 1970’s, I had my apartment broken into and was stabbed and assaulted, so I understand how difficult it was in the past to be believed when something happened to a woman. I will never forget calling 911 after an attack and due to my shock; I didn’t notice that I was bleeding from a stab wound in my shoulder or that my neck was already turning colors from being choked. I often wonder if I hadn’t shown physical evidence would I have even been believed. I don’t know. But, what bothers me the most is that my incident happened over 40 years ago, and this disregard for women is still happening today and that enrages me. So, I put a little humor into my blog so that I would have the courage to talk about this important issue. It is time we women stood together to end this harassment. It is time! It is time!!!!!
15 thoughts on “50 Shades of Sexual Harassment?”
Picturing a father rolling his eyes made me smile 🙂 ,reminds me from time to time I work alongside (supervise) University students and we support staff often comment how the young women sometimes use their sexuality for our expert assistance and you know men we’ll always help a ‘damsel in distress’, you know fluttering their eyelids and flicking back their long hair. But that’s fine it’s often amusing, slightly shameless and all good fun……………. nothing wrong in applying one’s sexuality to get work done!!! Being serious for a second though, #Metoo is a subject I’ve written about in the past, extremely important to, I guess the upshot being we men have to be aware how remarks can be misinterpreted.
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Hi. So nice to hear from you. I will have to check out what you’ve written on #metoo , and yes, both men and women too, need to be aware of what they say as their words can indeed be interpreted or misinterpreted. Sometimes, harmless comments cause unintentional pain and other times lack of awareness comes off as being misogynistic. If you work with college students you would certainly know that. I am rather disappointed that young women are flirting with support staff. It makes me think back and wonder why I protested for equality and to be taken seriously as a female when these girls who grew up with the rights I fought for, act like they don’t have a brain. Then again, I was some times very silly at 18 too. And yeah, my father was a good sport about it. Lol The word silly puts me in mind of Mr. Bennett in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice when he referred to his two youngest daughters Kitty and Lydia. He fluctuated calling them ridiculous or silly. Perhaps that is just the way of youth. Then again, in today’s #metoo world you can not behave ridiculously and then expect people to take you seriously. It’s a slippery slope.
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No, I agree there needs to be standards set, not double standards for sure. But, yes, one level is a crime, another is not and might deserve a reprimand. As a teacher for 36 years we had a code of conduct on teacher behavior that was to be kept in our plan book. It was changed in the 90’s and that got a lot of male administrators fired or forced to retire early. Inappropriate touching and comments absolutely need to be addressed. In a school where I was the Union rep it was reported to me that a young male teacher consistently was making another teacher feel uncomfortable by coming into her room daily after school and saying inappropriate things. The Union said they did not have enough evidence so I told her to document his visits and write down dates and comments etc. I did report him to my administrator and the Union but neither did anything. He finally came in one day while she was writing a lesson on the board for the next day and he grabbed her and kissed her and groped her. She ran out of the room and went and got me. She was very shaken and I took her asap to our administrator and demanded action be taken. It took touching to actually do something. That was in the early two thousands. The female teacher was a young married woman with children and was mortified. She was being intimidated daily. The Union got involved and updated their sexual misconduct rules. FINALLY!
There HAS to be rules that are followed in any business and sometimes gray areas fall within those lines. But, oh well. Just like teachers aren’t supposed to hug and kiss students. I taught elementary school. Children hug their teachers all the time. It is difficult not to hug back a little child. But we have to catch ourselves to things are not misunderstood or misrepresented. It is just how it is. And men, even innocent men may get caught up in this mess.
Many, many things I could comment on here, but as it’s already the Solstice and there are still holiday presents to be wrapped, I’ll choose one. The issue that you raise about what constitutes sexual harassment and how do we deal with different shades of it (recognizing that there’s miles of difference between Roy Moore undressing a 14 year old and Al Franken grabbing an unsolicited kiss): I think we MUST have a single standard for public servants. My big concern when the Franken issue came up–a concern I also heard a number of progressive women on MSNBC and CNN struggle to deal with–is that if it’s only progressive men/parties that are held to account or, more accurately, hold themselves to account, while someone like Roy Moore enjoys almost 49% voter support, then the fear is that we’ll end up with a congress full of Roy Moores who will vote a very anti-woman agenda.
Apologies if this sounds bleak. I don’t mean it that way. Just trying to figure out how women (and concerned men) can work to achieve this goal.
Thank you Davy. I think sensibility is needed in governments around the world. I wish I had the power to change things here. I doubt I could make a dent over your way. I think it only can happen when we fight in numbers and resist together in unity.
Great post Lesley and one which, as a 55 year old male suitable for a Condo, I have sat on thinking how to respond. And therein lies the problem. How did we get into this this situation when people have to be told how to respect others and be shown where the line is between a humour and flirting and sexual harassment and beyond. We are debating the same issues over here in the UK and a number of politicians have had to resign over inappropriate behaviour which had been kept quiet for a number of years. They are now going to run courses in the UK Parliament which teaches people how to respect others. One of the best responses I have heard was a UK journalist who had her knee touched by an MP whilst having a working lunch. When asked how she responded she said, “I turned to him and said if you do that again, I will punch your lights out.” I hope she gets the contract to run the courses.
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Yes, it is amazing that people have to be told how to be respectful. It sounds like a great idea that courses are going to be given in the UK. I alluded to a similar idea in my blog about a code of Conduct manual with specific behaviors written on what not to do. Simply, because I know that as my school’s Union rep I could explain to teachers that such and such behavior was not allowed and to always keep a copy of their conduct booklet in their plan book and to refer to it. It helped sometimes. Any time a group of people work together people can behave badly. But there was never explicit dealings about sexual behavior. Only once did a teacher have to call me in regarding inappropriate behavior regarding a new young male teacher whose behavior was offensive. I called the union and they spoke to the woman and then action was taken. The young man lost his job. She had to keep a diary and document his behavior until Enough attempted assaults were done. But, she did get justice-finally. It shouldn’t have taken as long as it did but because they didn’t have exact wording in the contract or code of conduct they had to prove his actions. Obviously better precautions needed to be made to protect people. However the problem was solved and one reason I said I’d add Union representative to my many teaching responsibilities. I know I helped make teachers feel safe. I also sat in many after school conferences with bullying parents too. This protected teachers from unnecessarily rude parents who wanted grades changed, or had outlandish expectations etc. New young teachers were often intimidated by certain parents and needed a representative by their side. Being a Union Rep was a way I could help others. It wasn’t a paying extra job. I just felt that if I didn’t volunteer, the rights of the people would not be represented. As a teacher I couldn’t tell anyone I’d punch their lights out but I admire a world where women are free to say such things. I often think if Hillary had turned around when Trump loomed behind her during the debates, she might have won. Unfortunately my generation of women were taught to show strength we needed to endure and ignore bad behavior rather than calling it out. Her loss proves that won’t work any more. Thank you so much for your sincere response Davy. I very much appreciate it. 👍
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It is good to see you have been fighting the cause for so long Lesley and maybe could do with some of you over here in the UK to add some passion and sensibility to the debate. Have a good Thanksgiving 🙂
Thanks. Feel free to share wherever you like. . I posted on FB and Twitter. Oftentimes people read memes not articles. But I keep trying. 👍Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. ❤️
Raw story • Lolly, share where you can and keep the honest conversation amplified out front and center📣
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Excellent post, Lesley. Brava!
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Thank you so much for your feedback Eugenia. I really appreciate it.
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