By Norma Damashek / NumbersRunner
Once upon a time there was a man with an unquenchable impulse to invite women out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. He seemed oblivious to a fact most other men understand — there are circumstances when it’s okay to sweet-talk a woman and other circumstances when it’s not.
For a man known to be adept and dynamic at public speaking he was oddly banal and unimaginative at the art and practice of seduction: are you married… you are beautiful… your eyes mesmerize me… I want you to have dinner with me.
This man, according to TV and news accounts, routinely crossed the proverbial line. It was reported that he surprised some women with a kiss on the cheek, or forehead, or mouth – even, purportedly, a french kiss. Two or three women said he patted the vicinity where their rear ends reside. There were reports of fumbled attempts to touch a breast. A few recalled provocative whispers in their ear.
Several women said he detained them with a firm grasp of his hands on their hands or his arm wrapped around their shoulder in the region of their clavicle. Professional women with business ties to the tourism industry told tales of being flummoxed by his too-chummy style. A tough, well-seasoned rear admiral divulged her discombobulation when he placed his index finger on her cheek. A volunteer at the city hall senior desk reported she was a victim of his bantering but now she’s a survivor.
Each day a new woman got seated in front of the tv cameras to describe her personal mishap with this man. For some it provided a few minutes of free airtime to publicize a newly-published book or company or business. Or to make a case for a quarter — no, make that half-a-million dollars in compensation for emotional distress and psychic injury.
As reported by commentators and the news media from coast to coast, this man’s unwelcome passes were startling, confusing, unnerving, and enduringly haunting to dozens of independent, upstanding, self-sufficient, fully-grown women. He was mercilessly caricatured as a monstrous serial cad capable of transforming sturdy women into “victims” in need of societal protection and deserving restitution. No proof needed.
Oddly, no woman has come forward with a story of retaliation, revenge, retribution, loss of employment, reduction in salary, bad letter of recommendation, cancelled contract, torn-off clothing, slapping around, or attempted rape if or when she refused this man’s request for dinner, a hug, or a kiss. Nevertheless, he was deemed responsible for single-handedly precipitating an epidemic of PTSD among San Diego’s most accomplished women.
The man in question is Bob Filner, long-term U.S. Congressman and short-lived mayor of San Diego.
Some readers will criticize me for not being sufficiently PC but listen — I’m woman and I get it. I know what it’s like to encounter intrusive (not to mention menacing) men in the subway, at work, around construction sites, at social events — guys who won’t take no for an answer until you make it clear that they have no choice.
Yes, I do get it. Bob Filner was reprehensibly negligent about adhering to explicit rules governing harassment in the workplace. He was tone deaf to the implicit rules of casual social intercourse. He was an over-the-top kidder and skirt-chaser. His sometimes witless, indiscriminate interactions with women were recurrent, inappropriate, and ridiculous. He was often a jerk. But the fact is, when it came to a woman’s career, psyche, or physical safety this man posed no bona fide threat.
Nevertheless, a media circus hawking tales of victimization, injury, and abuse… daily episodes spotlighting aggrieved women… a specious sheriff’s hotline… high-profile “feminist lawyer” Gloria Allred as accuser, judge, and jury… minute by minute news alerts… ludicrous shaming stories planted in the news media across the country… cumulatively succeeded in demonizing this man. He was branded as San Diego’s Public Enemy #1 and forced to resign from office. I get that.
But here’s something I don’t get: a coherent picture of who, how, what, and why this elaborately staged morality tale, conceived in San Diego and broadcast nationwide, was successfully engineered and carried out. While it’s common knowledge that the birds and bees bring humans to their knees, it’s the wolfpack that knows how to make the kill.
So the time has come to don my best Nancy Drew outfit and try to unearth clues to the mystery of how San Diego’s first-ever politically liberal mayor with populist, progressive credentials jumped, fell, or was pushed from his brand-new mayoral perch.
In Part II of The Birds, the Bees, and the Wolf Pack on Thursday we’ll take a look at the political intrigue and insider politics that decisively pounded the nails in this man’s coffin. Keep your dial set.