It seems as though 15 minutes can’t go by without a new revelation about some influential man being called out for sexual harassment. Sadly, the problem extends way beyond the rich, famous, and powerful, as a recent Huffington Post article about hotel housekeepers and casino workers explained. And then there’s the whole thing where women simply being in a public place are subject to a wide variety of what should be astonishing behavior, as documented recently in a photo essay at the Guardian.
Today’s column will take a spin around the media world to emphasize just how big a deal this overdue reckoning is, and offer up a few side thoughts along the way I felt were worth considering.
One caveat: I have not walked a mile in those shoes, and invite readers to add observations in the comment section. Too many of us (mostly men, but some women) have been complicit; abetting, ignoring or being oblivious to a problem has the effect of warping one’s perception.
It’s open season on politicians with an (alleged) grabby-grabby problem, as it should be. After all, these are the humans we elected to create the rules of the road for society. It should be obvious by now that their biases were more than implicit.
I’ll start local and work out from there.
Labor leader Mickey Kasparian is once again in the news. Depositions are ongoing in the civil suits alleging sexual harassment and discrimination filed by former United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) employees.
Unlike many of the more recently outed men, Kasparian has steadfastly denied the allegations, which are at least partially responsible for his ouster as President of the local labor council.
Dorian Hargrove at the Reader posted a story yesterday concerning a description of Kasparian’s genitalia by one of his accusers, and his subsequent attempt to explain how this knowledge came to be public (a cancer scare involving moles) away.
City Beat named SDFP editor Brent Beltrán as one of its persons of the year for his activism on behalf of Las Tres Hermanas, the moniker Kasparian’s accusers have adopted.
The Times of San Diego posted a story about a UFCW employee’s letter to union officials demanding a further investigation into Kasparian’s actions. The labor leader’s lawyers responded to Chris Lopez’s concerns by threatening a lawsuit.
Voice of San Diego covered “scathing” emails from last summer concerning actions taken by the County Democratic Party to avoid protests aimed at the group’s seeming lack of response to the allegations against Kasparian, who sits on the central committee. This is an ugly situation, made worse by the party’s tepid response to the allegations against former Mayor Bob Filner four years ago.
— David Alvarez (@AlvarezSD) November 20, 2017
Speaking of Bob Filner, Congresswoman Diana DeGette told MSNBC’s Katy Tur about being groped by the then-congressman in an elevator several years ago.
Other labor unions are having their own reckonings with the actions of men in leadership positions. The Service Employees International Union has dismissed five officials in recent weeks, including an executive vice president and leaders in the Fight for 15 movement.
In Sacramento, last month, more than 140 women — including legislators, Capitol staff, political consultants, and lobbyists — signed a letter calling out the “pervasive” culture of sexual harassment and mistreatment that plagues their industry.
After the Los Angeles Times presented State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra with reports of six women asserting unwanted sexual advances or unwelcome communication, he announced his resignation at the end of the 2018 session on Monday. The Democrat from Pacoima has already been stripped of his position as majority whip and committee assignments by Speaker Anthony Rendon, who’s initiated an independent investigation that could lead to expulsion.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León last week announced plans to hire outside attorneys for any abuse investigation involving either staff or lawmakers following disclosure of allegations against Sen. Tony Mendoza by two women.
California is not the only state having to confront claims of misconduct by legislators. Carolyn Fiddle at Daily Kos posted an extensive list including:
- Two Democrats and two Republicans from Colorado are facing allegations from both staff and a fellow lawmaker.
- A Republican State Senator in Oregon accused of sexually harassing a fellow senator, along with allegations from an additional 15 women.
- The chair of the Arizona legislature’s budget committee has been suspended in the wake of multiple allegations, some from sitting legislators, of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching.
- Kentucky’s Republican Speaker of the House has stepped down from the post (but not his seat) following disclosure of a confidential settlement of a sexual harassment claim.
- Florida State Senator (and GOP gubernatorial candidate) Jack Latvala in being investigated for sexual misconduct.
- In Minnesota, a Republican state representative and a Democratic state senator are facing accusations by multiple women with accounts of harassment.
- Ohio’s women lawmakers and staffers signed an open letter asserting that insufficient actions to combat sexual harassment are taking place. Recent revelations include the resignation of Republican Representative Wes Goodman–caught in the act in his office,–Senator Cliff Hite’s departure following his admission of “hugs” and “inappropriate conversation,” and the resignation of the Democrat’s Chief of Staff in the wake of allegations of inappropriate conduct.
I really liked her conclusion, including this part:
But confronting sexual misconduct isn’t the same thing as fixing it. Correcting this problem requires effort and resources. And the nature of politics and political work presents its own set of rare circumstances and challenges, including lots of after-hours and out-of-office events, and typically small staffs and physical workspaces that make transferring away from or avoiding a harasser virtually impossible.
But there’s this one weird trick that would almost certainly diminish the instances of sexual harassment of women in the halls of power, though: electing more women.
Harassment isn’t the exclusive domain of men, by any means, but men with power perpetrate the vast majority of harassment in politics. If powerful men were surrounded by greater numbers of powerful women colleagues, the men would likely feel less emboldened to exercise their power in such a destructive way.
Buzzfeed News got their hands on a confidential document from a 2015 wrongful dismissal complaint Congressman John Conyers settled with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”
As Esquire columnist Charles P Pierce noted, you have to wade through 800 words before being informed the Buzzfeed document came from alt-right pizzagate conspiracist Mike Cernovich. He also reportedly has dirt on a Republican Congressman, which, for now, remains confidential. I’m guessing a ‘wrong vote’ on the budget would trigger the release of the documents in question.
Some progressive groups called upon Senator Al Franken to resign following groping allegations by a second woman. Employees for KABC, home for the radio host who initially made charges against the Minnesota Senator, issued a statement yesterday admitting to leaking the story in advance to “our news partners,” apparently including nutcase Roger Stone.
This morning’s news radio was all about the unfolding scandal involving Charlie Rose. The Washington Post headline (for a meticulously researched story) tells it all.
Along with Rose, there’s are a bunch of high-profile media characters who’ve gone down recently for abusing their perceived powers to denigrate and humiliate women:
Glenn Thrush (Politico/NYT)
Mark Halperin (MSNBC/Bloomberg)
Hamilton Fish/Leon Wieseltier (New Republic)
Sam Kriss (Vice)
Jordan Chariton (The Young Turks)
As numerous women have pointed out over the past 24 hours, it’s not unreasonable to reconsider how these men covered Hillary Clinton. Each of them helped shape the narrative of the 2016 campaign, and their observations were echoed throughout the media.
Finally(almost)–and I know I left out all the Faux News notables– I want to share Rebecca Traister’s conclusion, published in New York Magazine before the latest round of scandals came out.
And while it may feel cathartic for some women to finally get to say things they’ve been waiting years to say, this does not undo the damage. We can’t go back in time and have the story of Hillary Clinton written by people who have not been accused of pressing their erections into the shoulders of young women who worked for them.
We cannot retroactively resituate the women who left jobs, who left their whole careers because the navigation of the risks, these daily diminutions and abuses, drove them out. Nor can we retroactively see the movies they would have made or the art they would have promoted, or read the news as they might have reported it.
This tsunami of stories doesn’t just reveal the way that men have grabbed and rubbed and punished and shamed women; it shows us that they did it all while building the very world in which we still have to live.
It seems obvious to me that the quickest fix–quicker than the ‘national conversation’– for these high profile harassers is to replace them with women wherever possible.
The rest of cure for this ailment involves a lot of people (that’s you and me!) looking in the mirror and resolving to do better, not just about their role in propagating (or abetting) misogyny, but about all the other instruments of division and oppression, like racism and homophobia.
Today seems like as good a day as any to start.
Oh, and lest we forget:
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