Sexual Harassment: The Latest Media Bandwagon?

For weeks now the media has been full of sordid tales, initially connected to the billionaire film producer, Harvey Weinstein, but more recently and thanks to a Twitter ‘campaign’, to almost anyone who is famous and/or holding a position of power. While any attempt by an individual to force their attentions (sexual, or otherwise) on another person is totally unacceptable, the media hysteria created by such revelations draws many ‘from the closet’ whose accusations are either frivolous, or intended to cause harm.

Take the case of Julia Hartley-Brewer and the ex-defence minister, Michael Fallon. Hartley-Brewer has accused Fallon of repeatedly touching her on the knee while at a dinner party in 2002. Okay, he’s a total pratt, was an utterly useless defence minister who wasted tax payer’s money on two new aircraft carriers and renewal of the Trident nuclear submarine deterrent, while leaving the army short of men, the air force desperately short of planes, and the navy with insufficient sailors to man the new aircraft carriers, which aren’t due to go into service before 2025, by which time they’ll be obsolete anyway.

It’s not the first time Sparrow Chat has been forced to call Michael Fallon a total pratt. There was that occasion earlier this year when he made prattish remarks about the Russian carrier, ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’, returning to its home port via the English Channel [1].

As a defence secretary he sucked, and it’s better for us all that he’s gone. But one has to question why Hartley-Brewer (k)need-ed to publicly recount her tale of woe after fifteen years? Was it, perhaps, a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the media attention surrounding Weinstein, or merely an opportunity to settle a grudge she’d been harbouring for a decade and a half?

If we can believe a report in the U.K.’s ‘Sun’ newspaper (and that’s debatable):

Mr Fallon confessed that he was the minister who Julia threatened to punch for repeatedly putting his hand on her knee.
He has now resigned.
Julia told how a Cabinet Minister had “repeatedly put his hand on my knee during a party conference dinner”.
She added: “I calmly and politely explained to him that, if he did it again, I would punch him in the face. He withdrew his hand and that was the end of the matter.”
Julia said she did not feel like she was a victim of a sexual assault, and found the incident nothing more than “mildly amusing”.[2]

If she did not consider herself sexually assaulted, and found the incident ‘mildly amusing’, why did she jump on the media’s ‘sexual assault/harassment’ bandwagon? Or, was she simply gunning to make a little publicity for herself, and to hell with its effects on Michael Fallon?

Perhaps Ms Hartley-Brewer, and those others of her ilk prepared to jump on a media bandwagon without just cause, simply to gain attention, might do better using their positions and voices to attack the Indian government over the real problems suffered by women and girls in that country, that the authorities seem largely unable to address:

The scale of abuse in India:
A child under 16 is raped every 155 minutes, a child under 10 every 13 hours

More than 10,000 children were raped in 2015

240 million women living in India were married before they turned 18

53.22% of children who participated in a government study reported some form of sexual abuse

50% of abusers are known to the child or are “persons in trust and care-givers” [2]

Sexual harassment can be a traumatic experience for the victim, but the phrase covers a multitude of sins, some heinous, others less so. It’s time it was defined more clearly, and not left to the media (of which, the BBC and other U.K. TV news stations share guilt) to broadcast all claims to ‘sexual harassment’ as though equally heinous.

Perhaps Julia_Hartley-Brewer should spend some time observing what’s happening to women and girls in the more rural areas of India, and also Pakistan:

Pakistani police have arrested eight men for marching a 14-year-old girl naked through a village in revenge for her brother allegedly tarnishing their family honour.

It is the latest incident of Pakistani village councils using women to settle family disputes, bypassing the official judiciary system with parallel tribal rule that sentences hundreds of women to death each year in so-called “honour” killings.

According to police in Dera Islami Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the incident occurred, the girl’s brother had developed a romantic relationship with a woman outside marriage. A village council ruled that the woman’s family could retaliate by disrespecting his sister.

On the morning on 27 October, as the girl was fetching water, a group of men accosted her, stripped her and dragged her along the ground before making her walk around naked for an hour, the police report stated.

Village councils, called panchayat or jirga, are illegal but widespread in rural areas where the justice system is out of reach or perceived to be untrustworthy.

Three months ago, a 26-man council near Multan in Punjab province ordered a 17-year-old girl to be raped as punishment for a sexual assault allegedly committed by her brother. [3]

So he touched you on the knee, Julia? Oh, please!

While trolling through Google images seeking suitable material for this blog post I was inundated with images like this in the ‘sexual harassment’ section:

These, obviously, carefully staged images are from a law firm touting for business and a website entitled, “womenstribe.com”.

I find this offensive, as I’m sure other decent men do. When I was a general manager I would occasionally think nothing of placing a hand on a colleague’s shoulder, while looking at work on their desk or computer screen. I don’t believe anyone, male or female, found it offensive, or ‘harassing’. Since when has the shoulder become a sexual object? Apparently, only when used for marketing purposes, or by extremist feminist websites.

Let’s learn to define the difference between a friendly action, and that of a predator, before we all become paranoid about what is acceptable and what isn’t. The 21st century is becoming the era of rapidly disappearing humanity from our human species. Our politicians don’t help as they work to tribalise us more and more in their self-centred efforts to gain more votes.

In a recent BBC documentary on the Balfour Declaration and its long term effects on the Israeli/Palestinian situation, the reporter was travelling in a ‘self-drive’ car with the CEO of the Israeli company manufacturing it. She pointed out that, while Israel was a modern and wealthy state the Palestinians were living mostly in abject poverty. He shrugged and responded that it was a ‘zero-sum-game’ situation[4] and that was the way of the world now.

When did our world become that way? Why should one person, or one group of people, have to lose so another can win? Are we really incapable of treating life as anything other than a football game? Even in sport there is still the occasional draw. I wonder if that Israeli CEO would have been quite so keen on his ‘zero-sum-game’ had he been sufficiently unfortunate to be born Palestinian?

Tribalism, combined with that old adage of, “Stuff you, I’m alright Jack,” is becoming endemic in our societies. Are we really going to let the extremists, and the politically motivated feminists like Julia Hartley-Brewer, dig moats between the sexes until all trust between them is stifled? Men and woman are all human beings together, whatever their sexuality. It’s vitally important that law and order is upheld and crimes of a sexual nature properly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice, but it’s equally important that a man or woman can offer a friendly touch to a colleague without fear of being labelled a ‘predator’.

Harvey Weinstein was a known sexual predator. He was also a bully and a tyrant with an overly expansive ego. He was very powerful within his industry. We have another man just like him heading the White House right now. Neither are a good example to the rest of the world and the sooner they’re removed to where they belong the better it will be for the human race.

The Weinstein’s of this world are very much in the minority. Most men, certainly in the ‘civilised’ world, are decent law-abiding, women-respecting, individuals, yet by its actions and sensationalist reporting the media taints them all to some degree as potential ‘Weinstein’s.”

In a sense, the media is akin to the Israeli CEO with his ‘zero-sum-game’. Each news channel wants to be the most sensationalist to draw in viewers, or readers. That’s fine until one realises there are always losers in these sensationalist games. And when the game sets women against men, blacks against whites, or heterosexuals against gays, the media has the power to determine who should win and who should lose.

The overall result is a loss of humanity. Tribalism rears its ugliness. Unless we reverse the trend and bring basic humanity back into our societies the future will prove bleak indeed.

[1] “Question: How Many Total Prats Can You Get In A Government?” Sparrow Chat, January 26th 2017

“India uncles get life for raping niece, aged 10” BBC, November 2nd 2017

[3] “Pakistani police arrest men for marching girl naked through village” Guardian, November 2nd 2017

[4] zero-sum-game: In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants. If the total gains of the participants are added up and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero.

5 Replies to “Sexual Harassment: The Latest Media Bandwagon?”

  1. As you’ve said, RJ, that term “sexual harassment” covers a multitude of sins – it has come to do so with a lot of help from media and the internet. Wiki’s definition of common & garden harassment :
    Harassment covers a wide range of behaviors of an offensive nature. It is commonly understood as behavior that disturbs or upsets, and it is characteristically repetitive. In the legal sense, it is behavior that appears to be disturbing or threatening.

    When simple, friendly (non-sexual) actions are interpreted as harassment, it tends to devalue real complaints, and muddy the waters. I’d guess that these kinds of complaints, regarding friendly gestures, happen mainly when the shoulder toucher (for instance) is disliked anyway, for other reasons, or is not well known to the complainant. Context is all, as in all else of life, I guess.

    In my quarter century working in a Regional Employment Tribunals office in the UK, I read, or sat in on, many sex discrimination cases involving sexual harassment. Back then, before the kind of devaluation you describe, and when assessed by tribunals, any sexual harassment involved was true harassment, and truly unpleasant and unacceptable for the women involved.

  2. The magnitude of harassment cannot be reduced to the few that are “taking advantage” or “redefining harassment.”

    I was harassed more times than I can count. One example I will give you for you to decide on whether I was harassed or not, as most courts would throw it out.

    I was a senior manager. He was the vice-president. I was a single mother with two teenage kids to feed, clothe and educate. He would come into my office to review the financial performance and budgetary spread sheets. He never laid a finger on me. He would stand to my right leaning into my computer screen so that his crotch was an inch from my face. He wore tight pants and yes , he was semi-erect.

    My protesting took the form of (1) offering to print off what he needed. (2) pushing my chair back against the wall and getting up and being trapped in the corner while he looked at me, slightly smirking, and pointing at something on the screen and asking me what it was so I had to sit down again and extrapolate the numbers (3) offering to email him with attachments.

    He would counter me with: I was making his job difficult, he was an immediate guy and needed instant answers, I should be more cooperative, etc.

    This went on for many years until I found myself another position in the same general area while my youngest finished school.

    My story is not singular, if you were around women who worked under conditions like these or worse you would understand. 100% of my female friends have been harassed in the workplace. Some just “put out” to get it over with and feed their kids.

    Please RJA focus on the millions who have been harassed, often without any kind of recourse. We need more men calling it out.

    And see the New York Times again today which details the level to which Weinstein sank to spy on these women.

    It’s finally being exposed. And so very late for some of us.

    XO
    WWW

  3. As a woman who has technically been sexually harassed and assaulted more times than I can count..I can honestly say that I’m not scarred or traumatized by any of my experiences. I’ve been disappointed, had my feelings hurt and at times angry with myself for being stupid or naive. Sometimes I fully intended to tease and tempt a man and learned that messing with a man’s head and libido is not a game to play. I’m not defending any of the perpetrators but I take responsibility for my role. When I decided I had enough, I stopped allowing it to happen by not putting myself in situations for it to happen. Obviously, some people didn’t have the choice/warning or were innocent children used and abused by people they thought were there to care for and protect them. And for them, my heart bleeds. And also, you pathetic, attention seeking band wagon jumpers are cheapening their personal hells. For the “victims” jumping on the band wagon to ruin public figures for a little attention, you should be ashamed of yourself for what you are doing. Some of these people may commit suicide for having their lives and careers ruined. I would bet that some of the accusers even bragged to friends about their experiences with famous men. I would bet that many of the accusers were not even shocked when the perpetrator made their sexual advances because they did accept an invite to a hotel room or “private party”. Women claim to want justice and equality but it’s coming off more as a desire to punish men and to make themselves blameless victims. If a man grabs a woman’s rear then they are a pervert but if a woman grabs a man..what’s the issue? My mother grabbed Gov. Jerry Brown’s butt back in the day and she has yet to have villagers with pitchforks show up on her doorstep….can’t say the same for poor 90 something year old George Bush senior…. Also, If an overage man sleeps with an underage girl, pedophile. Statutory rapist. A teenage boy “gets laid by a MILF” he is THE MAN ***high five playa playa pimp!***Parents, teach your girls and boys to respect and protect themselves.

    Ps, Show of hands if you are 100% sure you have never done anything that could be considered sexual harassment/misconduct…. ***this is me NOT raising my hand*** When will I be called out?? Never. Because I am an attractive female.

  4. @ Wisewebwoman ~ For what it’s worth, I have no doubt at all that what you describe would have been classed as sexual harassment by any tribunal I ever worked with (back in the UK between 1975 and the end of the 1990s.)

  5. A Response To All Three Commentators ~ first, I must apologise for the tardiness of this response. Unfortunately, the French influenza virus struck hard a couple of weeks ago and I am only now sufficiently recovered to attempt any kind of computer work.

    The first paragraph of the above post contained the sentence:
    “…any attempt by an individual to force their attentions (sexual, or otherwise) on another person is totally unacceptable…”
    I think that made my position, and that of this blog, absolutely clear. Any other part of the above post must be read bearing that fact in mind.

    There will always be predatory males (and, occasionally, predatory females) in our societies. The example given by ‘WWW’ was of a particularly bad one, in that here was someone who used their position of power to gain a sadistic thrill from someone else’s discomfort. Not some ‘office romeo’ thinking he was god’s gift and bragging of his ‘conquests’. I’ve known plenty of them. Usually, they left the firm’s employ as virginal as when they first arrived. No, this was the true pervert, one who got his kicks by demeaning his female employees, flouting his power over them.

    I’ve worked in offices and on factory floors in the course of my life. Certainly in most British factories, any such predator would find a group of male workers waiting for them at the gate as they left in the evening. The message would be clear: respect the women or suffer the consequences. No tribunals needed here, only rough justice if a warning proved insufficient.

    The vast majority of men do respect women. Sadly, there are occasional rotten apples.

    Surely, this has to be the most important part of the message, and the one the media is trashing by its blanket-coverage of accusations that in some cases, though not all, can never be proved. ‘AB’, in her comment, wrote:

    “Some of these people [the accused] may commit suicide for having their lives and careers ruined.

    Only last week, a Welsh Assembly Member Carl Sargeant was found hanged in his home, an act of suicide, after allegations of improper conduct were made against him by unknown individuals. At the initial inquest the coroner said:

    “May I take this opportunity to express my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr Sargeant and to assure them all that there will be a full and fair examination of the matters which are relevant to my investigation and that I shall not allow the inquest to be a trial by press, politics or personality.”[1]

    I think he may find avoiding a trial by “press, politics or personality” to be extremely difficult.

    Finally, I do believe British and European workplace harassment legislation to be much advanced over the U.S.. As ‘Twilight’ notes:

    ” …I have no doubt at all that what you (WWW) describe would have been classed as sexual harassment by any tribunal I ever worked with (back in the UK between 1975 and the end of the 1990s.)”

    Trial by media has long been a prerequisite of the U.S. entertainment industry, particularly when so-called “stars” are involved. Unfortunately, I am witnessing a similar downhill slide on this side of the pond with media ‘discussions’ now regularly toting the guilt, or otherwise, of persons involved in allegations, with little heed to the basic legal concept of our Western societies – that a person’s innocence is sacrosanct until legally proven guilty.

    Sub judice is dead; long live sub judice.

    In conclusion, I will reiterate my abhorrence of any form of sexual misconduct that causes direct harm to another human being. At best it displays a lack of respect, and at worst a perversion deserving of institutional confinement.

    The species homo sapiens has a long history of abuse of power. It’s probably one of the things we do best. Using that power to gain sexual favours, or to experience a perverted thrill at another’s expense, is just one of the abuses of power we need to clamp down on. I believe we’re moving in the right direction, as women’s rights movements and equality of the sexes become more prominent in our societies. There’s still a way to go. However, allowing our media to run riot and create metaphorical ‘lynching mobs’ is most definitely not the way forward.

    [1] “Wife found Welsh AM Carl Sargeant hanged at home after reading note left on door, inquest told”Telegraph, November 13th 2017

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