Pundits tut-tutting about sexual harassment are sadly silent on the day-to-day workplace inequalities faced by women
Here we are, nearly a week into the Herman Cain scandal, and all I've been thinking is: Here we go again.
Please understand that I consider myself a hardcore feminist, that I am absolutely a Democrat, and that as the Republican candidates go, I find Mr. Cain among the most idiotic and least viable, and would be perfectly happy to have this be his ruin. But it's precisely because I care about women's issues that I am disgusted by this media field day that is not serious about sexism or the real workaday concerns of real women. In fact, in the the 20 years since Anita Hill brought sexual harassment into the national conversation during the Thomas confirmation hearings, the conditions of working women have improved not at all in any real way. We still only make about 80 cents for every man's dollar, and are still only 16 percent of corporate executives and 17 percent of Big Law partners -- but, I guess, we have a less "hostile environment." At least we know that sometimes a Coke can is not just a Coke can.
I don't think women want the many men who are more powerful in the workplace making sexual advances or talking trash in the rows of cubicles or on the assembly line, but I know we would put up with an awful lot of unpleasantness in exchange for some straight-up equality when it comes to remuneration and position. Sexual harassment is, of course, just a symbol of the lack of those things. In a typical work day, not to mention in the course of employment, both men and women will be uncouth and uncool because we are all idiots at times. If only feminist principles or legal recourse could cure human shortcomings that come short of sexual harassment, or including behavior as bad as that. Since that will never happen, we can expect sexism, and sexual harassment, to go away when wage inequality goes away. All of us know that respect is granted not with kind words but with corner office suites and big salaries and bigger bonuses.
Meanwhile, all these noisy, obnoxious mostly-male pundits are terrifically excited to be raising Cain. Suddenly they care about sexism -- even though day in and day out they ignore the assault on women's reproductive rights (which goes straight into the bull's eye of misogyny) that is perpetrated by the Republicans in Congress. They don't care about the routine scandal that is the war on women. Only a couple of weeks ago, for symbolic reasons, the House of Representatives passed the Protect Life Act -- a.k.a. the "Let Women Die Act" -- that would allow doctors to deny abortions to women who face life-threatening conditions if they remain pregnant.
When feminism is fun, people care. I get it. I mostly don't care about things unless they are fun either. And scandal is fun. But I'd appreciate it if all the loud lunatics on MSNBC and Fox News would just admit that they are in this for kicks, and not as a matter of principle. No, this is not a high-tech lynching. It is throwing pie in the face of the pizza man.
Image credit: Jason Reed/Reuters
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