Sexual harassment: Let’s define it

Harvey Weinstein. Roy Moore. Al Franken. Charlie Rose. Matt Lauer. Garrison Keillor. And so many more, some known and many who have yet to apologize.

All have been accused of sexual harassment or worse.

This crime knows no boundaries. Democrats and Republicans. Rich people. Plenty of rich, powerful people. Hollywood types. Media moguls.

I have a question, which I haven’t heard anyone – except for one close friend – ask.

What, exactly, is sexual harassment?

Don’t tell me it’s in the eye of the beholder. That’s a cop-out, and no answer at all.

We need a definition that all of us, and I mean all of us, can agree on.

In no way am I excusing true sexual harassment. If a man touches a woman’s private parts, for example, that’s completely unacceptable and should be prosecuted to the extent of whatever laws there are.

What about a hug? If I give a woman (who is not my wife) a one-armed side hug, I have been taught that that’s OK. If I give her a full-body two-armed hug, that is not OK.

What if a woman gives me a full-body hug, then charges me with sexual harassment?

See the dilemma?

That’s why we need a national standard for sexual harassment.

Women and CPR

I saw an article recently that said women are less likely to receive CPR than a man is if she is having a heart attack. I wonder if the harassment issue plays into that.

What if I, even accidentally, touch a woman in the wrong place while trying to save her life? I’ve had CPR training, and they teach us to unbutton the victim’s shirt to improve the chances for success.

Would that cross the line? If I do that and the woman dies, could her family file charges against me?

I’m serious.

In today’s atmosphere, her family might be successful.

Again, I’m not condoning abuse. What Dr. Larry Nassar did to numerous female U.S. gymnasts in the name of medicine is inexcusable. Throw the book at him. Make an example out of him so that, hopefully, no one ever does that again.

Where’s the line between those two extremes? As a man, how do I know when I cross it?

Again, don’t tell me that if I have to ask the question, I’m guilty. That’s a cop-out.

And you’d probably be right anyway, as I’ll show in a minute.

Temptations and Hollywood

Temptations are everywhere in our sex-saturated society. Of course, that’s no excuse. Not every man touches a woman inappropriately after seeing a sexually-explicit television ad or an R-rated movie.

I see a TV ad these days with men in underwear and the voice-over announcer says, “Don’t wear your dad’s underwear.” You can hardly watch a football game without a closeup of the cheerleaders, often looking up. Prime-time TV shows joke about sex like it’s no big deal, something that everyone does, whether they’re married or not.

If everyone does it, why are men being punished for doing less? Every TV actor and actress likes it, including the women, according to the script writers.

Right?

If sex is mainstream in front of a camera, what’s the big deal off-camera?

Of course, it’s a big deal. Hollywood is not real, even though real people are saying and doing very real things. But we know better, don’t we?

So, where’s the line?

Keillor vs. Lauer

Garrison Keillor’s situation troubles me. According to an article in today’s newspaper, he “apparently put his hand on a woman’s bare back when trying to console her.”

“She recoiled. I apologized,” Keillor told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in an email. “I sent her an email of apology later, and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it.
“We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”

Minneapolis Public Radio terminated his contracts over that.

What did Keillor do wrong? He admitted his mistake immediately, and the woman accepted his apology.

That’s not good enough any more? What’s her purpose in hiring a lawyer?

To fire a popular radio figure, ruin his reputation and end his 40-year career?

The article doesn’t say anything about seeking monetary damages. Indeed, none of female victims in today’s high-profile cases are seeking financial damages.

If Matt Lauer used his position of influence to take advantage of women, his reputation should be ruined.

Garrison Keillor didn’t do that, apparently.

So, why do they suffer the same fate?

All men are guilty

If I touch a woman’s (covered) shoulder during a light moment, is that harassment? If I give a hug or pat on the back for emotional support or encouragement, is that harassment?

Don’t give me the “eye of the beholder” argument. You might change your mind later, as Keillor’s accuser did. If the standard changes, how can I possibly follow it?

Men are visual. We are wired that way. If you’re going to file a lawsuit against me for who I am, I stand no chance.

If you charge me with looking at you weird, I’m most likely guilty. Every male who ever lived, including me, has done this at some point. That doesn’t mean I’m going to act on that or that it’s even something I’m going to dwell on. That temptation often passes.

But for a second, I’m guilty.

That’s why we need a standard for sexual harassment. Where we seem to be headed, every man on Earth is guilty.

If you’re looking for a skeleton in my closet, you’ll probably find it. We men do our best to hide such things, but if you look expecting to find something, you will.

Here’s a thought. Each of us has good things in us, too. If you try to find the good in me, you might just draw that out instead.

Let’s define it

Again, I am not defending sexual harassment or abuse.

I’m just asking:

What is it?

Let’s come up with a definition we all can agree on.

Did Garrison Keillor cross that line?

If he did, then I daresay nearly all of us men are guilty.

What is the endgame here?

Respect?

Certainly, women need respect. To be honest, you haven’t had it in a long time. Look at our movies, TV shows and ads, magazines – and on and on. You’re portrayed as little more than sex objects across the landscape.

Why, women, do you put up with that stuff?

We should have had this discussion a long time ago.

Let’s define harassment.

Then, let’s follow that definition.

In every area of our lives.

Instead of hiring a lawyer, let’s think this through.

Then do something about it.

Equal but different

Once a week, I drive into Cleveland to mentor a fourth-grader at lunchtime. His family situation is difficult and he has issues with a classmate or two. We talk about how to deal with these things.

He has some wonderful gifts and talents, and I encourage him whenever I can.

On another front, I drive for my work, often in city traffic. I frequently let drivers merge in front of me who are waiting to exit a grocery store parking lot or the local McDonald’s.

On yet another side, there are six of us at the “office” where I work – five women and me. The staff nurse is a woman, the boss’ boss is a woman, the boss’ boss’ boss is a woman …

And I get along with all of them just fine. I take directions well, and try to be as supportive and encouraging of an employee as I can.

I also have a social media presence, where it’s easy to hide my introvertedness and encouraging spirit to join the fray like so many people do.

A social media discussion

Quite a few of my closest friends avoid social media for this reason. It’s so negative. That’s all they see.

But social media, like any form of technology, is a tool. It’s inanimate. It’s what we make it. Pornography abounds here, but so do uplifting sites and pages with specific interests that I follow.

Social media is a wonderful place to connect long-distance with friends and former co-workers. But it’s easy for those of you who don’t know me well or haven’t seen me in awhile to misunderstand who I am or where I’m coming from. We hide behind the technology very well.

Social media often is controversial. I pick my battles carefully there.

I picked one last week that sparked an enlightening discussion.

BSA

The Boy Scouts of America announced that for the first time in their century-old history, they would begin accepting girls. On a friend’s post about that, I offered this comment:

Boys are no longer allowed to become young men. That’s what we’ve lost. We are raising a unisex nation, where boys and girls are not only “equal,” they are no longer different – despite their obvious differences. And we wonder why our nation has lost its way. This is the main reason right here.

I’ve seen articles saying the Boy Scouts’ decision to accept girls was a business decision, and not to make a social statement. But they made a social statement.

Different

I brought up a concept I wish this country understood. I first encountered this in college in the late 1970s, and it’s even more prevalent today:

Different doesn’t mean inferior. Or superior.

This is obvious to me, but not to many Americans.

I’m so sorry about the Harvey Weinstein saga and the resulting #MeToo hashtag, which is showing that sexual harassment in all its forms is far more prevalent than we thought it was. In no way am I defending this.

But by saying that different doesn’t mean inferior or superior, I’m branded as a power-hungry white American male who just wants to keep women in their place – a lesser place than where men are, apparently.

Power grab?

In the social media discussion I raised the concepts of love and respect, which several women in the thread rejected as a power grab. Men say they give love and want respect, but only to remain in authority.

I wrote that by love I mean Biblical love, not love as America understands it. The woman whom I had the best discussion with on this topic said she’s not a “believer” and doesn’t know about Biblical love. I said it’s worth exploring, and left it at that.

I felt the discussion was good and helpful, at least to me.

Others chimed in and saw me as the typical white American male who doesn’t understand the struggles of women. I can’t deny I am a white American male.

Does that automatically make me power hungry?

I know many men who do not fit that profile, and we raise sons who love and respect the women (and men – and animals, for that matter) in their lives as well.
But as I said on another thread, the men who truly are power hungry get all the headlines. They rape, they commit other crimes against humanity, they talk and live as ego-driven alphas …

I cannot defend them, nor should I. At times I am ashamed to be a white American male. Far too many of us abuse our positions of authority and leadership. It’s no wonder women are fighting back.

‘Lifestyle evangelism’

But not all of us guys are power-hungry egomaniacs.

How can I convince you of that?

By my lifestyle.

I don’t have to mentor an inner-city fourth-grader. I don’t have to let traffic merge in front of me. I don’t have to donate blood, which I’ve done for more than three decades and which benefits people I will never know.

I don’t do such things for your compliments. I’m not interested in a full trophy case. I don’t need the corner office or the big salary or the job title. If a woman attains those things, I’ll celebrate her accomplishments and do what I can to help her continue to grow professionally. I’ve had a number of female supervisors over the years, and nearly all of them did – and do – their jobs well. It’s not hard for me to respect a woman in authority, or as a peer.

Teammates

Equal but different? Why is that such a hard concept to understand?

On a football team, there are 11 players on offense, but only one is the quarterback. If the “big uglies,” the offensive linemen, don’t do their jobs, the quarterback can’t do his either. They need each other. Their jobs are very different. They have different skill sets and do different things.

But everyone on the offense, all 11 players, has the same goal: to score a touchdown. Each of them has to do his part well for that to happen.

Men understand this. We all dream of being the star quarterback, but in real life, we know better.

A power grab? No. Men and women are teammates in this game called life. Numerous books have been written on the differences between men and women. This is not rocket science.

We – men and women – ignore this to our own peril.

We’re partners in every sense of that word.