Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sexual Harassment Hyperbole

One of the things I'm very happy about in retirement is that I'm not subject to some of the sexual harassment hyperbole in the workplace that we see every day.  Of course, I suppose I could suffer some crazy accusation in real life, but that's not too likely.  It's funny how the longer you live, the crazier things seem to become.  Maybe that's because we get used to life as we know it and think it was just fine the way it was.  Maybe that's human nature.  Don't know.  But it seems to me that the whole industry of sexual harassment has really seen the pendulum swing way over to the other side of where it was.

Now don't get me wrong.  I strongly believe in equality of the sexes.  The closest women to me are generally strong, confident and empowered women.  I lived in a world (US Navy) for 25 years that evolved in how we treated women.  It went from token to experimenting with integration to grudging acceptance to widespread acceptance and recognition of the value of women in the service.  Today they are integrated into virtually every specialty.  But it wasn't all smooth sailing.  There were bumps along the road.  And I experienced and dealt with many of them.  Of course, with any change of that magnitude hiccups and difficulties are to be expected.  The pioneering women in the early days of the Navy should be very proud of where the sea service stands today.

When I left the Navy I went to work for a major aerospace company.  It was a male dominated environment.  Lots of engineers, contracts specialists, technicians, etc that were predominantly male. But here's the thing.  Over the years I worked there the company went to extraordinary lengths to recruit and hire qualified women into both entry level and upper positions.  And they have been very successful.  Is there more to do?  Absolutely.  But today, the opportunities for women in the aerospace industry are almost unlimited.  The CEO of the largest aerospace company in the world, Lockheed Martin, is a woman.  When I retired I was amazed at how far the company had come and as I looked around, there were women in virtually every level of management.  Was it always easy for them?  No.  They had to fight through a lot of prejudice and, I'm sure, harassment.  But there was progress and it continues today.

Which brings me to my disappointment and, frankly, astonishment of a couple of sexual harassment stories in the news.  The first involves former Senator Jim Webb.  You probably know the story.  He has had a distinguished and honorable career.  But 40 years ago as a 1st Lt in the Marines during Vietnam, he was against women in the military.  He wrote about it and used some intemperate language.  Since that time, and has he has matured and gained more experience, he has apologized and by his actions improved the lot of women in the military.  Fast forward to today and he was going to be honored by the US Naval Academy (he's a grad) as a distinguished graduate.  However, several women or women's groups were determined to protest the award based on his remarks 40 years ago.  So he withdrew from consideration.  He did this because he loves the Naval Academy and didn't want to stain the award.  I understand his decision but I'm deeply disappointed that the Academy didn't insist on presenting him this award.  Because in truth they capitulated to blackmail.  CDR Salamander has a good summary over on his blog and you can read it here.  This is an all too typical story these days.  We've got to find a way to forgive.  We've got to find a way to realize that minds change and thoughts evolve.  And we've got to find a way to accept disagreement without killing each other.

The second story has been screaming through the headlines for the last week or so.  Of course it's the Bill O'Reilly firing over at Fox News.  Now let me just state uncategorically that I rarely watched him because he's a blowhard, a jackass, and a bully.  There's no doubt about that.  At least on the air there is no doubt about it.  You know the story.  He and Fox were supposed to have paid out around $13 million dollars to keep some women who accused him of sexual harassment quiet.  Not having walked in a celebrity's shoes, maybe that's the standard way of doing things.  I don't know.  Personally, I think that's pretty cowardly.  Either face your accuser and go toe to toe for the win or admit your sins and quit.  Simple as that.  Paying folks off seems pretty smarmy to me.  But once the stories came out, he was a dead man walking.  Sponsors bailed.  Network executives dumped him quickly.  But here's my question.  Did they do that because of his behavior or because they were afraid of the potential lawsuits or because they were afraid of the feminist mafia or because they believed rumors and just wanted to get ahead of the crises or for some other reason.  If it was the first, good for them.  But I suspect it was because of one of the others.

I've only seen one of the accusers story.  You can check it out below.  A couple of things stand out.  First, the evidence is thin.  Extraordinarily thin.  Her reaction was curious.  No questioning, no confrontation, no going to superiors, no immediate accusations.  She lets 8 or 10 years go by, gets a high powered lawyer (who by the way admits that O'Reilly is a target to take down), and comes forward in the absolute most friendly and gooey environment imaginable, The View.  So I'm not buying it.  And if this is all they got, then O'Reilly is getting railroaded.  But it's too late.  The horse is out of the barn.  He's done for.  Now he'll be fine thank you very much.  He won't be visiting any soup kitchens.  But his reputation is in tatters.  And I can't help but think that it was more important for many of his accusers to either get a pay off or take him down with a vengeance than seek justice.  I don't think these women are furthering the cause of women's rights...because they just look weak.

I really don't know where we're going in this country regarding women's rights.  I thought we were headed in the right direction but lately I'm not so sure.  I see women demonstrating because they are denied rights and I try to figure out where that is.  It's simply not my experience.  I see women claiming that they aren't paid equally and I try to figure out how that can be when I just don't see any difference.  Is it just me?  I've got to question that.  In my experience pay is determined by competence.  I've seen plenty of studies to refute the claim of pay inequality, but the myth persists.  I see women deeply disappointed that we don't have a woman President, while not admitting that their candidate was probably the worst and most flawed candidate in our history.  I spend a fair amount of time volunteering in schools and see strong, smart, talented girls doing everything and more that the boys do, and yet I'm told they are at a disadvantage.  I see women demonstrating fiercely for the right to an abortion to the point that it is the only thing that matters.  I truly believe that most Americans think that abortions are terrible but should be legal.  I agree with Bubba in this matter...abortions should be safe, legal and rare.  It's an important issue...but not the only issue.  All of this worries me a bit but then I think they are just the ramblings of an old guy and we've been doing that forever.  I've got 5 granddaughters who are smart, beautiful, accomplished, powerful, fierce, and have all the potential in the world.  I really hope that they won't listen to the folks who tell them they aren't good enough.  I really hope they won't listen to the folks who tell them that every action by the males around them are suspect and likely can be harassment.  I really hope they won't listen to the folks who tell them that they have to wait their turn, expect less, and find a man to make them happy.  But here's what gives me hope.  I've got a great son and daughter (and son-in-law and daughter-in-law) who have their heads on straight and are teaching their kids well.  So I'm hopeful...hopeful that those little girls will have a strong foundation, wise teaching, and develop a steady compass for their lives.

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