Who will it be today?
Every morning we brace ourselves before looking at our news feeds. Which beloved or respected public figure will be accused of harassing or assaulting women?
On Twitter and Facebook, the outraged, depressed and weary are pleading: “Please, please don’t let it be _____,” inserting the name of a favorite movie star, admired politician, holy man or even the boss we adore. Because it’s starting to feel as if it could be just about anybody, right?
This week’s Advent Calendar of Horrors opened to show chef Mario Batali, who is admired for his cooking but adored for his jolly demeanor and ridiculous footwear. He apologized for behavior that included grabbing women’s breasts and buttocks.
“Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted,” Batali wrote in a statement to The Washington Post. He has taken a leave of absence from his restaurants and been removed from his role on ABC’s “The Chew.”
And last week it was the respected U.S. Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski, who has now been accused by six former clerks or junior staffers of inappropriate sexual conduct, including showing two of them porn in his chambers.
Three men have resigned from Congress amid allegations of sexual misconduct: Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who asked two former female staffers to bear his child as a surrogate.
Meanwhile, an accused groper who once bragged on an “Access Hollywood” tape about grabbing women by their crotches occupies the Oval Office. In between calling all his accusers liars, President Trump has been urging the voters of Alabama to elect to the Senate a man who allegedly preyed on teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in his 30s.
Let’s call this the #NotYouToo part of the movement.
There’s a whole list of men we’re hoping and praying aren’t creeps, right? And a deeply disturbing question about what percentage of men in this country are harassers and predators? Is it 10 percent? 20 percent? Higher?
While the national reckoning on sexual harassment and assault is shocking to some, it’s hardly a surprise to the huge population of women who have been betrayed by a mentor, a caregiver, a family member or a friend.
The numbers, after all, show that most women — 6 out of 10 — who report being sexually assaulted knew their attacker, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And sexual assault is hugely underreported in the United States. According to the 2015 Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the Justice Department, the number of violent sexual assaults that weren’t reported that year were more than double the ones that were reported.
When we talk about sexual harassment in the workplace, we confront the same phenomenon of underreporting. As the #MeToo outpouring demonstrates, it’s way bigger than anyone thinks.
“Common workplace-based responses by those who experience sex-based harassment are to avoid the harasser, deny or downplay the gravity of the situation, or attempt to ignore, forget, or endure the behavior,” an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission task force on workplace harassment reported last year.
The folks who handled nearly 7,000 sexual harassment complaints last year estimate that 3 out of 4 harassment victims never report it.
Does this all mean everyone’s a harasser? At times, it sure feels like it.
Some men are responding to the onslaught of allegations by avoiding interacting with women in the workplace. Vice President Pence, for instance, doesn’t dine alone with a woman who isn’t his wife or attend any event where alcohol is served without her. He’s been ridiculed for it — the Onion reported that Pence asked for the removal of Mrs. Butterworth from his breakfast table — and justifiably so.
This rule immediately limits women’s access to power-brokering, networking or any other interactions men are allowed to have with one another, and it turns women into little more than tempting sex objects.
But let’s be real about this. Take a good look around you — your workplace, your house of worship, your neighborhood, your home. For every crotch-grabber, flasher and creep to make headlines, there are good men who don’t harass. And who don’t need Pence’s rule to remain respectful of the women around them.
They’ve been following — perhaps unbeknown to them — the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson rule.
It’s not complex, tricky or confusing, this issue of sexual harassment.
Simply treat every woman you come across the way you would treat Johnson.
Would you put your hand on The Rock’s knee, massage his shoulders while talking about a work issue, ask him up to your hotel room, fondle his behind, lock the door from your desk or drop your pants and show him your junk? No?
Congratulations, it’s #NotYouToo.
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