Monday, April 18, 2016

Sexual harassment against women continues: “Confirmation,” the Movie

 "I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their prejudice and hate so stubbornly is they sense that once hate is gone they will be forced to deal with their own pain."
James Baldwin

Confirmation, the new HBO movie about Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court Justice nomination process, reminds us vividly that sexual harassment of women was not only rampant 25 years ago but still occurs today.  Perhaps the glaring details and structures are more subtle and covert these days but such abuse of women and support for the good ole boy network are still very much alive and well, even here in Tennessee.

Just look at the status of women’s reproductive health in Tennessee, another form of sexual harassment. Look at the amount of sex trafficking.

As I watched the Confirmation debacle, I tried my best to view the men with compassion. Being someone who advocates for peace and justice, I still could not calm my anger and disappointment about the unfairness and injustice that were so rampant in those years, and now.

I try very hard not to stereotype, and I don’t hate men, but have loved and respected many men in my lifetime.

This movie also displays the problem with those white men on the Senate Judiciary Committee passing judgment, some of whom had exhibited much worse behaviors than Thomas in their treatment of women. Some of these men coined Anita Hill’s sexual harassment claims as fiction, fantasy, or a psychiatric disorder. Not needing to look as far up as Supreme Court justices, we view in today’s news frightening statistics about domestic violence, incest and rape far too frequently.

(Mostly) white men have been in power in this country for so long that we have taken patriarchy for granted. And now, that is gradually but thankfully changing.
Women used to be so frequently sexually harassed in their jobs that this behavior became a social norm. How do I know?  Because it happened to me.  Women learned to expect such behavior from powerful men and some women played men for gain.  Whether they be politicians, bosses, ministers, fathers or husbands, men have learned to disrespect women for far too long partly because of this culture that has raised them. And, we all have a part in this while we raise our families.

During my early 20’s, a local college professor in his 40’s offered a scholarship for graduate school work, so I went to talk with him.  He wined and dined me but when he tried to have sex with me during that first meeting, I refused.  Needless to say, I didn’t get the scholarship. When young women experience this kind of behavior, they learn not to trust or respect men, making for messy relationship dynamics throughout time.

The good news is that women have now expanded their presence in politics and leadership, organizations require training about sexual harassment, and women’s rights have increased.  But, make no mistake.  Sexual harassment still occurs today, perhaps less frequently but just as perniciously.

We continue to have much work to do to change our culture regarding crimes against women.