What it’s really about is work, and women’s equality in the workplace, and more broadly, about the rot at the core of our power structures that makes it harder for women to do work because the whole thing is tipped toward men.
…One of the perils at hand — as we try to parse how butt-groping or unsolicited kissing can exist on the same scale as violent rape — is a reversion to attitudes about women as sexually infantilized victims.
…The thing that unites these varied revelations isn’t necessarily sexual harm, but professional harm and power abuse.
…Sexual harassment may entail behaviors that on their own would be criminal — assault or rape — but the legal definition of its harm is about the systemic disadvantaging of a gender in the public and professional sphere.
…To cross powerful men is to jeopardize not just an individual job in an individual office; it’s to risk far broader professional harm within whole professions where men hold sway, to cut yourself off from future opportunity.
…As hard as it is to stir concern over women’s sexual autonomy, we do have a long history of wanting to protect (some) women’s virtue. It is also true that we still rile ourselves up more about a woman’s sexual violability than we do about her professional autonomy or rights to public and economic equality.
…Glenn Thrush, who is accused of making unwanted advances outside of his workplace, against colleagues he did not directly supervise, would seem to give fodder to those worried about a sex panic: It raises the concern that bad passes, made between adults at a bar, might get condemned as sexual harassment in a way that assumes the women in question to be incapable of full sexual participation.
…A man telling a story about how a female colleague came on to him and he put a stop to it has the potential to do damage to the woman’s professional standing — rendering her as needy, undesirable, and showing professional bad judgment — while bolstering the man’s, by framing him as responsible, mature, professional, and ultimately desirable to the opposite sex.
…What makes women vulnerable is not their carnal violability, but rather the way that their worth has been understood as fundamentally erotic, ornamental; that they have not been taken seriously as equals; that they have been treated as some ancillary reward that comes with the kinds of power men are taught to reach for and are valued for achieving.
…A woman who is harassed, or who is in a workplace where other women are, might feel vividly the full weight of the system that’s not set up with her in mind, and see with clarity how much more difficult her professional path will be at every turn, how success might not be on her terms, but on terms set by powerful men. She might feel shame, or embarrassment that worms its way into her head, affects her confidence. She will likely spend time and energy focusing on how to maneuver around the harasser, time and energy that might otherwise be spent on her own advancement. Some women decide to play along; maybe their careers will benefit from it or maybe they will suffer, but they may long wonder whether their success or failure was determined not by their own talents or even by a lucky break, but rather by how they responded to a man. This is especially difficult for very young women, those with fewer economic or social resources, who lack professional networks and professional stability; it’s these women who are most likely to be targeted. The whole thing might begin to feel overwhelmingly difficult, hopeless, perhaps not worth the fight. It can mean a sapping of ambition.
…The frustrated conversations between some Democratic women in the Senate had gone on for a week, held sometimes, literally, in the Senate’s women’s restrooms: What should they do [in response ot he allegations about Sen. Franken?]
Those women surely knew that if they did not speak out against Franken, they would be tarred as self-interested hypocrites; they probably also understood that if they did speak out against him, they would be viewed as self-interested executioners.
…The shitty position women are so often put in: as the designated guardians, entrusted —whether as colleagues or wives — with policing men’s bad behaviors, they will get dinged for complicity if they don’t police it vigilantly enough, and risk being cast as castrating villainesses if they issue sentence.
This Moment Isn’t (Just) About Sex