Trump’s ig­no­rance about sex­ual ha­rass­ment

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Ruth Mar­cus

— Don­ald Trump says his daugh­ter, were she a vic­tim of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, should “find an­other ca­reer or find an­other com­pany.” His son Eric Trump said that his sis­ter Ivanka “is a strong, pow­er­ful woman” who would not “al­low her­self to be sub­jected to that” treat­ment.

How nice for them. How nice for her. In the real world — the one not in­hab­ited by Trumps or oth­ers with trust funds and triplexes and bulging bank ac­counts — women don’t nec­es­sar-

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ily have the lux­ury of find­ing an­other ca­reer. They can’t walk away from jobs and pay­checks they need to make the rent or put food on the ta­ble.

They can’t nec­es­sar­ily take the risk of turn­ing down the boss who puts the moves on them and hop­ing that the per­son­nel depart­ment will step in to pro­tect them. “By the way, you should take it up with Hu­man Re­sources,” Eric Trump told CBS’ “This Morn­ing.”

The real world is a less comfy place than Trump Tower.

Men of a cer­tain age (that is, Don­ald Trump’s age) some­times have a hard time un­der­stand­ing how much the world has changed, and how be­hav­ior that once was rou­tine and ac­cepted has be­come off-lim­its and ac­tion­able. But men of a cer­tain age also, in­creas­ingly, have daugh­ters like Ivanka Trump, who are mak­ing their way in a work­place that might not have the out­right sex­u­al­ized at­mos­phere of a “Mad Men” en­vi­ron­ment but that still poses chal­lenges for women seek­ing to be treated equally and taken se­ri­ously. Many of these men, there­fore, have been ed­u­cated — if not on their own, then by their wives and daugh­ters — about the re­al­i­ties of the work­place and the im­por­tance of fair and equal treat­ment.

Not, ap­par­ently, Trump. His re­sponse to the reports of for­mer Fox News chief Roger Ailes’ be­hav­ior to­ward women who worked for him has been classic Trump: clue­less and of­fen­sive, with un­mis­tak­able over­tones of out­right misog­yny. Trump’s sym­pa­thies, on learn­ing of the Ailes al­le­ga­tions, were all with the al­leged vic­tim­izer, not with his al­leged vic­tims.

“I can tell you that some of the women that are com­plain­ing, I know how much he’s helped them. And even re­cently,” Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “And when they write books that are fairly re­cently re­leased, and they say won­der­ful things about him. And now, all of a sud­den, they’re say­ing these hor­ri­ble things about him. It’s very sad.”

Re­ally, that’s what’s sad? That a man could be ac­cused of prey­ing sex­u­ally on women who also had nice things to say about some­one who signed their pay­checks or con­trolled their ca­reers? Much of the coun­try re­ceived an ed­u­ca­tion on the topic of sex­ual ha­rass­ment 25 years ago, dur­ing the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hear­ings.

Back then, many women un­der­stood, and many men came to un­der­stand, that the re­al­i­ties of the work­place might mean that a woman could both re­sent sex­ual over­tures or com­ments from her boss and stay in her job or even fol­low that boss to a new work­place. Work­place life is com­pli­cated and full of trade-offs.

Speak­ing out, speak­ing up, can be risky, that hu­man re­sources depart­ment notwith­stand­ing. That Fox News’ Gretchen Carl­son would have waited to go pub­lic with her com­plaints about Ailes’ al­leged treat­ment of her un­til af­ter she left the net­work does not seem sur­pris­ing to any woman who has weighed the costs and ben­e­fits of say­ing that she will not tol­er­ate such be­hav­ior.

Some­how, this mes­sage, the les­son of the Anita Hill hear­ings, has eluded Trump. His com­ments to USA To­day’s Kirsten Pow­ers il­lus­trate once again: This is a man who can see the world only from his own van­tage point, or from that of in­flu­en­tial al­lies like Ailes. He casts him­self as the pro­tec­tor of the work­ing class, when he pro­tects, and re­spects, only power and the pow­er­ful.

Ruth Mar­cus is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at ruthmar­cus@wash­post.com.

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