Ha­rass­ment is about power, con­trol

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - OPINION - By Laura Fin­ley, Ph.D.

Do we re­ally have to go over this again? It hardly seems pos­si­ble that, once more, peo­ple need to be re­minded that women do not bring on or in­vite sex­ual ha­rass­ment or as­sault.

Yet here we are, with the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ha­rass­ment and as­sault by Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein. While some celebri­ties have spoken out against We­in­stein’s deplorable be­hav­ior, many have re­mained silent.

But Donna Karan takes the cake, hav­ing been the lat­est di­ar­rhea-mouth to claim that women are re­spon­si­ble be­cause of how we present our­selves. Karan went on, “Are we ask­ing for it by pre­sent­ing all the sen­su­al­ity and all the sex­u­al­ity? And what are we throw­ing out to our chil­dren to­day about how to dance and how to per­form and what to wear?”

And of course Karan threw in the old atta-boy, not­ing that We­in­stein, who set­tled sex­ual ha­rass­ment suits with eight women and has now been ac­cused by at least three of sex­ual as­sault, has done “some amaz­ing things” and call­ing him and his wife “won­der­ful peo­ple.”

No, Donna, we are not “ask­ing for it.” By def­i­ni­tion, sex­ual ha­rass­ment is un­wanted sex­ual com­ments and ges­tures. What we are do­ing is deal­ing with it, and on a far too-reg­u­lar ba­sis. Sur­veys have shown that ap­prox­i­mately one-third of women in the U.S. en­dure work­place sex­ual ha­rass­ment like that per­pe­trated by We­in­stein. If our daugh­ters are be­ing taught any­thing through this scan­dal it is that they might have to deal with dis­gust­ing old men say­ing lewd things and mak­ing ob­nox­ious and in­ap­pro­pri­ate ad­vances. These women, some of whom en­dured not just com­ments but un­wanted grop­ing and forcible oral and vagi­nal sex, are not teach­ing our daugh­ters any­thing about “sen­su­al­ity and sex­u­al­ity.” Be­cause guess what? Just like rape, sex­ual ha­rass­ment isn’t about sex­ual at­trac­tion. It’s about power and con­trol.

No, Donna. This is not about how women are “pre­sent­ing them­selves.” This isn’t about chang­ing norms or some failed de­cency on the part of women or about moth­ers who aren’t rais­ing their girls right. It is, how­ever, about our con­tin­ued in­abil­ity as a so­ci­ety to teach men how to be­have ap­pro­pri­ately and to hold them ac­count­able when they do not.

Just days ago, I had vir­tu­ally this same con­ver­sa­tion with an el­derly gen­tle­man, who de­cried how dif­fi­cult it is nowa­days be­cause he can’t tell a woman at work that she looks “sexy” with­out fac­ing po­ten­tial reper­cus­sions. Oh, the hor­ror; you don’t get to say what­ever you want! That must be a real threat to your man­hood, to your be­lief that you have li­cense over women. The nerve of these young women who don’t sim­ply ac­cept your garbage.

No, Donna. We­in­stein is not a “won­der­ful” per­son. He is a dan­ger­ous preda­tor who ha­rassed, abused, and as­saulted women left and right. There is no one-off here but a pat­tern of be­hav­ior that reeks of en­ti­tled mas­culin­ity. Like Bill Cosby and other pow­er­ful celebri­ties, We­in­stein used his sta­tus to dom­i­nate women as if it was his birthright.

The courage it took for these women to come for­ward against We­in­stein, who used le­gal threats, pay­ments, and his power in Hol­ly­wood, should be soundly ap­plauded.

Be­cause as Ro­nan Far­row of The New Yorker re­ported, his be­hav­ior was widely known at Mi­ra­max and the We­in­stein Com­pany yet even wit­nesses and ob­servers feared say­ing any­thing be­cause they knew that We­in­stein would crush them.

While much more will likely emerge about this sit­u­a­tion, what should be ridicu­lously clear is that we still have a long way to go to make the U.S. a safe place for women and girls. That is the deeply sad re­al­ity.

Laura Fin­ley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry Univer­sity Depart­ment of So­ci­ol­ogy & Crim­i­nol­ogy and is syn­di­cated by PeaceVoice.

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