Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The immortal Frank Zappa recorded a great instrumental of that title.   He also recorded a track called The Torture Never Stops.   Observant, prescient and correct on each count.

There’s been a lot of talk recently of Anita Hill’s ordeal in 1991, when she came forward, reluctantly, to reveal things about the unsavory character of the Black Klansman, Clarence Thomas, then expected to sail through his confirmation hearings garnering a huge majority of votes in the Senate. [1]  Anita Hill was subjected to humiliating questioning from a series of male pigs, some licking their lips as they asked her about “large breasts” and how she knew about the size of Long Dong Silver’s ungodly huge dick unless she’d seen the movies, and wasn’t she just a little love-struck around her tall, dark, handsome boss, didn’t she really seek his attention, didn’t she truly want it, all of it?   Wasn’t it possible, they asked, that she was suffering from that well-known woman’s disease erotomania?    

The Anita Hill testimony was a sickening spectacle, participated in by Joe Biden, then Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  He wanted to know exactly how she felt as she was being sexually harassed, where exactly, physically, the alleged harassment had taken place, and shit like that.  Hill was put on trial, treated as a hostile witness, presented by the Committee not as a law professor testifying under oath, out of principle, but a helpless hysteric desperate to bring a great man down because she had been romantically scorned by him.   Biden claims now that he believed her and tried to control the other pigs on the Committee (which voted 7 to 7 to recommend him to the full Senate for a confirmation vote, tie apparently going to the runner), and says he owes her an apology she has not yet received.

Twenty-seven years later Republicans on the Judiciary Committee (at least one, 85 year-old Chairman Chuck Grassley,  was in the Senate when Anita Hill testified, no doubt cast his vote for Thomas) are attempting to set up the same kind of scrupulously fair bipartisan misogynist gang-bang type hearing for Christine Blasey Ford.   We will see how the chess game between the Republican brain trust and Ford’s lawyers plays out.  

The Republicans have to tread with some care advancing their unpopular agenda here, as Kavanaugh’s approval rating, in the low 30s,  is even lower than the president’s.  We are also at a historical moment when women are united in being publicly sick of this shit, as sick of it as boys raped by priests must be about the Pope refusing to call the timeless church protection of these sexual predators by its name: evil.

Underscoring the cultural ticklishness of this moment for Kavanaugh and the anti-woman cause, the president has been relatively silent.   The rabid leader of the Republicans, a blustering man with virtually no impulse control, has been remarkably measured in his comments so far, not once calling the accuser a lying fucking cunt or anything remotely like that.   He did express his sympathy for what poor Brett Kavanaugh is being put through now.  “I feel badly for him,” the president said soulfully, revealing, unintentionally (as is his way)  through a grammatical mistake, that he has trouble feeling anything for anybody. [2]  

Of course, in the case of our President, a man who brags about grabbing women by the pussy, pops Tic-tacs to be ready to kiss them hard on the mouth, walks into the dressing room to ogle naked teenaged beauty pageant contestants, has sex for pay while his third wife recovers from childbirth, etc., would feel bad thinking about the tough spot good Mr. Kavanaugh is suddenly in. 

Here’s an article  framing a 1995 Senate resignation as some kind of precursor to Al Franken’s.  Al Franken’s alleged sexual transgressions pale next to decades of bad behavior toward women by a serious piece of shit, Bob Packwood (long-time socially liberal Republican Senator).  Packwood didn’t stop at mugging for a friend’s camera in a sophomoric pose and possible groping, he liked really grabbing, hugging, surprise tongue-kissing, being aroused by the struggle, fornicating with a series of ambivalent young women he had power over, in a variety of places.  

I regret very much that, because the moment was right for women like Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to pressure Franken into immediately resigning from the Senate, Franken obliged by immediately falling on his sword.   Franken had already done precisely what you’d hope anyone accused of misconduct would do — call for an investigation into the allegations against him and promise to abide by whatever the findings of that Committee were.   100% correct response by a public servant to a serious allegation against him or her.    

Not enough, his political career was ended on based on accusations, the most stinging of which, by former Playboy model and friend and guest of Trump-intimate Sean Hannity,  Leanne Tweeden, appeared to have been politically motivated.   The accusations against Franken were enough to remove the Democrat’s most able interrogator from political life forever, because his party demanded it.   Bob Packwood, by contrast, held on through several years of investigation, fought a subpoena for his diaries, redacted some of the most incriminating things when he had to turn them over, and resigned in disgrace (mitigated, one thinks, by the millions he then made as a lobbyist).

It goes back to my long song about the importance of transparency, honest reactions, blah blah blah. The truth, it seems to me, is not a thing to be shamefully hidden in the interest of prevailing (or for any other reason).   The Right is fond of saying if you have nothing to hide why object to a strip search?  If you have nothing to hide, they say, why do you need the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures at all?   Unless you’re guilty, let the policeman probe your orifices.   Scalia ruled that a little glimpse up the old rectum was nothing anyone should feel squeamish about, as long as its done in the name of law and order.  Americans believe in Law and Order (and not just the TV series, either) don’t we?

If you have nothing to hide, why classify 100,000 pages of legal opinions, why block an FBI background investigation, an investigation that would take only a few days? Because you can, because the investigation is likely to turn up things, like those pesky legal memos written to Bush and Cheney, you don’t want turned up.  Because you are guilty as fuck, and know it, and indignantly deny it, strongly deny it, forcefully deny it.  Trump does no less, you can see him doing it with all his heart, with all his might and with all his soul.  For him a strong denial by a politically useful malefactor is more than good enough, it’s the best proof the lying fuck is on his team.

 Jesus looks down on Christians acting this way and weeps, bitter tears.  As bitter, one would think, as the ones privately shed by a popular, humanistic Pope who cannot pronounce the word “evil” to describe the institutional protection of countless generations of child molesters, even if it burns him, the simple desire to just call the indefensible abomination what it is.

Brooke Gladstone conducted a great, illuminating seven minute interview  about repentance, apology, atonement and reconciliation.  Worth hearing, my friends (it’s under #MeToo Men, Repent).  The conversation underscores the social and personal importance of sincere repentance and why the privileged and powerful refuse to apologize for anything, ever.  Why should they?   They have no stake in making the world a better place, it’s already perfect, for them.  Just got to brazen it out, while the angry bitches fecklessly attack.



[1]   Thomas was H.W. Bush’s cynical replacement for the principled Thurgood Marshall, the first, and to date only, black Supreme Court justice.  I know Thomas is technically “black”, but the motherfucker is as white privileged as anyone ever born in this country.   Marshall’s confirmation fight went on for a year as Segregationists blocked the hearings at every turn.   They had a right to fear what Marshall would do on the Court, he’d been the lead attorney for Brown v. Board of Education, the case that legally ended Separate But Equal, though the “deliberate speed” with which the 64 year-old court order is being carried out has been deliberate indeed.   Still, one can’t help but see the irony in the relatively quick confirmation, 52-48 of the rock-ribbed conservative protector of white privilege Thomas.   He whined about being the victim of a “high tech lynching”.   Oh, my!

[2]  “I feel badly” meaning, literally, I am bad at feeling.

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