Tue, Nov 14, 2017 - Page 9 News List

What is the common denominator among sexual harassers?

The greater the imbalance of income and power, the more opportunity there is to take advantage. As a result, many women feel trapped by their abusers

By Alissa Quart  /  The Guardian

Female colleagues of my generation similarly have accounts of their own harassment that they have often buried in the corner of their minds, hoping to hide the shame under the sediment of decades of professional success.

Twenty or 15 years ago, they were young, financially on the edge, with little standing and sometimes no savings accounts. There were the mentors who wanted quid pro quo or the colleague who came upstairs to pick up some papers and put his hands on their bodies.

The “blurred line” was that the worker was under a short-term contract and the perpetrator might be phoning that person at night and outside his office — it all acted as camouflage for predatory behavior.

Today, all the memories of the harassment and the inequality that surrounded it back then as well come rushing back, when one reads the Excel spreadsheet of accused male media-world harassers, or the hashtags swelling with women sharing their stories, or phrases like “whisper network” or “father-son talk” as they take on new and darker meanings.

To be sure, a few critics worry of a witch hunt and indeed some of the accused men might in the end turn out to be “merely” boorishly sexist top dogs.

In addition, the “alt-right” has also seized upon the allegations against some of these men, with the seeming aim of taking as many progressive journalists down as possible.

Nevertheless, the overall zeitgeist has been thrilling, as if we women are finally toppling our oppressors and no longer living in fear of the consequences.

Still, income inequality ensures that too many women will continue to not come forward.

The latest flare-up of sexual harassment cases shows me once again that economic disparity in the US is not just a bunch of dry numbers. The gradient is also seamy, sleazy, and sickening.

The great divide needs to narrow. Let us start zipping it up.

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