Last night, a handful of my colleagues – women and men - and I got together in a social gathering, had some alcoholic beverages and talked. It only took about 10 minutes before we hit the #metoo conversation.
One fellow professor said she was surprised I hadn’t posted a story of sexual harassment given my years in the sports media business.
Here is why I did not post anything – I never really experienced sexual harassment at work. Not from colleagues, not from athletes or coaches, not from readers.
I had some people email or call me in the middle of the night when I was sure not to answer and suggest I “go back to the kitchen,” and that I didn’t know anything about sports because, naturally, I’m a woman.
A married baseball player once asked me out. I quickly retorted that his wife probably wouldn’t like that. He said she would come and I laughed it off. The player never mentioned it again and acted professionally and kindly to me thereafter.
Thanks to guys named Bryan, Sergio, Roger, Barry, Rich, Mark, Bill, Ron, Nick and the rest of the men I worked with, the horror stories that have befallen so many of my friends never came to me.
I never thought about getting out of a career I loved, or felt I wouldn’t get where I wanted to go because of sexual harassment.
I’m thankful for that. The workplace was good to me.
But, a man I thought was a friend raped me when we were in college. For years – and, honestly, even still a little bit today – I blamed myself for being in the position to let it happen. Like, if I had just been out of the closet, maybe it wouldn’t have happened... or so many other senseless "what ifs."
It didn’t define me. It didn’t wreck my life, or change how I thought about sex, or men, or my own sexuality. It was always just something that happened.
And then it happened to someone I love.
And then it happened to someone else I love.
And someone else I love.
And, the more I talked about it with friends, I learned that it was just something that happened to them, too, and to women they loved, as well.
A man in a trusted position sexually assaulted my wife. A married co-worker made a focused, direct and unwanted sexual advance on a friend. A young man raped one of my students when she woke up with him on top of her. I wish this was the end of a list… but, it is quite literally only the beginning.
We can make this political.
The President of the United States bragged about grabbing pussy and has been accused by several women – including his ex-wife – of sexual assault. Last year when the tape revealing his pussy-grabbing comment came out, we were reminded that a president a little further back had an affair with a young woman whose career, and life, he wrecked. Three women also accused him of sexual harassment.
A woman I know who is a bit older than I am rolled her eyes over all that when the pussy-grabbing news came out and told me, “THEY ALL DO IT,” as if to say it was OK because the behavior was so pervasive.
But, I can’t help but wonder…
They all do it?
All of them? Really?
The men I love and respect? They do it?
The men I worked with who were professional to me? Friends’ husbands, and brothers, and my own family members? They all do it?
By the sheer volume of stories I have read the past week, it seems to me that that woman was right – they all do it.
Of course, that isn’t the case.
They don’t all do it, but, many men do. Some men I love and respect do. Some men I worked with do. Some friends’ husbands and brothers, and my own family do.
But not all of them. Not all of them.
The thing is, if the ones who don’t rape, don’t harass, don’t use their power to coerce, don’t feel entitled still refuse to listen to what is being said right now, it feels like all of them.
And, if women can excuse that behavior because it feels like all men participate in this kind of malfeasance, then it feels like the problem of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment is one we all just have to endure.
This is not something that just happens. It is something we – as men and women – allow.
And, they all don’t do it. But, we need to hear the voices of those who don’t so they all don’t just blend together.
This is a Facebook post from Aug. 15, 2017 by Elon James White. I think it is poignant, uncomfortable and absolutely necessary to read. I hope my students, former students, colleagues, friends and family will take the time to read it.
In the wake of the tragedy and hate we've all witnessed in recent days it's very easy to tune out. I'd argue that for some of us it's key to our overall mental health. But there's a lot of you, and I'm specifically speaking of white folks, that are silent right now, literally as Nazis (this is not hyperbole, actual fucking Nazis) march in the streets and plan events throughout our nation.
I've read a lot of white folks expressing that they are not responsible for what we're seeing. That they never owned slaves, they aren't racist, and that they have nothing to feel guilty about because of a few bad people. I'm writing this to say "bullshit." Living in America you benefit daily from the systemic oppression of myriad peoples. It is an absolute fact that America was built on slave labor. The wealth it was able to accumulate couldn't have happened without the subjugation of the indigenous and enslaved.
(Photo by Molly Yanity on Jan. 21, 2017 in NYC)
I'm fortunate to live in a place where I can freely love who I want, marry that person and not be discriminated against because of it.
But, this fortune means nothing if I can't breathe the air, drink the water, live without violence and war. It means nothing if I do not have safe shelter, or can't put food on the table.
It means little if women are "less," if votes are manipulated, if journalism is overrun by propaganda, if tyrants rise.
This fortune is only here because all of the other, true American fortunes have been fought and died for, protected and valued. I take none of it for granted.
Memorial Day has nicely segued into Gay Pride Month. Yet, on the same day, the 45th president of the U.S. has withdrawn from the only global attempt to stave off global warming.
Molly Yanity, Ph.D.