Is There Life After Retirement?

The Rashomon Effect Regarding Sexual Harassment

Posted on: October 17, 2017

Social Media has been alive with me, too comments (and non-comments) regarding the toppling of Hollywood heavyweight producer Harvey Weinstein, by his “outing” as a long time sexual predator.

I’m blogging my two cents’ worth instead of Facebooking it because there are several issues I want to address. Please note this is all Life According to Marti, and not intended to be any sort of universal truth. This week I’ve learned that there are no universal truths on this topic. We all see it differently.  I’ll get to Harvey, specifically, in a minute.  But for now, I want to talk about several concepts:

  • Sexual Harassment
  • Sexual Assault
  • Sex Discrimination

“Back in the day” when the idea of sexual harassment in the workplace first became worthy of being illegal, it was defined  as anything for which a quid pro quo arrangement was expected, or anything that created a hostile work environment.  Okay, let’s look at that.  The first part is fairly easy to define and to recognize.  Quid pro quo: if you do ______ then I’ll do _______.  The first half of the sentence could be anything from having sex to going on a date to giving a back rub to a little peck on the cheek or a bunch of other things along the way.  The second half could be a promote you, give you a raise, let you keep your job, put in a good word for you with the big boss, give you those days off that you want, not beat your head in, etc.  You get the idea.  Fairly black and white.

But that SECOND part “…anything that creates a hostile work environment” is the grayest of areas. In addition to supplying attorneys with luxury cars for the past couple of decades, the interpretation of  hostile work environment varies wildly from person to person.  For some people, it could be a pin up calendar in the break room.  For others, it would be to have a co-worker expose himself as a joke.  And there are a billion scenarios in between.

For me personally, a lot of behavior didn’t bother me.  I am not a delicate flower and a certain level of behavior simply doesn’t affect me.  Might affect my opinion of the ‘behaver’ but it doesn’t touch me.  An example from my mid-twenties, as a new manager in a food and beverage department: I walked in to a room full of male managers and told the boss that Mr. Jones asked if he could get a sandwich for his flight home.  That unleashed a 60 second riff on whether I would be the meat, who would get to be the bread, don’t use too much mayo because it would get too slippery, etc.  My reaction was to tell them they were a bunch of post adolescent idiots and if they wanted to take care of the VIP, then handle it.  And I left.  But truly?  That most certainly could have been considered sexual harassment.  And if I had to listen to that sort of thing constantly, I probably would have filed a complaint.  But it was the exception, not the norm, so it may have been irritating, but nothing more. 

That attitude served me well at the time.  When confronted with a situation where a man would push the hostile work environment limits a bit, I seemed to find the distance to evaluate the degree of his power over me (or my career, or whatever) vs. the degree of his yuckiness.  In other words, how tactful did I have to be?  Was I walking on eggshells, or could I just be honest and say, “hey, look, this is how it is …”?  And I was lucky.  Everything I personally encountered were things I could handle myself.  But this is not necessarily true for others. I never felt like a victim then, I don’t feel like it, looking back now. But that’s my personal experience.

Years later when I became a Human Resources Director, I had to change a bit.  If an employee came to me with an issue, I couldn’t shrug it off.  If it was important to her, it was important. Period. And yes, I would have given a male employee the same respect, had one ever come to me with a harassment issue.

Sexual assault – physically or verbally – is something I’ve never encountered, thank goodness.  In my opinion, that is when the idea of predator/victim comes in to the picture.  I am so sorry that others have had to endure this.  Even though I personally fight against the concept of “victim” I understand that I don’t really understand. And I’ll leave it at that.

Okay, now let’s talk about Harvey Weinstein.  What’s different about him and other accused harassers/predators in Hollywood, such Bill Cosby, Woody Allen or Roman Polanski?  When predatory scandals hit the news about them, many loyal supporters came to their defense.  Not true!  Unfair!  This person is a great artist!  But for Harvey, there was only … silence.  No one came to his defense.  And now we have all the “this sort of behavior is not acceptable” tweets from both women AND men.  Why?  Changing times?  Uh, I don’t think so.  The difference between Harvey Weinstein and the others mentioned in this paragraph is simple:  In addition to being a sexual predator, he is also a bully.  He intimidated, fought, berated, threatened …


So for once, the fear of intimidation in Hollywood was experienced by both genders.  So hopefully, now EVERYONE will know what it’s like.

And that’s all I have to say about this topic.

Oh, and did you notice I slipped the concept of ‘sex discrimination’ in there? It’s not part of this discussion, but man … don’t even get me started.  lol


7 Responses to "The Rashomon Effect Regarding Sexual Harassment"

Man, there’s a lot of stuff to say on this topic–thanks for bringing it up. This morning I’ll just say that as a massage therapist, people like Harvey Weinstein–who view massage as a sexual prelude and/or synonym–have created a hostile work environment for us. I’m sorry for all the suffering and heartened to see that so many now perceive the offense in it. ❤ ❤ ❤

Here’s an odd side effect of this. One of my best friends (male) is a massage therapist and from talking to him, it seems like the Weinsteins of the world have injected an element of fear into the equation.

If you mean a massage therapist’s fear of their client, yes, unfortunately. The profession in general, and individual therapists, spas, etc. have gone to great lengths to desexualize any misinterpretable aspect of bodywork. One huge loss to clients is a lack of knowledge/training for problems originating in the pelvic floor and with hip flexors and adductors (inner thigh). I learned early on a big red flag is a guy who wants work on his “glutes and thighs.” MANY are looking for sexual services. But there are plenty of guys who benefit from actual therapy in the region, as well as suffer when they can’t find someone to do it. I think it’s fair to say that I struggled with developing a way to screen new clients and exercise boundaries while feeling that I was still a loving provider of healing and care. But I got through it. Don’t waste my time anymore with anyone who jolts my RADAR or won’t follow directions.

Sorry, I wrote too fast and didn’t explain. It’s both the fear on the part of the female client and fear on the part of the male massage therapist, with the end result as you’ve described – professional and effective treatment are sometimes avoided.

As a manager, I refrained from my cultural hug and kiss on the cheek greeting after attending sexual harassment training for managers. We learned that the only place a manager could touch an employee was between the wrist and elbow. I believe that having a sense of humor is essential, but things have become complicated.

On one hand, I actually facilitated those training classes for years. On the other hand, I’m a Serb living in the land of aloha. Double whammy and hard to give up the big hugs and kisses. lol

Truth be told, I wanted to ask, “Can we touch with anything we want?” Decided not to ask, as sometimes a sick sense of humor falls flat. Plus, I was closing in on retirement plans!

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  • Joyce Burke: This was great too read
  • Debbie: I'm with miracarroll--it's your story, so create however you want. Leave the rest of us wondering which of the (mis)adventures are real, which might b
  • miracarroll: Marti, surely the people in your life are wise enough to know (especially after you say it) that you're a writer and in fiction, everything is fair ga
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