Mayor Bob Filner: Alleged behavior not so extraordinary
By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has caused a mass case of the munchies with his alleged sexually inappropriate behavior toward female staff and constituents. Pundits are gorging on the cornucopia of Filner’s reported sins. Activists sup on the sweet revenge of a proposed recall. Political and legal consultants line up at the all-you-can-eat campaign bucks buffet.
Yep, folks across the nation and around the globe are high on the scent of sexual scandal wafting from “America’s Finest City,” eager to dine at the trough of Filner’s seemingly hapless attempts at liaisons—as though they are extraordinary.
But Filner’s alleged sexual misconduct is not extraordinary. It is all too ordinary. In fact, it is pretty much a norm for women to be subjected to the uninvited tushy-grabbing, tongue-inserting, dirty-talking misadventures of which Filner is accused. And let’s not forget the sexually objectifying jokes, the physical commentary on coworkers, the T&A calendars in cubicles, the suggestive touching, the persistent pursuit of intimacy, all the myriad trappings of everyday harassment in the workplace.
Ask any woman who has worked outside of the home, and you are likely to discover a woman who has experienced unwanted, sexually inappropriate behavior on the job—or at school or even at places of worship. One researcher found that 40 to 60 percent of women in American companies “experienced some form of harassing behavior.”* And, with that percentage of women being harassed at work, imagine the number of perpetrators.
In my experience, the incidence of harassment is not at all surprising.
Let’s see. First, there was the customer at the old general store where I worked as a teenager. He assumed, because I exercised the social graces my parents expected of me—firm handshake, eye contact, all the standard stuff—that he could attempt to stick his tongue down my throat. Barf.
Then there was the English teacher who singled out a gal a year for his special attentions. Me, he stood behind in the privacy of his office, with his hands on my shoulders, and recited Walt Whitman’s homoerotic poetry, followed by questions loaded with sexual innuendo. I was fond of the poetry, but the teacher was a creeper.
Early in my career, there was the out-of-state supervisor who attempted a site visit with me pressed against his rental car and his knee between my legs.
And, one of the more recent ones was the CEO who had a history of boinking comely subordinates. He covered for the idiot VP, who told me how great I looked in pantyhose and expounded on what he liked to do to his wife’s various orifices.
Nope, Filner’s behavior, if the accusations are true, is not extraordinary.
What is extraordinary, is that so many people consider Filner’s alleged behavior anything but ordinary.
What is extraordinary, is that only one person is reaping the public criticism and condemnation due so many.
What is so darn extraordinary, is that when the masses are sated on Filner’s sexual savories, when the buffet has nothing left but dried cheese and squashed canapés, when the trough has been licked clean, those who lapped up all that rich self-righteous indignation will go silent but for a satisfying belch or two.
They will not carry forward this newfound understanding of the objectification of women; they will not feel empowered by the downfall of an evil sexual harasser to stand firm against harassment; they will not march onward, determined to advocate for victims near and far. Nope, they will just wait for the next feeding frenzy.
And some of them, statistics being what they are, will return to participating in the oh-so-ordinary forms of workplace sexual harassment.
* Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Law and Practice by Alba Conte
Photo credit: Captured from Mayor Bob Filner’s public website.