This week, resignations galore as sexual harassment and assault victims finally are heard, believed, and somewhat supported. Also, the holiday season is not necessarily a joy for working mothers, being differently wired at work, and #CakeSpeech.
This Week in Sexual Harassment
If only society would put as much creativity into finding ways to protect women from being harassed in the first place as creepy men do in finding new ways to harass women.
1. Liberal comedian, Sen. Al Franken, resigned on Thursday after a slew of women came forward to talk about him forcibly kissing them.
You hear a lot of people wistfully discussing Sen. Franken’s resignation, as if they almost wish he didn’t have to resign.
Forget politics for a second. No one gets a pass. Not even supposed friend-to-women Al. I’ve read his books. I’ve had my spirits buoyed by listening to his show on Air America back to in the day. I’ve listened to him on Fresh Air humbly talking to Terri Gross. I’ve cheered as he questioned witnesses in the Senate, especially Jeff Sessions. None of that matters when considering punishment. It doesn’t cease to exist, but it doesn’t go away either. We move it to the box in the attic in our mind and retrieve it at a later date.
What he did with the staffer he cornered at Air America, and tried to kiss–who he told it was his privilege as the show host to do so–makes my skin crawl. The line is forcing someone to do something, not how far the assault went.
This is a favorite trick of rapists—feeling more powerful the more they abuse women, and then excusing things like forcibly kissing a woman as just misreading her signals. But his comments to her make it very clear that his attempted kisses were not a result of misunderstanding women and their lack of interest. This was about power and domination.
Franken seemingly only took the first few steps on the rapist ladder. Ignoring boundaries? Check. Forcing a kiss? Check. Telling the woman it’s the price of a working relationship with him? Check.
It is well documented that assaulting a woman isn’t about what she looks like or wears or says. It’s about a man and his power. And while forcibly kissing someone may not seem in the same ballpark as rape, it’s forcibly doing something and I might add, while both Franken and his victims were working in some capacity. That women should be able to go to work without being forcibly kissed should go without saying.
2. Obviously, the other harassers are disgusting as well. For my own well being, I don’t want to go into the particulars except to say that it shows how widespread the problem has become.
You have men across industries harassing women and not all women can speak out. We have barely scratched the surface of what women endure in society. And already you have men saying we need to consider the careers of the men that might be ruined by a false accusation. Except, how is it false just because the man believed he was entitled to do what he did.
For example, the Congressman who asked his female staffers to be surrogate mothers for his child—and insinuated he could impregnate them to make it happen. His defense was that he didn’t realize how offensive that was to the women. Of course you didn’t. That would require you to consider our point of view.
What I keep thinking about is the women who can’t speak up. The women for whom harassment is seen as just part of the job. Think of all the service employees who endure far worse with absolutely no recourse.
We need to stand up for these women. They need to be safe. And the world is not set up for that right now. It’s going to be 2018 in a few weeks and while some men have paid the price, there are millions more who think coming on to their female coworkers is totally fine.
This Week in Working Motherhood
Completely missed writing a post last weekend and only able to do “fun” writing this weekend because of downtime during an appointment. I write for a living so these opportunities to write what I choose are sacred.
I’m struggling. It’s not that anything has been added to my plate at home, but I’ve had to take on a lot of extra projects at work. I haven’t been getting enough sleep. My range for the week has been 3-5 hours.
I haven’t bought, let alone sent, any presents for family. I bought holiday cards but they are still sitting in the box at home. I don’t think I bought enough.
I went to get blood tests the other day. The phlebotomist was very nice and asked how my holiday was going. We got to chatting—I’m a social but an introvert—and I told him I had done zero holiday work and I was running out of time. He told me to keep it simple. As I was leaving, he shouted it after me again. That’s going to be my mantra for the entire month.
The reality is that it is easy for men to say that. They can keep it simple oftentimes because a woman is in the background handling all the complicated details.
I’m lucky my husband helps much more than what I see friends’ husbands doing. Maybe they secretly are doing just as much, but I never hear about that.
But I do see that doing all this random emotional work wears on him. Somedays he can’t do his paid work because he’s hunting down therapists for our autistic son and/or doing household shopping with two little kids in tow. It’s exhausting.
It really makes me think about working in the home, as it were, and how totally bonkers our society is right now. Even a parent who doesn’t have an office job ends up doing work constantly. I’m dreading the days when we have to do parent homework as our older son ages. I’m already struggling and he’s only two. How is this a thing? Did schools decide parents weren’t already stretched thin and decided to give us more work?
I’ve decided, unfortunately, that given that it’s December 10 and I’ve done zero shopping, everyone but the kids and my husband are getting gift certificates this year. Keep it simple, for sure.
This Week in ADHD
I live in fear at work. Not that I can’t do the actual work, but that I can’t read the minds of people who expect me to just know what they want without telling me.
I doubt it is just my workplace where there is an expectation you know the expectations. Except no one outlines the expectations, even when they tell you that you’re not meeting them.
All year I’ve been trying to figure out these unspoken expectations. But this week, I’ve spent a third weekend in a row working the whole time my kids are up. While I don’t want to miss my time with them, I haven’t cracked the code on how to get everything done that is silently expected of me. I can’t control when I discover new projects that I “should have known to do” but it never happens on a Monday.
I know all people must experience some version of this at work from time to time, and certainly my superiors aren’t purposely withholding assignments to see if I can guess what they want. But it’s an ugly side of ADHD. No one at work knows I have the condition unless they can figure it out based on my symptoms. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADHD is not considered a disability unless the person with ADHD meets a set of criteria that I don’t meet. So I keep my diagnosis private for fear of what sharing could mean for my future at the company.
And this secret means I struggle to keep up the facade of typical employee when I’m really doing dozens of hours of extra work on the weekends to match a moving target called expectations.
This Week in Supreme Court Cakes
A lot of eyes/ears on the Supreme Court (audio) this week as they heard arguments on a freedom of religion case involving a bigoted baker who doesn’t want his cakes used at same sex weddings.
The podcast First Mondays predicted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a.k.a., the Notorious R.B.G., would ask a question within the first five minutes of oral arguments for the case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Turned out she dropped one before a minute had elapsed. As a young girl, Ruth Bader and her family were banned from certain businesses because they were Jewish. She does not play on freedom of religion that infringes on someone else’s freedom of religion.
There was a very sweet moment in the questioning about 63 minutes into oral arguments. Ginsburg asks if the cake chef under his religious objection, would, “write ‘God bless the union of Ruth and Marty,’” on a cake for a straight couple but not something similar for a gay couple. Marty is presumably Marty Ginsburg, her late husband.
This really meant a lot to me. As Sheryl Sandberg said in Lean In, only a few years before her husband tragically died young, your spouse is a huge factor in your success. Marty Ginsburg believed in Ruth in a way you didn’t see in their day. While Notorious R.B.G. is a once in a generation legal genius, her husband’s willingness to cook dinner for their family despite cultural norms, put his own ambitions beneath his wife’s, and be an unrelenting cheerleader for her certainly played a part in her life’s course. You see wives do this for husbands all the time. Men do it too but rarely in such a public way.
Ginsburg using that particular example in oral arguments was touching in a case that turns on whether you can have a religious objection to the love and commitment of two other people.
It is a pleasure to have three female Supreme Court justices. They are a trio of badasses.
For more on the case, including why this case is insidious to civil rights, Friday’s episode of Call Your Girlfriend explains the slippery slope of freedom to discriminate based on religion.
I would also recommend listening to the oral arguments if this subject interests you. The case hinges on two factors: is cake making art and the cake thus protected “speech”, and is an objection to a person due to a religious reason legal?
Now, keep in mind that religion was used to justify many discriminatory business practices during our nation’s history, not to mention slavery. Think refusal to serve African Americans, Jews, Irish, etc., separate water fountains, doors, facilities for our nation’s black citizens, and many misogynistic policies like a rule against hiring mothers or not allowing (white) pregnant women to continue on in their jobs once the baby arrives. One justice asked during oral arguments (Sotomayor or Kagan) if it would be legal to refuse to bake a cake for a couple of mixed-religion, and later if it would be permissible to refuse a disabled person’s business.
This line is important because freedom of religion is the law for all of us, not just the person with the religious objection. When someone refuses my business because of his religion, that is a violation of my freedom of religion. This may not be the way people think of it traditionally but it’s inescapable.
This Week in Health Care
Keep an eye on what Congress does with the tax bill. The repeal of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act will almost certainly be in the final bill. Sorry, 13 million extra uninsured. Corporations need tax cuts more than you need health care.
Note too which groups are still fighting for health care access after an exhausting year full of advocacy, arrests, and misery. Heroes.