Words Matter, Intent Matters, As A Matter Of Opinion

I’m not running for any public office.  Not now, not ever. Also, I recently decided that i don’t care if the entire blogosphere thinks I am a misogynist, or, even, unfriendly to women.  So I decided that it is okay for me to post these thoughts, coincidentally, as Aunt B has decided to post her thoughts on the matter today as well.  What is the matter, you ask?  Well, its probably not feminism, or genetics, or politics, but every one of those figures in.  Since the Williams/Lynn incident is still relatively fresh, lets use it to underscore a point or two:

First, and this is important, I just don’t view what happened between those two as your garden variety harassment.  I’m going to look at the legal definition first:

Under the United States Code Title 18 Subsection 1514(c)1. Harassment is defined as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such a person and serves no legitimate purpose”.

Seriously?  Someone telling you they would like to see you naked causes “substantial emotional distress”?

Now, I fully get that through the years, a great deal of teachable moments have indeed taken place.  Men have learned that women do not, as a rule, generally accept being thought of as objects for gratification.  I think many have learned that certain words and phrases are considered hostile, as so they are avoided at all costs.  For sure, any man (or woman, for that matter) who has a supervisory position by now most assuredly understand that even harmless flirtation is verboten with those below your rank or position.  All good stuff, I say.  It is better now, (though not perfect) thanks to several generations of female and male advocates for this cause.

But lets at least consider a couple of things.  Again, going back to the Williams/Lynn thing, I’m left wondering what it is we are up against.  From what I have read (which I admit, may not be the whole story)  the two people involved stopped to talk.  Williams told Lynn he thought she was attractive, and then alledgedly said “I’d give two weeks pay to see you naked.”  I have no idea if this is a true accounting of what happened, but lets say it is.  To me, I’d hardly call this harassment.  I’d call it rude and offensive.  To my knowledge, Williams had no authority or control over Ms. Lynn’s career.  I could be wrong, unschooled as I am regarding the heirarchy of the TNGOP.

If I had to guess, after an evening of “legislative receptions”, at which I’m sure alcohol was consumed, I’m tempted to think that a slightly tipsy older man said out loud what many men wouldn’t.  I’d guess this was a clumsy attempt at a pass.  I’d guess that an aging man, desperate to stay relevant to attractive females, engaged his tongue well before his brain.  What I wouldn’t guess is that, even subconsciously, Williams was attempting to keep Representative Lynn in her place.  I’m sure i could be wrong, in this instance at least, but things like this happen all the time, every day, and I keep trying to tell some of my feminist friends that the spectrum shouldn’t be so wide that the term sexual harassment is the default description of every slight directed at women.*

Likewise, some of us men do or say things because we are trying to get your attention, or get you in bed, or to go on a date, etc.  Most of the time, we aren’t trying to keep you barefoot and pregnant.  I’m not saying every thing a man says or does in these pursuits is fair, or right, for that matter.  But neither are they always hostile, or even mildly worth feeling emotional distress over.

There are genetic pre-dispositions that should at least be considered.  The are generational differences in standards of conduct that should at least be considered.  What was cool in my father’s day ain’t that cool now.  Were he alive, he may never understand it.  I wouldn’t expect a 60 yr old man from a small town in Tennessee to necessarily grasp the concept.  I can certainly demand he accept it.

Intent, to me, matters.  It is hard as hell to determine someone’s intent, to be sure.  But the charge of sexual harassment carries such a stigma that I would ask the victim to at least try.

Also, its a little funny how this sometimes plays out.  Lets take two men, make one attractive and virile and out-going, and the other, virile and outgoing but decidedly unattractive.  I submit that the attractive man’s harmless arm across the shoulder is the unattractive man’s physical assault.  Of course not every time, or in every instance, but there can be no denying that looks play a role.  I don’t think we can do anything about that, but it is worth talking about.  Or, lets say a man spent a great deal of his career in an E.R.  His fellow nurses are mostly female, and there was a great deal of camaraderie with the workers, and frequent quips, flirtations, and even physical contact was part and parcel.  One day, he transfers to another unit, and doing nothing different, manages to offend a co-worker.  It is inconceivable that it might take a bit for this man to realize the difference in expectations?

Similarly, one mans persistence is another man’s stalking.  In fact, that word is a favorite with young females I read online.  Frequently, “scary stalker” dude got that handle by calling at least once more after being told “I’m not interested.”  That guy, versus the guy who stands out in front of your house, or shows up in unlikely places, are not one and the same. So, when i hear “scary stalker guy”, it means almost nothing to me. Its unfortunate that all behavior is categorized the same, as long as there is even the thinnest of threads connecting  it to some form of sexual conduct.  It is simply my opinion that this often times creates distrust between genders, and more than a little resentment.

Charges of Misogyny and Racism are deadly serious.  They can ruin a person’s life.  They can cost a person their livelihood.  Does anyone out there remember Jimmy The Greek?  He made a rather strange comment about black people’s thighs (black athletes) and so therefor it gave them an edge.  (paraphrasing here) There  wasn’t a lick of hostility meant. He didn’t demean, he didn’t objectify, he merely gave voice to a thought he had about people different from himself. He lost his job. ( Limbaugh said a certain QB was considered great only because he was black, and got a 20 million dollar raise and contract extension.)  What Jimmy The Greek did was not mala en se.  Society has determined it mala prohibita, and the price he paid most certainly did not fit the crime.

I guess I’d just like to see some admission by hardcore feminists that sometimes, adopting a zero tolerance, scorched earth approach to ensuring equality can make victims where none exist, and that cannot be good.  I’m also saying that chronic rudeness or intolerance is worse than some acts of sexual harassment.  Give me a guy who makes a clumsy pass at a co-worker any day over the guy that would never do that, but is rude at every possible opportunity.  Or mean.  Or indifferent.  Sadly, these things will rarely land one in any kind of legal bind, but a momentary lapse in judgement, or, possessing a bad “game” most often will.

*(Yes, I get that there was a second incident that occurred between Lynn and Williams, that was more troubling, since it involved actual physical contact. Please don’t think I’m exonerating Williams, I was simply using the first encounter as an example.)

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Words Matter, Intent Matters, As A Matter Of Opinion

  1. Oh god.
    You know, maybe it’s my generation, or maybe as a woman I am too tolerant of men, but this would not make me “distraught”. Grossed out, probably. And since (according to the internet), she was not alone at the time of this encounter, she should have just said “never going to happen”, and went home.
    Inappropriate? Yes, of course.
    But I work in a corporate environment, and as a corporation, they won’t do anything about sexual harassment unless you verbally tell the harasser to stop. Even if it’s physical. And even then, your lucky if the guy gets a written warning. So as a woman, you have to handle yourself until it get hazardous.

    Maybe I am too tolerant, or maybe I’m used to drunken college guys advances. Maybe it doesn’t happen as much as you get older and it becomes unsettling. I don’t know.

  2. Are you saying only drunk college guys hit you up?

    Cuz, maybe you need to spend more on the hair…

    😉

  3. Pingback: When You’re Sportin’ The Creepy Porno ‘Stache There Is No Margin For Error : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

  4. nm

    My understanding of the chronology may be faulty, but I thought that it was only after the second incident that Lynn made any complaint. She found the harassment a pattern of repeated behavior, not in any single incident. I also think that Lynn is aware that she’s a member of an organization (the state legislature) that has a policy of going along to get along, so that any complaint about a fellow member of that organization would be used to brand her as a troublemaker. It wouldn’t keep her from being re-elected, to be sure, but it would be a bar to her increasing her power or influence within the institution. So it was completely in her own interest not to object to Williams’s alleged behavior. The fact that she nevertheless made a complaint suggests that it wasn’t trivial and that a friendly (or even not so friendly) “keep your hands to yourself, bub” hadn’t sufficed.

  5. No no, other guys hit on me too, but in much more appropriate ways. I wouldn’t consider it being hit on so much as being asked on date. 🙂

  6. NM, thats entirely possible. I only used that incident as an example, and was trying hard to make it understood that I’m well aware that real abuse and harassment are issues that women face.

    No one ever wants to admit that the cause has a few too many martyrs though. If everyone is a victim, it loses its impact.

  7. What, Mychal, no girls?

  8. Nope, actually, the lesbians don’t dig me. This may be in part due to the fact that I am attracted to men.

  9. democommie

    behaving badly:

    As a man who’s been hit on by a fair number of gay guys (but not lately) I can say that my being attracted to women (or my definitely, NOT, being attracted to them) was not something they factored in. As a gay friend said, when I asked him why they wouldn’t just leave me the hell alone, “It’s not love; you’re just fresh meat.” That was a bellringer.

  10. Well, not to generalize, but gay men are usually much more forward about hitting on other men, whether they think they are gay or not.

  11. democommie

    behaving badly:

    Oh, yes. I didn’t really complete my thought. I meant that it is a thing I saw as being sort of testosteronish.

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