UNITED STATES—First, full disclosure: I am a lady, well, most of the time. But I have been female for all of my time and I’m old enough to have been touched or spoken to inappropriately, had a bizarre moment with a doctor and even experienced a thwarted assault throughout my many decades. So I get it. To have our space invaded without our permission or with casual acquaintances that have no business being overly familiar with us can be insulting, frightening or demeaning, but always icky. If you’re like me, you want to literally wash away that moment in a shower, but unfortunately it’s a bell you can’t un-ring.
So it is with supreme satisfaction that the MeToo movement has exposed to daylight the disgusting actions of the powerful who for far too long have gotten away with – anything. Nice decent men need to put themselves in women’s shoes for a moment. How would you feel if you were made to perform sexual acts or lose your job and never work in your field again? Would you worry about not being able to support your family? Do they have medical issues that would force your otherwise proper self to do what had always been unthinkable in order to protect your loved ones? This is the most egregious of those exposed by MeToo and it couldn’t have happened soon enough. Finally – finally – justice is being meted out; scumbags have been exposed and good riddance to all of them.
This is on the extreme end of the continuum of what sexual harassment can be like. Maybe on the other end might be a pat on the behind or a mildly, but still obnoxious comment about our appearance. But even these are still unwelcome intrusions into our lives that are simply not acceptable.
What I’m beginning to notice is that many men in my generation don’t seem to think that these gestures or comments are a big deal. I wonder though, how many of them would react to a comment made in the middle of an important business meeting along the lines of Mae West: Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? Wouldn’t you be exceedingly embarrassed, notwithstanding how amusing it might be in a more private setting?
Well, sexual innuendoes like these are flung at women all the time, often in the presence of others. Reacting to it in real time can be difficult if their immediate response is to freeze from the sheer audacity of the outrageous comment.
But there are other situations where women don’t respond to some gestures, and that’s simply because they may feel uncomfortable but not at all in a sexual way. Women know that life often has uncomfortable moments and we need to sort them in some way that doesn’t needlessly accuse innocent men.
Which brings me to Joe Biden; yes, it was a bit odd what transpired between him and the women who brought it to our attention, and it was certainly understandable that they would have been reluctant to say anything in the moment, inasmuch as they would have been referring to the Vice President of the United States. But I’ve been watching politicians for decades, and Joe Biden is probably the most touchy-feely of them all. He’s a hugger and a kisser with men too. So I hope we can keep some perspective that he truly does not belong on even the lowest level of the sexual harassment continuum. Personally, I’d be delighted if we should ever meet and he’d give me a hug. But we’re all different, and it can be confusing to men as to who wants what when.
So guys, here is the best rule of thumb to follow if you are in doubt about any of the above. When interacting with women who are not your family or close friends, don’t do anything to them that you wouldn’t do to a man.
For example, if you wouldn’t sniff Bob Mueller’s hair or plant a big kiss on the top of his head, then don’t do it to us.
See fellas? Easy peasy.