Nine to Five
In the struggle against sexual harassment in the workplace, the first step must be accountability for notorious, justice-evading, serial sexual predators Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton. Thomas, whose victims were attacked by the political establishment of both parties as liars and opportunists, sits on the Supreme Court of the United States. Clinton, whose victims were branded sluts by his loyal wife, continues to draw enthusiastic applause from Democrats of all sexes. Every honor we bestow on these two is an endorsement of sex crime.
Notice how elegantly the mass media manage to talk about sex harassment without mentioning either Clinton or Thomas. In defiance of logic and the weight of available evidence, the media decided to vindicate these two. It was a cynical decision, but it enabled reporters to avoid pointing out from time to time that an author of historic court decisions and a much applauded president are sex fiends. A reporter can’t pay proper respect to these two without lying to himself and his readers. Better just omit these two successful sexual predators from the discussion.
We should note that there was no such thing as sexual harassment until fairly recently. It was taken for granted that men in positions of authority had absolute power over their female subordinates. If your sister’s boss was a gentleman, it wasn’t because he had any legal obligation toward her. I had a boss–a well-known attorney placed in a position of authority over a staff of young lawyers–who ordered one of my colleagues, a shapely woman, to turn around to be displayed to a visitor. She reported it, but in those days it was considered harmless and trivial. Still is. We have legal obligations now that we didn’t have then, but they’re weak, as the elevated status of Clinton and Thomas (not to mention Trump) attests.
Almost 30 years ago, I was invited to coach a high-school mock trial team representing my alma mater. The case involved a woman who was propositioned by her boss. The common law was just then beginning to recognize that employees ought to be protected from such abuses of authority, and there were a few new cases that were meant to do just that. Sexual harassment was a new legal term of art. Since then, I’ve represented several victims of workplace sexual abuse. In every case, the culpable party was the boss, and every one of these guys thought he was doing the woman a favor by paying attention to her. Like Clinton. Like Thomas.
Our clients showed great courage in taking their bosses to court, especially considering how things turned out for victims of celebrities like Clinton and Thomas. The fact that these two men still command respect puts a chill on any victim of workplace abuse. Weinstein, Cosby and Trump are beneficiaries of the lax-enforcement doctrine adopted by the media to accommodate these two. The cost is placed on working women, millions of whom, ironically, voted last year to put a sex fiend and his enabler back in the White House.
If we were living in a work of fiction, Clinton and Thomas would both have broken noses. Fiction can return us to an age when our value system included an inclination to protect the weak from the strong. We abandoned that value when we became what we euphemistically call a “superpower.” As a nation, we’ve destroyed some of the weakest peoples on earth, yet we’re unapologetic, even boastful. Like Thomas. Like Clinton. Like Trump. Can’t maintain that attitude and a binding moral code at the same time. Victims of bullies are left to sink or swim by people like us. If we lived in a work of fiction, the victims would band together and buy some muscle to inflict retribution, and values would be restored by force.
But we don’t live in a work of fiction, and in real life there’s no security for working women until we insist on justice for the sex criminals that walk among us. We can’t excuse our sons for their sexual misconduct and affect shock when our daughters are molested.