In other words, the good old character assassination defence. You may know it: the supposedly believable scenario in which several previously sane women form a secret cabal and decide to put their reputations and careers on the line, and potentially expose themselves and their families to national media scrutiny — not to mention the abuse of hundreds of Internet trolls — all so they can destroy the life of an innocent man and turn a profit. Sounds fun. Sign me up.
This, of course, is the narrative spun again and again by right wing commentators whenever a powerful man appears constitutionally incapable of keeping his hands to himself. It is, frankly, moronic.
My intention here isn’t to suggest, as many feminists do, that sexual assault and harassment allegations must be deemed one hundred per cent true the moment they enter public discourse. Of course they shouldn’t. But by the same token, they shouldn’t be immediately labelled conspiratorial and consequently suspect either.
Others, some of them even women, would prefer it if female accusers of sexual harassment had the gumption to confront their harassers publicly or simply quit their jobs and move on — rather than resort to the crude business of lawyers and tape recorders.
This, charitably, could be called blaming the victim. Conservatives love to preach the gospel of the cowgirl feminist: the scrappy lone ranger full of “gumption” who is too proud to call on the sisterhood and too busy to get involved in all that messy, legal, bureaucratic, media stuff; the kind of gal who thwarts unwanted advances totally unassisted, and kicks a pervert in the privates when he won’t take no for an answer. The kind of gal who if all else fails, rides off into the sunset onto bigger and better things and doesn’t look back for nobody.
But here’s the problem with the cowgirl feminist: while she may easily manage handsy creeps at a frat party or a crowded bar, she tends to fail miserably in the boardroom. When a woman is sexually harassed by a man of a certain stature, she cannot simply slap her employer and tell him to get a life, as she might a creep at a bar, and expect that justice will be served. Nor can she successfully out him as a harasser without first producing indisputable, hard evidence (such as a recorded phone call), then hiring a lawyer for her own legal protection, and handing her evidence over to a respected media organization.
This article seems to hit the nail on the head.
- Character assassination defence: for those not personally involved as the person alleged to have harassed, or the person alleging harassment… for anyone else to claim a character assassination defence on behalf of the alleged harrasser really boggles the mind. And in requiring a conspiracy, it is certainly not the simplest explanation (so fails occam's razor, nor is it common-sense. Not that they mentioned it, but what is considered the false-reporting rate of sexual harassment? I know for rape it is considered the same as other crimes. So, if it is similar to other crimes, even before getting to the body of evidence, statistics would favour the accuser.
- Cowgirl-feminist-wouldn't-put-up-with-this-defence: AKA blaming the victim. I seem to hear this every time a big story on work-place sexual harassment comes up (or heck, even regular work-place harassment). Why didn't they say something back to put a stop to it? If that didn't work why didn't they take it higher up or to Human Resources? If that didn't work why didn't just leave that awful work environment and find a new job and get over it? First of all, a person should not be subject to harassment. Second of all it doesn't consistently work (yes, even finding a new job, because there are dicks in lots of places). Third, not everyone has the means to risk their and their family's livelihood and health by risking retaliation/firing/quiting. Fourth, do we only care about the people have the temperament and/or financial means and/or network to fight back?
(Which, if this individualist cowgirl-feminism "works", cowgirl-feminist will leave workplaces that tolerate harassment, find/create workplaces that don't tolerate harassment, or simply not work. However, harassers will not be held to account, and will be be left to harass in workplaces that do tolerate it, and they will have more vulnerable targets as the "cowgirl-feminist" leave).
I understand people who say they won't decide (or tip their hand/position) before it is before the courts. But one has to be careful from letting their purported neutrality (if they really are) let them declare unequivocally, innocent until proven guilty. Or at least clarify what one means by that, instead of making it seem like you believe in the innocence of the accused, which implies you believe the accused has more credibility. As a purely legal thing, as to how you think the law should treat them? Sure. But don't suggest that the accused are factually/truthfully innocent, if neutrality/not picking sides is your goal.
"Not guilty" equals an approximation of "innocent" only in a court of law. It is just about what is provable, and most of our experiences, even just visually/auditorily, are not readily provable, because we don't record every second of our lives. I am not saying I want witch hunts, just that the human condition and people's experiences cannot be summed up, defined, and decided, entirely in a court room. Regardless of how the institutions of law, justice, and government are run, people have to make their own decision, on whether they are going to trust their own knowledge/experiences/understanding of the world, and whether the legal and justice system outcome was the truth, or the only conclusion it could within the purview of the law. Possibly affected by gaps in the law's wording, or the failings of the people operating those institutions, possible not.
Edited by sierraleone, 27 April 2017 - 10:04 PM.