After 35 years on the bench, a federal appeals court judge is facing the sexual harassment charges of four women. Three staffers said he showed them pornographic photos in his office. A fourth complained he suggested she workout naked. (“The U. S. at a glance…” The Week, Dec/ 27-29, 2017, pg. 7.)
In the past, men routinely made salacious remarks to women. More than once, a male colleague has suggested he and I take our meeting to a motel. Each pass made me uncomfortable, but I never considered it harassment.
Growing up, I learned to expect men to be aggressive. My home economics book in junior high preached that, “Boys will be boys: girls must ladies.” Girls were responsible for the standards set in a relationships. Unwed mothers were foolish women who allowed the customer “to drink milk before buying the cow.”
For centuries, women accepted this double standard, and condemned a sister who stumbled. Feminine scorn can be as cruel as remarks men make in locker room. Last week, a woman my age said she thought girls who got drunk and were raped at a fraternity party were “asking for it.” A teenager in the 1950s, like me, she failed to distinguish between making a mistake and giving license to a predator. We should never confused the two.
Unfortunately, when I was a girl, women accepted that, as daughters of Eve, we’d brought sin into the world. As such, we were in charge of manning the temple of the vestal virgins. If a woman stumbled, she suffered the bonfires of the righteous. Men got off scot-free as in The Scarlet Letter.
Given the recent sea-change, I’ve no doubt men are bewildered. Anita Hill, hear us roar. I only ask that as we celebrate our delayed sisterhood, we acknowledge our previous silence.