The Harvey Weinstein scandal may be the beginning of a cultural turning point.
Let's hope it leads to more respectful interactions between men and women in the workplace.
But panic has set. In a must-read oped in the New York Daily News, Christina Hoff Sommers captures the intensity:
Farhad Manjoo at the New York Times says he has reached the point where "I seriously, sincerely wonder how all women don't regard all men as monsters to be constantly feared." Does Manjoo include himself? Are his female colleagues at the Times suddenly in constant fear of him?
Niobe Way, a psychology professor at NYU, told NPR that the only way to address the harassment blight is to resocialize little boys: "We essentially raise boys in a culture that asks them to disconnect from their core humanity."
The panic has even struck the Girl Scouts, who warned parents that their daughters don't "owe anyone a hug" this holiday season. Parents who insist a little girl give grandma or grandpa a hug for a present can set her up to believe "she 'owes' another person physical affection because they bought her something."
Hoff Sommers points out that that it is important we do not come to blame all men:
Before we consider all men guilty of harassment or abuse until proven innocent, a reality check is in order. Most of the sensational harassment cases in the media involved high-profile men working in unusual environments with little or no accountability. That suggests they are atypical.
In an office or company where the boss and personnel director insist on civility and respect, where there is a clear policy against harassment, and where there is system for reporting bad behavior, serious problems are far less likely to arise.
Statistics on workplace harassment are all over the map. A recent Newsweek/Wall Street Journal poll found that 48% of American women had been sexually harassed at work. Time.com ran with this statistic in a video showing American women at work in laboratories, factories and offices.
On closer scrutiny, Hoff Sommers says, the figures don't show what is claimed. Assault was defined too broadly. That in a way is what I fear: we're losing our ability to see gradations and to realize the difference between a criminal act and a milder sexual misconduct (not that either is to be condoned).
The other thing that bothers me is that we're absorbing a feminist ideology of victimization, when we should instead be calling for decorum and respect.