In response to Herman Cain’s sexual allegations that he groped the head of the National Restaurant Association, Sharon Bialik, after a luncheon they had, Rush Limbaugh of course had to come rushing to the support of Cain in the midst of the media and feminist backlash. On his infamous radio show, “the Rush Limbaugh show”, he had this to say about the whole incident:
“You women, why don’t you just make it official? Put on some burkas and i’ll gura-damn-tee ya nobody will touch ya, everybody will leave you alone, if that’s what you want.”
He goes on to describe sexual harassment as a “political movement”, that in the old days was “nothing”. Women like, or who support Sharon Bialik are “feminazis”.
Limbaugh is essentially continuing the “rape culture”, as AlterNet puts it. Although people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh make a career of making controversial statements, it’s still important to address the issues they bring up, especially if they are conveying a wrong message to a large heterogeneous, male dominant demography of listeners that will only perpetuate the negativity. It is a form of miseducation, similar to the one that fuels xenophobia in this country. While Limbaugh’s statements have gone mostly untapped in the media (because of his growing illegitimate reputation) I want to take it as an opportunity to learn about how sexism and inequality continues to plague this country, and why we cannot simply ignore Herman Caine’s sexual allegations.
People are calling the allegations a political stunt by the Rick Perry campaign or the Left in order to kill Herman Cain’s bid for Republican nomination. This isn’t another Wiener or Bill Clinton “scandal”–This is an allegation of a real crime. We cannot forget that. These women were not asking for the attention they receive, they are doing what’s right and that is justice. Even if it’s just coming out during a presidential campaign, it merely signifies that a man who breaks the law is not fit to be president. Now that all eyes are watching the National Restaurant Association Employees, they know they do not have to fear of being fired because they are taking Cain to court. They are being protected by the public and know they are safe, whereas they may not have before, directly after the incident. They may not have before because sexual harassment feels like too common of a practice in the work force, and for many, it’s not worth the trouble of losing a job or being stigmatized as a “tramp”, “slut” and just “greedy”, as Herman Cain’s accusers are. Somehow the accused (in this case, Cain) become the victims because women supposedly take advantage of any situation where they are uncomfortable and call it “sexual harassment. Let’s get real. Most sexual harassment allegations are serious; they do not revolve around actions as simple as an unwanted compliment. Accusing Cain of slipping his hand up someone’s skirt and shoving her face against his crotch is not excusable. If that’s not sexual harassment, then what is?
When we view the sexual allegations as opportunistic, we ignore the reality of sexual harassment. Women do not ask to be harassed, no matter what they wear. They shouldn’t be expected to fully cover themselves in burqas if they wish not to be harassed by men. Instead, men have to stop harassing women. They need to realize that it is not okay to use their power (whether it be physical or position in the business hierarchy) to over women and know that in most instances, they will not report them out of fear.
We don’t know if the allegations are true or not. That’s for the court to decide. What we do know, is that this is a serious issue that we cannot ignore.
Dalia Lithwick, from SLATE Magazine writes about how “Conservatives aren’t just defending Herman Cain. They’re denying the very existence of sexual harassment.” To end this post, here’s the highlight of her article:
This isn’t just an effort to discredit Cain’s accusers. It’s an effort to dissuade women with genuine complaints from coming forward to report them. Recall that one of Cain’s accusers has declined to come forward precisely because she is afraid to be the next Anita Hill. The cost of reporting harassment is not just “the filing fee and a printer.” It’s the fear of being treated precisely the way these still-nameless women have been treated: like hysterics and liars out of the Chaucer era.
The real lies here are the claims of millions of frivolous suits in which jurors award liars with pots of money and television contracts. The legal standard for proving a hostile work environment is high and usually requires showing a pattern of bad behavior. If anything, experts say that the current system under-punishes as opposed to over-punishes, and that most victims of sexual harassment on the job will never come forward at all. As E.J. Graff puts it: “If she leaves and sues, she ruins her standing in her field. She rarely wins—studies show that judges overwhelmingly throw out sexual-harassment allegations on summary judgment, before the case ever goes to trial—unless the behavior is so egregious that even the company’s lawyers know that juries will be appalled.” Sex discrimination still runs rampant. Ian Millhiser cites a new University of Michigan study finding that “one in 10 women in the workplace will at some point be “promised promotion or better treatment if they [are] ‘sexually cooperative’ with a co-worker or supervisor.”
It bears repeating (again): We don’t and may never know the full details of the allegations against Cain. Yet brushing them away as failed jokes or benign compliments to greedy women doesn’t comport with what witnesses are describing: Reports of Cain’s “aggressive and unwanted” behavior toward a subordinate that were “persistent” and spanned “several incidents” may not strike you as serious. But for a young woman, afraid for her job and her reputation, they are career-defining. Nobody is suggesting these claims are necessarily true. But to claim that they must be false because all women lie and all harassers are just joking is a terrifying proposition. Even more than the outright antagonism of so many conservative pundits, what’s worrying to me is the indifference of so many Republican voters: New poll results show that 70 percent of Republicans say the sexual harassment scandal makes no difference in their vote. It’s no longer just a Republican war on women. It’s a war on the idea that any woman might ever tell the truth.