Harassment has everything to do with the character of the perpetrator, not the person on the receiving end. It is an action reeking of contempt and misplaced assumption about power.
How did Trump reply when asked if his daughter were to be in such a situation? “I would like to think she’d find another career or find another company if that was the case.”
To clarify, his son, Eric Trump added, “I think what he is saying is that Ivanka is a strong, powerful woman; she wouldn’t allow herself to be.”
Allow herself to be?
This struck a nerve with me, a nerve I’d buried and forgotten. Until now.
On two occasions in my career I’ve been caught off guard by inappropriate and sexually suggestive behavior while at work. Both times I was alone in my office. Both times the person was of a higher rank and older. Both times I was paralyzed with a running loop of ICan’tBelieveThisIsHappening racing in my mind. Both times I was embarrassed. Both times I walked away in a daze wondering how I’d pull off getting back to work.
I did not allow this behavior. I’m about as flirtatious as a brick and my attire is a degree less conservative than a Mormon fundamentalist. But even if I had the appeal of a Samantha Jones or Sofia Vergara, harassment could not possibly be justified or described as relevant to the person being harassed because it does not stem from them. The action belongs to the perpetrator.
Harassment is uninvited. In fact, that’s pretty much the central nature to harassment.
On a rational level I know that I did nothing wrong; nevertheless I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I left my office both times feeling shame and contemplating what I had done to make the men believe that was okay. Now, after reading about Trump Inc’s position on the subject I see why. I’m wrapped up in a culture where the woman’s actions and credibility are called into question as a matter of course.
Deep down, I absorbed the lie of victim-blaming. And this is the unfortunate truth despite the fact that I know better, that I’m a Ph.D., a vocal feminist, and a proud Beauvoirian.
If you’re perplexed as to why I didn’t say anything, the only response I can offer: I was in a state of complete shock.
I imagine other women, all the unreported cases, have a similar narrative: alone, no witnesses, not another career to run to, a perpetrator with a higher standing.
Note: another career wouldn’t make sense for me because
1) I love my job
2) See number 1.
So, on behalf of any person who has been bullied, harassed, or belittled for gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and/or race, I’d like to say:
Fuck you, Trump and son, for suggesting we are not strong, powerful, or should look for another career.