Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Pence Rule

I'm not saying anything that hasn't already been said by a million other people, but hey I gotta fill this blueboard with something. It's so horrible and stupid whenever these accusations come out and people (usually conservatives but not just) argue that essentially men and women should just never be alone together, especially in the workplace. The slightly more enlightened liberal version is that no two people (there are gay men and women after all!) should be alone in a workplace setting. But these are dumb suggestions, implying both that people (men, really, but ok, people) just can't be expected to control themselves and that THE REAL CONCERN involves false accusations. Simultaneously, somehow.

People who work together will need to be be alone together sometimes, and denying that possibility to women - either in the workplace or work-related social situations - is going to negatively impact their career possibilities.

It's difficult to talk about the full range of behaviors, ranking them, because it sounds like some are being excused. But ultimately, the issue in the workplace is abuse of power. People need jobs (we all gotta eat) and they want successful careers. You can't report the boss to the boss, and you can't report the boss's favorite protege to the boss either. The HR department doesn't care about you, they care about their legal liability. Power can be more complicated than that, but that's the simple version.

When it came to the Glenn Thrush allegations (even this sucky blogger feels the need to put things in lawyer-proof terms sometimes), the issue wasn't so much that he was an aggressive drunk, though that can be bad enough of course, it was that he allegedly slut-shamed the women he hit on, making it seem like they were the aggressors in order to damage their reputations. I mean, who cares if they were the aggressors - what 25-year-old could resist sexy Glenn? - but people are still horrible about this stuff and so they do care.

While the full Lauer stories aren't out yet, that seems to be the issue with him as well. Men Behaving Badly is bad, but men abusing their power is what the worst of this stuff is about. That power can both physical and economic. The "boss" sleeping with underlings is certainly open for criticism, but those can be legitimately consensual relationships. Often those consensual relationships are bad ideas, but still. The existence of power differentials is inevitable in almost all of our relationships. That power isn't always being abused, but often it is.