Nothing has rocked Springfield in the past months more than an open letter describing an environment of sexual harassment “ranging from daily microaggressions to acts of pure viciousness”.
Before I go any further, let me say that I have no doubt that sexual harassment goes on in Springfield (though I wouldn’t know a “microagression” from a microwave. It sounds to me like a subjectively insignificant action that would be better handled with a puppy or a juice box). I have no sympathy for it, and if guys want to walk around acting like cave men with a club, count me out.
Last night on Chicago Tonight, four legislators were interviewed and talked about the letter and the need for legislation to address the problem. Carol Marin did her best to get them to describe their experiences and name the person who was the source of the harassment. When it came to naming names, she failed.
Representative Sarah Feigenholtz said that she herself hadn’t been harassed and didn’t know who the perpetrators are. If that’s true, then Representative Feigenholtz doesn’t get around much, because one thing that’s certainly more widespread in Springfield than sexual harassment is gossip. She then went on to put some of the blame on Donald Trump for the recent spike in harassment claims. That’s sure to advance the conversation.
Senator Heather Steans eschewed naming her harasser because it happened in the past. When asked if that let the guy off the hook, she dodged the question and said that witnesses need to be “trained” so they can jump in and object to the activity. She went on to say that training wouldn’t be enough, but we need training nonetheless.
Representative Robin Gabel said that “everyone can make their play, doesn’t go anywhere”, sounding as if everyone is entitled to one freebie. So what is it: harassment from the get-go or establishing flexible guidelines? You can’t have it both ways.
Representative Chris Welch said he heard from a male former staffer who said he’d been propositioned by a female legislator, which at least gives us the perception of gender-neutrality.
I said above that I have no sympathy for those who think that they’re entitled to act like boorish clods. The reason I have no use for it is that I was brought up that way, I had parents who taught me that human nature is imperfectible and it was my job to resist the baser instincts to which we’re all subject. In that regard, Senator Steans is right, training won’t be enough. Nothing will be enough until human nature bends toward androgyny.
But if my colleagues want me to sign on to this, they’re certainly not doing it the right way. I’m not saying I’m blameless, but I’m damned sure not going to allow myself to be painted with their broad brush, nor will I subject myself to whatever “training” is imposed. By implying that I’m part of the problem simply by occupying a seat on the House floor or through the accident of birth of having been born male, they’re giving me every reason to say “no”. I assume the culture extends beyond Ira Silvertein. If they want my support, then name names.