Friday, December 1, 2017

On Harassment Scandals

I can't muster any sympathy for pervs, but it's very easy for me to identify with a guy who gets most of his info about the real world from the Internet. At the end of the last millennium I narrowly escaped becoming a permanently unemployed loser, and I often wonder what I'd be doing and thinking now if I hadn't made that jump. It seems that this guy, the parallel-universe Glossy NEET, would wildly overestimate the amount of sexual harassment, of sexual anything, in the American workplace.

At any given time I "know" a few hundred people through work. In the span of 18 years several thousand coworkers passed through my consciousness. There are no water coolers and management has the right to read employee e-mails, so gossip is usually spread by phone or by people visiting each other's cubicles or offices to chat.

How many instances of alleged sexual harassment have been discussed in this largish community in this century? One.

About 10 years ago a guy who managed a unit that I dealt with tangentially was fired after an allegation from a female subordinate. A co-worker of mine told me at the time  that the accuser and the accused actually had a consensual relationship. A wave of budget-cutting layoffs was going through our little corner of the universe then. As per my coworker, the accuser asked the not-yet-accused to pull some strings to keep her employed. Apparently he was either unwilling or unable (the latter is plausible) to do this for her. In this version of the story, since the accuser was losing her job anyway, and was angry at him, she did the most she could legally do to hurt him by filing a sexual harassment complaint. There was a lawsuit of some sort as well.

Of course I don't know what really happened there. But women usually take the female side in such conflicts, yet my female co-worker dismissed the accusation of harassment as nonsense.

Over these same 18 years, how many people I knew or knew about lost their jobs due to financial improprieties? A handful. It's still very few, but notice how much more common it is than sexual harassment.

Why is there so much more sexual harassment in the entertainment industry than in others?

There's an old joke in which a robber is asked why he robs banks. "Because that's where the money is." And true, Hollywood attracts attractive people.

Also, Hollywood big shots can get away with more because they wield more power. If someone like me falls out with his boss, he might get fired. But I'll just get another job. Our bosses can't make us rich or famous. If they could, we'd forgive and overlook more.

The part of the Weinstein drama that struck the loudest chord in me was actually him being an asshole to subordinates. THAT I've experienced. Don't get me wrong, it's not common where I work either. Most criticism is expressed behind the object's back. And when it's made in person, it's usually through hints and tone of voice modulations that a nerd like me can easily miss. But a small fraction of bosses are more direct.

I've never raised my voice at work and never will. It's not because I never get angry. No, I just wouldn't get away with it. The people who offend truly randomly are all dead or in prison. To rise in the social hierarchy while humiliating others you need to have a very precise intuitive sense of where each person's boundaries are, what's possible and impossible in what kind of situation, what exactly the system that you work in can tolerate. It's a thousand times more complicated than "never offend anyone important, shout at nobodies all you want". A person who takes THAT position will never become important.

A guy with a low level of interpersonal ability is better off always being polite. Not that I'm complaining. You'd truly have to be an asshole to regret the lack of opportunities to act like an asshole.

A few thoughts specifically about the pervalanche:

I'm guessing that Weinstein cheated someone more powerful than himself in business and was hit back for that through the New York Times.

The "me too" movement which destroyed dozens of careers since then was probably spontaneous. Women always copy each other.

Why didn't this flood start after the Cosby scandal, the O'Reilly scandal or a hundred others before them? The women harassed by Weinstein were current celebrities, the kind who fill the tabloids, TMZ, Perez Hilton's blog, etc. The bigger the stars, the more female attention you'll get, and the more attention, the bigger the "me too" effect. Cosby's victims were active in a past era and were less famous even then.

No moguls have gone down since Weinstein, and you just know that they're the biggest pervs and leches in that business. I'm guessing that everything is being allowed to go through except for accusations against the biggest big shots.