Disco. ‘tute president Bruce Chapman is upset. There are ladies with their bloomers in a twist over something or other that they claim Herman Cain said. Let’s read Chapman and see if we can guess what Cain is supposed to have done:
A number of significant insights are emerging from the charges of sex harassment lodged against Herman Cain. It may be wise to withhold judgement [sic] about the particulars so far. There are a number of groups operating behind the scenes to drive the story one way or another.
Aha! Charges of sexual harassment were filed, but we should be dubious because shadowy groups are trying to destroy this innocent man.
However, it’s not too soon to note the way job problems in our times are converted into legal problems. I have commented on the tendency of lawyers for businesses and even governments to discount charges of sex discrimination and sexual harassment by settling out of court–the supposedly “cheaper” outcome for otherwise costly lawsuits. Obviously, if there really has been an illegal action or pattern of behavior the business or agency should settle, and effectively admit wrongdoing. If not, the “cheaper” outcome may become an expensive one–at least in terms of publicity.
Oh, it’s a job problem. Like when Stephen Meyer doesn’t make a new pot of coffee after he finish the old one, or when David Klinghoffer writes another essay blaming Charles Darwin for his hangnail. Sure, someone can sue over it, but it’s not a real issue, so businesses might decide, foolishly, to settle this frivolous claim. Fortunately, while Cain has had charged lodged against him, it isn’t like his former company already settled these charges over a decade ago, “effectively admitting wrongdoing.”
In The American Spectator, Lisa Fabrisio [sic] makes another relevant arguement [sic]: that the Cain issue reeks of hypocrisy. Here is a modern media/entertainment culture steeped in soft porn, where new breakthroughs in lowered standards are accomplished [sic] constantly. And yet it is this same debased culture that acts offended by some official’s conversational gaffe or unintended double entendre!
The problem isn’t what Cain did (or if Chapman’s to be believed, didn’t do). The problem is that there’s cleavage on display at supermarket checkout lines. Hypocrisy! Women are allowed to wear revealing outfits, but an employer can’t grope an employee? (Allegedly!) Besides, I bet this “sexual harassment” is just a slip of the tongue, or a joke that was taken the wrong way. You know how women are.
Of course, those of us who’ve read the newspapers in the last week (without being distracted by the bra ads), know a few things that Chapman doesn’t.
First, we know that Cain isn’t just charged with sexual harassment, he and his company settled those charges over a decade ago. And his company added a gag rule to the settlement, so that he and his former company can talk about the charges, but the women he assaulted cannot speak publicly. Politico explains what we know about those cases:
The sources — including the recollections of close associates and other documentation — describe episodes that left the women upset and offended. These incidents include conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices. There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.
In addition to the three women (we know of) whose suits were settled, a fourth woman came forward and discussed a similar incident she experienced. She had been fired by Cain’s National Restaurant Association, and asked to meet Mr. Cain to get help finding a new job:
After taking her out for a night on the town in Washington, she said, he suggested she engage with him sexually in return for his assistance — seizing her inappropriately when they were alone in a car and running his hand up her skirt.…
As she described it, Mr. Cain ran his hand up her skirt, “reached for my genitals” and pulled her head toward his crotch. “I said, ‘What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend; this isn’t what I came here for,’ ” Ms. Bialek said, her voice cracking. “Mr. Cain said, ‘You want a job, right?’”
Joel P. Bennett, a lawyer for another of Mr. Cain’s accusers, called Ms. Bialek’s description of the encounter “very similar” to Mr. Cain’s interaction with his client, who he has said received several inappropriate advances from him. Without going in details [as forbidden by their settlement], Mr. Bennett said, “It corroborates the claim.”
To dismiss crotch-grabbing, threats of forced oral sex, and offer to exchange sexual favors for employment as a “job problem,” “a conversational gaffe,” or “unintentional double entendre” stretches the legitimate meanings of any of those terms. Chapman is either clueless about the actual circumstances at hand, or doesn’t understand sexual power dynamics and sexual harassment.
Mr. Chapman runs a multi-million dollar organization, handling administrative matters and a large staff. He seems to genuinely not know what sexual harassment is and why it matters. Clearly, sexism infects the Discovery Institute from the top down. Not many women work at the ‘tute, so maybe the issue hasn’t come up, or maybe this misogynist attitude has simply created an environment where few women are comfortable working.