First things first. I have, earlier in my career, worked for three men you might have heard of — Robert MacNeil, Jim Lehrer, and Bill Moyers — and I feel it’s essential for me to get this on the record:
Every single one of them was a model of professionalism and decorum. The worst thing any of them ever said to me was, “Judy, about this story idea – it needs a little more work.”
It is beginning to seem that they were the last gentlemen in America.
I find myself cringing, now, with every newscast: “Please, please, take every morning talk show host, male and female — just leave me Mark Harmon and NCIS!”
I can’t argue with the notion that people who abuse their position deserve to be fired. Bad behavior requires consequences, at every age.
But I’m noticing a certain lack of proportion.
For example: It took at least 50 women to come forward with stories about Bill Cosby, and still the worst the legal system could do ended in mistrial; but let just one man speak up and it’s curtains for Kevin Spacey!
Not only that, but Netflix was pulling the plug on his entire series, “House of Cards.”
That’s where I draw the line.
Go ahead and fire Kevin Spacey, if you feel you must — but there must be 100 men and women making a living from that production, between cast and writers and crew and donut shops.
Must they all lose their livelihood, in the blink of an eye, for the misdeeds of one man?
It’s a bitter pill — especially when the solution is as plain as the headline in your face. Obviously, Spacey’s President Underwood must leave the White House — they can just quote “sexual misconduct allegations” and not make anything up!
That clears the way for wife Claire (played to chilly perfection by Robin Wright) to become President.
It appears that someone at Netflix now agrees with me, because they are at least going to produce another eight episodes. After that, I’m sure it all depends on the ratings. You go, President Claire!
Next one out: Garrison Keillor?! The bookish fellow who somehow managed to make gentle fun of his own Lutheran background, of mayonnaise and ketchup and “Midwestern nice”? He isn’t even on the air any more!
I’m also noticing that the only men facing consequences, right now, work for institutions that are susceptible to shame.
Which leaves untouched all who are shameless.
Who will save us from them? Because most Americans work for people who aren’t afraid of negative mentions in “Variety” or “The New Yorker.”
How do we deal with them? When even the courts let us down?
I was thinking out loud about this to a friend the other day. “Clearly,” I said to him, “the status quo isn’t working. I don’t know how we fix it, but one thing’s for sure: the days of ‘He said/She said’ are over.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that it’s not enough, any more, to say a woman’s allegation is “He said/She said,’ and dismiss it,” I replied. “I think it’s clear, nowadays, that something’s got to change.”
My friend was instantly outraged. “Do you mean to say that I would have to live in a world where I tell my story, and no one believes me? That’s intolerable! That’s outrageous!”
“You’re right,” I replied. “It is outrageous. It is intolerable. And do you realize, you have just described every woman’s situation, since ever? If it’s so intolerable to you, maybe it is to us, too.”
His answer was swift. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
The thing is, I think I do. I have been walking around, a woman on this planet, for well over 50 years; and even though I do not have a story for #metoo, I am plenty familiar with the way too many women are treated by too many men. And it is not good. I don’t think men would tolerate it.
In fact, I know they wouldn’t and here’s the proof: this very man, shouting at me how intolerable that would be!
I suppose all this may be unnerving, especially to men. But I don’t really think it’s asking too much for them to follow a few rules from kindergarten:
“Hey, Harvey! Charlie Rose! Louis C.K. — Keep your hands to yourselves. And keep those pants on!”
It’s not like we’re asking for empathy. Just a few rules. And clothing. It’s not too much to ask.