I’ve become aware of a sexual harassment incident in Tucson via Facebook. I don’t know any of the people involved directly, but I do know of the two establishments mentioned—as well as being friends of friends of the ‘victim’ on Facebook. Writing about such things always puts the scribe on shaky ground, and as I write this I’m not sure I will post it anywhere. It seems so not worth it to enter the fray, and I can’t speak to the facts because I’m following it on social media. What this amounts to is repeating some information garnered from social media, presenting what feels like lost history on sexual harassment law, then considering how communication of such things has changed in the age of social media.
So far as I can garner, the incident happened over a month ago in a popular Tucson bar that’s attached to an old video store, a unique Tucson institution. A ‘regular’ at the bar texted the female bartender with a proposition, “How many roses for 30 min now.” It’s soon clear the guy is offering pay for “a relationship…now”, “30 min. How many roses?” At that question, someone claiming to be the bartender’s man replies angrily. The regular laughs it off, texting he is ex-military who has “killed many”. All this information comes from a public screen-cap of the texts shown on Facebook.
The bartender posted the screen-cap along with an explanation that said she tried to share it with her manager, got challenged to tell the truth, and ended up out of a job. She concludes “I’m posting this in search of support from my local community; a public statement against the support network for sexual harassment, and the retaliation against victims.” Now there are calls for a boycott of the bar video store, as well as the local ‘arthouse’ cinema where the ‘harasser’ works, until the manager and the ‘regular’ are fired. All of this happening on social media with hardened viewpoints and a great lack of due process.
So what of the lost history of sexual harassment law? I guess I must be officially “old” because I see how things have changed and are misunderstood by the younger generation. When I was young, sexual harassment law was still making its way into the workplace. There was a clear delineation between workplace behavior and personal time behavior. Personal behavior usually didn’t affect one’s employment unless laws had been broken, and sometimes not even then. Broken laws were a matter for the court system, and the destruction of someone’s life because they had made a mistake wasn’t a normal thing. They were given a chance to explain and change. When it came to sexually impudent behavior outside the workplace, that wasn’t automatically characterized as sexual harassment or grounds for losing one’s job. Women typically dealt with it through private communication (or gossip) with other women—i.e., “watch out for that jerk!”
These days, there are so many blurred lines between work and personal time, and social media has changed the way communication happens. Gossip has been mainstreamed into a social media weapon and due process is out the window. Two Tucson institutions might be facing boycotts if they don’t fire their employees, and the online advice for everyone is to lawyer up. The situation is exploding. The men are inhuman. Something must be done! There’s a whole politics of personal destruction being played out through social media. And there’s no way to know what is true.
Hold on a minute. Is this the best way to handle what happened?
Social media has not only sped up the ways communication travels, but it has given us more ways to fuck up our lives, to act on a moment of impulse (or delusion) and regret it later—whether that impulsive act is sending text messages while drunk in a bar or a post to social media telling our ‘truth’. Maybe slow-moving private gossip among women was a better way to handle these things. (I can’t believe I’m supporting gossip.) I fear where this approach is leading. It seems just this side of volatile. Everyone is rushing to judgment. What’s the outcome?
Want honest advice (from someone who had a guy’s crotch in his face at one job in Tucson and experienced bereavement harassment at another)? Speak your piece, let it go, and move on with your life. Don’t get stuck in somebody else’s compulsive patterns of behavior. There’s more to life than getting caught up in the system trying to prove some ‘truth’. Go take a fun hike. There’s always a better place to be, another job with better people or no people at all. Count your blessings, curse your curses, and realize the road to happiness isn’t paved by lawyers or by proving a point or in listening to people who wear suits all too often.
Blogging note: I realize this is two sexual harassment related posts in a row, and perhaps I’m getting too sociopolitical here. I plan to get back more toward the arts and writing in future posts.