Today is the day San Diego Mayor Bob Filner starts his two weeks of intensive therapy to help cure what he called the “monster…inside me.”
A few weeks ago, the man known as Headlock Bob found himself in hot water over his alleged instances of “unwanted sexual touching”. It seems Big Bad Bob likes dragging women around the office in a ‘friendly’ headlock while asks them for a little love. He has also been known to ask the women in his office to come to work without their panties. To be fair, perhaps he feels this will help them type faster or something…sort of like swimmers who shave off all their body hair in order to shave off a few seconds of time. (Honestly, if I had a nickel for every time my panties have slowed me down at work, well, I’d be sitting on a beach in…uh…nowhere because I’d have NO FREAKIN’ NICKELS!)
Mayor Herbie Headlock has a long history of serving the people of San Diego, including 20 years in Congress and six years with the city council. He is well-known as being a serial sexual harasser.
Now, to be fair, he has admitted to doing the things he is charged with but he says it’s not his fault. At 70 (!) years of age, he says he didn’t know any better. He blames the City of San Diego because they did not pay for him to attend sexual harassment training seminars.
(No, seriously. I could not make this stuff up.)
In fact, his lawyer is arguing that because his employer didn’t send him for this training, they should pay his legal fees as fights the charges these (now) 10 women have brought against him.
First of all, let me be the first to say…two weeks, Mr. Mayor? Seriously? It’s only going to take two weeks (!!!) for some therapist to beat the douche-baggyness out of you? And then you get to go back to work as the Mayor of the great city of San Diego? Where is this therapy taking place? Hogwarts?
While this story made me laugh in a head-shaking, tongue-clucking sort of way, it also made me wonder how a story like this could even occur in this day and age.
The women who have filed suit against Headlock Bob sound like strong, relatively powerful women. One is a communications consultant, another a dean at the University of San Diego, while still another is a retired Navy rear admiral who also served as San Diego’s former chief operating officer.
They all say he made them uncomfortable, embarrassed and/or scared.
And yet it took some of them YEARS to file a complaint.
So why didn’t they report him? Why weren’t charges filed years earlier?
I have no idea. I would guess they feared some sort of retribution from a very powerful, well-connected man. B ut I would also guess there was another factor at play.
We are all deathly afraid. Women especially.
And do you know what we are afraid of?
We don’t want to make a scene.
So we laugh nervously and get the hell out of the situation and hope that we never have to go through anything like that again.
And yet, sometimes, we end up going through it over and over again.
So, here’s what I suggest.
First of all, check out your surroundings. Are you safe? Are there people around? Exits you can use? Yes?
Now use your words. Sometimes it works best to speak softly. I love whispering. I find it often works like a charm. But if that doesn’t work or you just don’t feel like it, speak up. Loudly, if necessary.
It’s OK to say, “Take your hand off my leg. Now.”
It’s OK to say, “No, you may not kiss me. Ever”
It’s OK to say, “If you ever put me in headlock again, I will knee you in the gonads and then march to HR and file a complaint.”
Don’t worry. You can’t die of embarrassment. Trust me. I would be dead a million times over if that were the case. I can barely make it to the bathroom in the morning without embarrassing myself and I’m still here.
So what if people stare? So what if he gets mad and says, “I was just joking” and gets huffy?
Again, I’m not talking about situations where you are in danger. That’s a different story for a different time. I’m talking about situations like the ones these women were in.
In most cases, they were in public places, where other people were present, where they were physically safe.
One of my biggest goals as a teacher is to teach young people (girls AND boys) that it’s OK to speak up for yourself.
Over the years, I have seen girls as young as 8 who can’t end a sentence without lilting their voice at the end so every sentence ends up sounding like a question.
The sentence becomes a question as she looks around the room to see if everyone (especially the class bully) likes cats and if it’s OK to like cats and if she really should say she likes cats or just wait in case anyone says they like dogs more.
I always tell my students, “Tell me what you think and say it like you mean it.”
“I LIKE cats!”
Say it like you mean it.
Perhaps that will keep future mayors and others from thinking it’s OK to put women in headlocks and pat their butts and basically degrade and dehumanize them because they
know think they can get away with it.