Former GOOD executive editor/#Realtalk From Your Editor creator/all-around awesome person Ann Friedman has some wisdom to share re: coping with sexual harassment in the workplace, inspired by the recent Oxford American debacle:
I used to have a very elaborate inside joke with a few other women in media. It was called The Island, and the narrative went like this: All of the editors we know to be sexual harassers or professional bullies are on a plane together, probably heading to some sort of "ideas festival," when the plane goes down on a small island. There, they are forced to live out the rest of their days with only each other to harass. In their absence, the rest of us go on to remake the media industry into a creative, forward-thinking, gender-equitable paradise. Fin.
It was funny to picture this scenario, but also sort of a sad coping mechanism. We knew these dudes were too professionally powerful, too entrenched to really be held accountable for their behavior. The Island became a code for telling each other who was a good guy and who was a bad guy-which upper-masthead men actually wanted to mentor us, and which ones just wanted the thrill of having a cocktail with an attractive younger woman under the guise of professionalism: "Is he on The Island or not?" Or, "Watch out, that guy's totally on The Island."
Friedman touches upon some of the most frustrating aspects of sexual harassment on the job: it's often all about the little things, like touches that linger on a little too long or comments that, perhaps just in retrospect, seem like double entendres. So employees — particularly subordinates — stay quiet, because it's not black and white and they want to hold on to their jobs. "You might have a bad feeling about a dude, but not quite be ready to call it harassment until it's gone on for months," Friedman writes. "In other words, it creeps up on you. Creeps creep up on you. That's how they do!"
Friedman suggests some kind of "private message board where users are vetted but anonymous, where women can take this knowledge about who belongs on The Island and share it without fear of retribution." YES PLEASE. Somebody make one?
Image via Everett Collection