Men will never achieve equality in harassment

MIKE LITTWIN

August 23, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

I read in the paper the other day that, in the age of equal rights, women have now begun to sexually harass men.

That's progress of a kind, I guess. But the whole idea made me, as a man, extremely depressed.

Because, I realized, I've never been sexually harassed. Women don't whistle at me when I walk down the street. I routinely don't get propositioned. No tattooed, lunch-timing construction workerette in a hard hat has ever shouted at me, "Hey, baby, wanna do the wild thing?"

What I'm trying to say is, if some women out there are grading me bun-wise -- yes, it's a scary thought -- they've managed to keep it a well-hidden secret.

Once again, the world is apparently passing me by.

My wife went to the hardware store the other day, and this pimply-faced kid behind the counter kept sneaking looks at her. I went to McDonald's the same day, and this young woman behind the counter looked up at me and said in a voice I'll never forget, "Hey, mister, you might want to mix in an occasional salad."

It isn't as if I haven't had opportunity to be on the wrong end of the sexual harassment equation. No, ma'am. At work, my two immediate superiors are both women, and yet I haven't gotten so much as a wink from either.

What am I -- chopped liver?

There was a picture in the paper of a guy who said women co-workers routinely made suggestive remarks about his appearance and how he turned them on. I expected to see a Baltimore Mel Gibson. Instead, he looked more like Mel from the "Dick Van Dyke Show."

This is what women want? Or was this guy hearing voices?

So I asked a few other men. It turned out none of them had been sexually harassed. I asked a few more. They hadn't been harassed either, although a few said they were willing to volunteer for any applicable experiments.

There seemed to be a trend, or maybe an anti-trend, developing. Then, suddenly, I understood what was going on.

What we're seeing here -- and Freud might have appreciated this -- is what I'll call Venus envy.

In the '90s, if you're not being harassed or discriminated against or somehow seen as an underdog, you're nowhere. I mean, how are you going to form a support group otherwise? Even lawyers, if you can believe it, are complaining that they're being unfairly targeted, as if that were possible.

It's tough these days being a white male when suddenly everyone blames you for their problems. Not surprisingly, they're blaming back.

That must be the reason why so many men's-rights groups are emerging. All at once, their absolute hold on their world seems in some jeopardy. There are already two women now on the Supreme Court and six in the Senate. Where's it going to end?

And so, it's fair to ask: What do men's-rights groups want? The way I understand it, they want Hillary either barefoot and pregnant or in a nunnery. And they want Rush Limbaugh as president. And their own Equal Rights Amendment. Can somebody stop these people?

Do you listen to radio talk shows? Of course you do, and this is what you hear: White people saying that blacks get all the advantages. Men saying that women get all the advantages. You hear a lot of talk about gay rights impinging on the rights of straight people. I keep waiting to hear that there's too much handicap parking. It's coming. You'll see.

Do the callers have a point?

Well, I know it's possible for a woman boss to sexually harass a male employee. I'm sure it has happened. There was a famous lawsuit in California in which this guy got a million bucks when his female boss made repeated passes at him.

It may even happen more often than we realize. Let's face it, most guys aren't going to admit to having been sexually harassed. I mean, if a woman is all over a man, there are things he can do, like back away and give her his best Bogie look and say, "Sorry, doll, this just isn't happening for me."

But, you have to admit, for a woman, it's different. If the guy is 6 feet 4 and you're in a bar and he's had a few drinks, what is a woman to do?

You don't see too many stories of women trapping men in stairwells or, for that matter, stabbing them on tennis courts.

That's the way it is, guys. Men simply don't get to be harassed in the same way as women. It's not equal and it never will be. And it's something we're just going to have to live with.

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