This past week, in a blatant show of protecting his butt, David Letterman made a mockery of his show, his marriage, his fans, and the women with whom he works. Letterman’s performance was pure CYA. As he alternately apologized and joked about his now-infamous indiscretions with his subordinates on the show, his audience reacted with confusion – some laughter, some silence, but a heavy dose of “okay, you’ve apologized, so forget about it.” Is it any wonder that sexual harassment is still rampant in this country and so hard to combat?
Letterman’s actions should be considered sexual harassment, and, instead of feigning concern for his subordinate female employees, he should have been slithering off the set for good. He acknowledged his actions were “creepy.” Creepy? creepy? The man is a cave man throwback to the days when males in superior positions rode roughshod over their female employees. Rather than face retribution or loss of jobs, women caved in and were subjected to various means of humiliation in the workplace.
Letterman managed to turn what in many cases are illegal actions into fodder for his evening joke lines. And, the sad thing? CBS is cautiously standing behind him and the audiences seem ready to put it all in the past. On-the-street interviews with average citizens found most of them with the blase attitude of “he did it, he apologized, move on.”
Although the females involved have gallantly stepped up to the plate and stated there was no sexual harassment and everything was just hunky-dory consensual, what seems to be missed in this whole, sorry episode is the concept that when a superior propositions a lower-ranking employee, there is always a measure of coercion.
The coercion may be slight, but it nevertheless exists. After all, how do you say no to a boss who controls your destiny without a fear of consequences?
Sexual harassment can be one of two kinds. The first is what is called “quid pro quo” or a “this for that” situation. The superior says if the woman will do something for him, he will do something nice and good for the woman. The key is that in order to establish a case, the woman must show that she was actually harmed in some way if she does say no. If she says no but cannot show some type of negative retribution, then the legal cause disappears. This form of sexual harassment is based on pure power – the power of the superior to coerce the underling.
The second kind of sexual harassment is called “hostile work environment.” This situation usually occurs when women compose a very small percentage of a work force, for example, women in a typically male-dominated environment. The male counterparts make the environment sexually uncomfortable, often with sexual innuendo, off-color jokes, nude pinups, etc. You get the idea.
Letterman’s actions should be pursued as sexual harassment, and he should not be able to walk away from this joking all the way to the bank. Let’s face it, wrong as the blackmailer is, Letterman would not have come forward had the plot not existed. And, while the public outcry over politicians who carry on affairs reaches a fever pitch, Letterman’s dalliances created a surge – 22% to be exact – in his show’s ratings.
The picture below says it all. Letterman even joked about Martin Short’s sitting on Steve Martin’s lap by stating that sitting too long could lead to a blackmail scheme.
Wow, and we wonder what has happened in this country.