I’m so sick of hearing about Herman Cain I almost don’t want to write this post, but it’s not really about Cain; this is about how sexual harassment (and rape, too often) are perceived in our society.
Recently, listening to the radio, I heard a man discussing the latest Herman Cain news and the fact that a fourth woman had now come forward with accusations. The man, trying (oh so hard) to be funny, said “Wow. I never knew anyone with the name Herman could be such a pimp!” Haha! Hilarious! A man with a dorky name a ladies’ man! So funny!
Wait a second…really? We are describing an alleged harasser as a ladies’ man? Now, my mother doesn’t understand how the word ‘pimp’ could ever be a compliment, but for many of us under 60, we know that pimp is often used to describe something as cool, and when applied to a person (usually a man), it means that they’ve got game, they’re good with the ladies, they date/hook up/have sex a lot.
So by describing Herman Cain as a pimp, this radio DJ was essentially saying that these accusations of harassment are something to be proud of, something the women wanted or enjoyed.
Now, I don’t think that this radio announcer necessarily intended to say “Sexual harassment is a compliment to any man, and Cain should be proud.” I think he made a stupid joke without thinking about it before or after. But I also think that this comment shows how sexist our ideas surrounding harassment and rape still are.
Recently, we acknowledged the 20 year anniversary of Anita Hill’s testimony of sexual harassment. When she testified, she was crucified in the media; yet today, twenty years later, most people believe her story, that Clarence Thomas was in fact sexually harassing her. So it would seem we’ve come really far, right? Yet, in the way this radio DJ so casually dismissed the newest woman’s accusations against Cain says, to me at least, that we haven’t come that far.
Our society still sees sexual harassment as jokes that a woman with no sense of humor just didn’t get, or as comments/gestures/behaviors that should be considered a compliment to the woman. Our society still sees rape as a result of a woman’s behavior, clothing or sexual past. And as long as people like this radio announcer continue to make dismissive, casual jokes about rape and harassment, rape culture will persist and victim-blaming will continue.