In the early 1990’s, movies like Pretty Woman captured the heart of America, supposedly. But not long after, the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings were televised on Capitol Hill. In this environment did Monique Marvez (recounting on her 01/14/18 podcast), then writing for a South Beach weekly, tell women: sexual harassment is bullying. You don’t have to take it. Don’t acknowledge it all. Don’t take any hints or subtle suggestions. Play dumb. Always get back to business. “I assumed you called me up to talk about the Smith and Jones account, correct?” Force the boss to either say directly they want sexual favors from you, or get them to give up and actually talk business.
Maybe that’s easier said than done for some women than others. On that episode, Monique Marvez tells how she did it. But the point is how to get into meetings with that mindset.
Speaking of sexual harassment, the comedian Louis CK, has been disgraced because of long-known rumors about his treatment of female comedians that were officially revealed last year. But back in his heyday 5 years ago, he tweeted out something remarkable. I didn’t know it was from him until I researched for this essay in the past few weeks, and the Tweet is long since deleted, but Louis CK wrote something like, “If someone makes a racist/sexist joke, say, with total seriousness, ‘I don’t get it, can you explain it’ Then watch them crash & burn.”
In both Marvez’s and CK’s examples, the object is to keep hammering away at the other person until he admits he doesn’t think some people are entitled to equal respect. Whether or not you’ve got him cornered legally, you’ve turned the tables on him so he’s uncomfortable. You have the power. He has to reveal his motivations.
You never should have to explain yourself. The bully, the racist, the aggressor should always be the one explaining himself or herself. On a public post on Facebook, Ali Hecky put it this way as her husband was assigned to Iraq and she is justifiably angry as to why: “You can stop tolerating bullshit like ‘it’s complicated’ or ‘you don’t understand the whole picture.’ Make them explain it to you. It’s their job to convince you of the intervention, not your job to prove a negative.”
Make them explain why you owe them sexual favors.
Make them explain why that joke was funny.
Make them explain why that country should be invaded.
Make them explain why that city should be bombed.
Make them explain why taxes are too low.
Make them explain why there aren’t enough regulations.
Make them explain why that person should be arrested for a crime where you don’t see where anyone was a victim.
Make them explain why disrespect or violence toward other people is appropriate.
Play dumb if you must. Make them explain it all. You have nothing to prove. They have everything to prove.