The fantastic Lynne Murray, guestblogging:
Several blogs have picked up the story of this dinosaurly old guy. In giving him their Dirty Old Man of the Year award, Feministing remarks:
“William Donald SchaeferÃ¢â‚¬â€former governor of Maryland and current State ComptrollerÃ¢â‚¬â€has created quite a stir this week due to some really gross sexist behavior Ã¢â‚¬Â¦This was followed by his feelings [of] being hurt when questioned about it.”
At a State Board of Public Works Meeting, current Gov. Robert EhrlichÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 24-year old administrative aide brought the 84-year old Schaefer a cup of tea. Schaefer watched her ass intently as she walked away, then motioned for her to come back and said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Walk again,Ã¢â‚¬Â in front of the other 100 people present.
Rather than being about sex per se, I think this is about power and inhibitionÃ¢â‚¬â€specifically how those with more power don’t feel obligated to restrain themselves socially.
When questioned, Schaefer said:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This little girlÃ¢â‚¬Â should be Ã¢â‚¬Å“happy that I observed her going out the door.Ã¢â‚¬Â He then claimed that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the one who should be offended for being asked about it.”
His habit of calling women Ã¢â‚¬Å“little girlsÃ¢â‚¬Â actually extends to his office, where women who have worked for him in the past havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been offended, says Louise L. Hayman, SchaeferÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s aide. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It sounds like heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s demeaning you, but what heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really saying is he respects you.Ã¢â‚¬Â she continued.
When a man can publicly report his Ã¢â‚¬Å“admirationÃ¢â‚¬Â (read Ã¢â‚¬Å“arousalÃ¢â‚¬Â) toward an underling in a large public forum, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s because he sees the power equation as so skewed towards himself that any attention he pays to a subordinate is a compliment. I would be willing to bet that he has some other method of demonstrating his power over his male subordinatesÃ¢â‚¬â€overt verbal insults or some sort of menÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s restroom status game. Clearly the world has changed some since Schaefer last ventured out of his protective power sack.
I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t imagine working in this guyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office, but I understand his aideÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reaction. Many young women now being harassed hold a simple view, which is essentially, Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is not fair. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m going to call him on it.Ã¢â‚¬Â I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t argue with that, but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect that to be an easy road. Some harassers can drag you down with them, even if you win. At the same time, many other women, perhaps particularly those of my generation (IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m 57), have experienced Ã¢â‚¬Å“hands-onÃ¢â‚¬Â sexual harassment, grabbing, pinching, Ã¢â‚¬Å“sleep with me or youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re fired,Ã¢â‚¬Â type stuff, at a time when there was nowhere to go with a complaint. As a result, some victims have developed very effective passive-aggressive strategies. Unfortunately, these are covert and may not seem heroically admirable. Also because of class and generational barriers in the workplace, these strategies are seldom shared, and if offered, rarely followed. They are the strategies of those with little power, who must nonetheless survive and continue to work.
I witnessed this contrast clearly when I watched a harassment claim in the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ90s filed by a young woman lawyer against a seniorÃ¢â‚¬â€with a disastrous outcome for all involved. When I described the situation to a legal secretary in her 60s, she was so shocked that she burst into laughter at the idea of suing over such behavior (which was offensive, but purely verbal). It was so mild compared with what she had dealt with throughout her early working life that suing seemed absurd to her. This secretaryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s own way of dealing with overbearing partners was professional and effective, although not for everyone. It involved getting a death grip on the gentlemanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s In-Box and gradually twisting until the required respect was offered.