Filner: Are Women the Weaker Sex?

Are women the weaker sex? Certainly not, though that fact might be a lesson learned too late in life for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

Yesterday, Irene McCormack Jackson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Filner, her former boss, and the City of San Diego alleging that Filner made blatantly sexual demands among other things to: “see her naked,” “consummate their relationship” and that that she should work without her panties on.

Irene McCormack Jackson, far right, faces the media.
Irene McCormack Jackson, far right, faces the media.

McCormack Jackson told her story of injustice yesterday with big-gun attorney Gloria Allred at a press conference surrounded by an imposing bank of reporters adding to the cry for his resignation. Ever the consummate professional, the former journalist summed up her experience concisely for the media.

“Women were viewed by Mayor Filner as sexual objects or stupid idiots. His behavior made me feel ashamed, frightened and violated.” – Irene McCormack Jackson, July 22 press conference

After six months, she had enough and charged him with the allegations face-to-face. She quit and found another job in the city. He still won – he treated her like a weak sex object and then dismissed her when she rebuked his advances. She was free of an uncomfortable working environment and he didn’t have to face justice. 

She did not know of his storied womanizing rumors. She respected him as a 20-year congressman with a political career book-ended at the City of San Diego as a councilman and mayor. In fact, she was initially so proud to accept the job – she even took a $50,000-a-year pay cut.

Some might blame his ill manners, perhaps even criminal behavior, on a generational gap being that Filner’s 70 years old. Admittedly, he confessed via DVD apology that he’s not quite sure exactly what’s acceptable in today’s standards when he said after the initial accusations of sexual harassment first surfaced a couple weeks ago:

“As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality for all people, I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them. It’s a good thing that behavior that would have been tolerated in the past is being called out in this general for what it is: inappropriate and wrong.”

He later recanted stating he’s innocent and refuses to leave office claiming he’s owed “due process” – a phrase quickly becoming the “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is?” of 2013.

Where’s the disconnect when a man supports “equality for all people” and still thinks it’s OK to play ring around the office desk with his female staff?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Filner’s not alone. In 2011, the EECO received under 12,000 sexual harassment claims with more than $52 million awarded in lawsuits.

Sexual harassment grievance policies are the norm in today’s workplace. By 1998, about 95 percent of large employers had instituted policies and 70 percent of all companies provided training related to understanding and prevent sexual harassment, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

These proactive measures seem to have reduced the charges filed to the EEOC from nearly 16,000 in 1997 to 11,364 in 2011. Like most organizations, the government mandates sexual harassment training courses – so clearly, a career politician would have been to a few sexual harassment trainings.

Thus, the real problem. Women expect to be treated like equals – fighting for equality’s a pig-boss of a different color. A friend and business professional recently told me it’s better to look the other way than deal with an uncomfortable conversation over unwanted flirting and other sexual advances because it’s mostly harmless.

Wrong. It’s entirely harmful.

A man who treats a woman as a sex object isn’t taking her seriously as business professional. Silence implies complicity. And as McCormack Jackson discovered, only you can get justice for yourself. You are your own Prince Charming. The only one way to be taken seriously – take yourself seriously. Stand up. Fight back. Demand equality and fair treatment.

Filner’s not going away for a while and as long he’s around, it’s an excellent chance for women to think about where they stand in the world. Talk to girlfriends and daughters. Change begins with each one of us.


Erica Holloway is principal of Galvanized Strategies, a San Diego-based public relations firm. Contact her at erica@galvanizedstrategies.com.

 

 

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