Wednesday, November 9, 2011

THE PRICE WE PAY FOR OUR DENIAL

If you have kept up with my blogs over the past two years (and are familiar with my book and website), you know my subject is always women and the many problems women face in our culture.As a male friend pointed out to me recently, promoting women as valued citizens with desirable skills has been my life’s work.

Sexism is the most visible problem women have; and as author Barbara Berg says, sexism is alive and well in today’s world. Sexism can include little boys and females of all ages, as we can see in today’s news stories.

The November 8 online edition of The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet spells it out because there is a common thread between three of the five leading stories. Certain people (here it is women and little boys) are publicly viewed and treated as objects of male sexual satisfaction. The bonus for those males seeking sexual gratification is that no one wants to face the truth. Many turn the other way.

The stunning revelation in these stories is that cultural attitudes routinely will permit the sexual objectification of certain humans.

For instance, the story of Joe Paterno’s “moral failure” as a leader concerns his “negligence in an alleged sex-abuse scandal” involving one of his coaches. As Paterno recently said, he did what he was “supposed to.” Rather than removing the offender from power, he followed cultural rules of denial and allowed an alleged sexual predator to molest little boys for years. 

We cannot excuse Paterno’s self-serving inaction but we must look at the truth as it is:  Our society encourages us to turn the other way when someone important is involved.  Paterno was highly valuable as a coach so he reportedly did all he was supposed to do at the time to stop the abuses of his assistant coach. 

Now we know his “moral failure” as a leader may have helped him win many football games but what about those little boys who were abused by his own staffer? What is more important to our society, winning football teams or the well-being of our male children?

Another lead story about Herman Cain, presidential hopeful, demonstrates what working women have known since they finally were allowed to be educated and to enter the workplace to support themselves and families. One woman accuses Cain of soliciting sex in exchange for a job. Other women have reported his sexual advances. 

The problem is these women have waited years, decades perhaps, before reporting any of this. That makes it possible this is a political move to destroy his credibility. But it is also possible these women knew no one would believe them in the past.

Frankly we have no way of knowing truth from lies in Cain’s case, but we do know two things: 

Women (and Catholic children) have failed to report sexual abuse until recent years because they were not believed or were further abused by their abusers if they talked. Every working woman knows in her heart that those sex-for-jobs tradeoffs were made by many people over the years, including men.

Second, we all know that these abused children or women were not believed because no one wanted to face the truth. It was whispered and rumored about such things (including abortions and love affairs) but never was it publicly reported or proven.

Herman Cain’s current crisis is just one more reminder that there are no heroes, no matter how directly they appeal to those who truly want to believe there are people in politics that don’t just sound good but are highly capable of delivering the promises.

Finally, there is Berlusconi…..another womanizer bites the dust because of a huge debt crisis.  Who knows?  His country, Italy, may have accepted his deviant ways from the Roman Church based there since time began if the economy had boomed instead of dying….and if the truth had not come out about priestly sex abuse.

The bottom line of all the above is that our society has permitted people (mostly males) to learn directly or through osmosis that they can get away with these things or else be held perfectly harmless. Everyone has been trained, programmed, and excused from facing the truth about sex abuse (and other types of abuse) because we are still looking for heroes who win and the perfect human leader.

There is no such thing.