Lessons from the Fall of Papa Bear

(Pat Thurston) Papa Bear is out! Bill O’Reilly, the face of Fox News, has finally bitten off his own foot trapped in ongoing sexual harassment scandals.

It’s hard for me to say these words but here goes – Good for you Fox! Of course the network itself was set up to sexualize women. Who hasn’t commented on the beautiful women on the air and the requirement that they wear dresses and heels? The atmosphere at that place had to be one of hostility every time a woman walked in – either she wasn’t “pretty” enough to make the cut, or her skills had to be overlooked in favor of her looks. That in and of itself self the stage for disrespect and harassment. Some of the men, the more powerful ones apparently, took liberties with women in their actions and speech. To be a woman who rebuffed the advances of those powerful men was to endanger your career advancement. To give in was to diminish your respectability even further.

With O’Reilly’s fall from grace, there will be many fans complaining that women don’t belong in a work place, that women can’t handle the natural tendencies of men, that women should feel complimented when a powerful man makes a pass at her. It means he thinks she’s worthy. Those fans will never understand the reality of workplace sexual harassment and the unwinnable situation in which it places women.

O’Reilly’s downfall is to be celebrated yet he is but one. In smaller companies, medium companies and large companies across our great nation the hostility women feel in the workplace takes various forms and is very real. Whether it is sexual harassment, women not being taken seriously, women denied promotions, unequal pay, demeaning responsibilities or co-workers who create hostility through inappropriate comments and touches – it is there and it needs to stop. If you wouldn’t do it to a male co-worker or subordinate, don’t do it to a female. This is not difficult to learn. You’re not in a bar, you’re not in someone’s home you are in a workplace with co-workers, people who want to do their jobs and be recognized – just like you do.

Across the country men could learn lessons from this. But they probably won’t. They’ll whine about women being overly sensitive. They’ll complain that you can’t joke around anymore. They’ll bemoan the ability to start workplace relationships.

And the men who do get it, the men who understand why O’Reilly needed to go, who realize what’s wrong at work when these attitudes prevail, they’re the ones who already understand. They don’t need the O’Reilly example to teach them how to behave like men in the presence of women.

One thing we may have to thank Popa Bear for is that some of those women who feel as if they can’t stand up to the powerful men who are taking advantage of them may now feel that they can. And that is valuable indeed.


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