In the 1960s, my mother, who had moved back to St. Louis after graduating from Radcliffe with an M.B.A., worked as a stockbroker for G.H. Walker—an investment and brokerage firm founded by George Herbert Walker, the grandfather and great-grandfather of Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. She had moved to that company from one of its competitors because her boss at the other firm was sexist. He'd find her reading The Wall Street Journal and make comments such as, "Now why are you worrying your pretty little head about what's in there?"
It is unfathomable to imagine a male boss saying such a thing today, but that was a different time, and women like my mother were exceedingly rare. Beautiful women were not stockbrokers back then; they were housewives. (Ironically, my mother did become a housewife down the line. She "did things backwards," she used to say, in transitioning from career girl to wife and mother—rather than the other way around, as was more typical in her day.)
Given today's sexually litigious environment, one might assume my mother decried being what we now call "sexually harassed." She didn't—and not because she didn't have a strong enough constitution to do so. (What a thought!) She simply chose a different path, and carried with her a different attitude than the feminists of her day.
My mother did not conclude that the bad behavior of one man, or even two, defined the entire male sex. She saw the situation for what it was, and so she quit and found a new position. The men at G.H. Walker were thrilled to have my mother on board, and it was a perfectly clean environment. Indeed, she always sung the praises of the Bush family, said the men in that family had character.
That's what I think about as I read the ongoing sexual harassment claims against Fox News, this latest one being about Bill O'Reilly. I don't know what's true or false, and neither do you. But there are always two sides to a story. O'Reilly is as arrogant as they come, yes. But that isn't enough to convict him. Power is a complicated aphrodisiac in an office saturated with men and women. Things untoward are bound to happen.
Sometimes those things are clear-cut, and sometimes they are not. My mother was a natural-born flirt, even when she wasn't trying to be. I can see her taking personal responsibility for the interactions that occurred in her office, even if she didn't say so outright. She was huge on personal responsibility.
More than 50 years later, sexual dynamics in the office are significantly more charged than they were in my mother's day. But so are sexual harassment claims, so a person would have to be crazy to risk outright propositions. Maybe O'Reilly is that crazy. Or maybe not.
We often hear that when one woman steps forward to make a claim of sexual harassment—I believe Gretchen Carlson opened the Fox News can of worms—other women feel free to do the same. And I think that's true.
But it is equally true that when a woman has an axe to grind, she will feel emboldened to make a sexual harassment claim once the door has been opened. All of which it to say, don't be quick to judge. Any company that saturated in female beauty and male power is destined for disaster.
Suzanne Venker (@SuzanneVenker) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is an author, Fox News contributor, and trustee of Leading Women for Shared Parenting. Her fifth book, "The Alpha Female's Guide to Men & Marriage: HOW LOVE WORKS," was published in February.
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