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I was killing time on my break today when I was made aware of the statements posted by #teamharpy on their legal defense fund site.
First, false allegations suck.
Second, rape culture sucks.
Third, truth is often squishier than the facts.
Since I took Ms. de Jesus and Ms. Rabey at their word the first time around, I feel compelled to do so again. I took them at their word the first time because I live in a culture that tacitly accepts microaggressions of all kinds because that’s how it’s always been. A culture that is so steeped in gender stereotypes (among many other kinds) that it’s sometimes hard for a woman to recognize she’s being slighted or even harassed. I hadn’t been part of the harassment described in their blog posts and tweets, but I had seen it and felt it so many other times. It was a fact of life, not only in our profession, but it my daily life, and I had no reason to question their statements.
Now, since they have retracted their statements and made apologies, my thoughts turn to that larger issue that made us believe in the first place. I don’t know the behind-the-scenes information that prompted the letters of retraction, nor do I imagine they were lightly undertaken by Ms. de Jesus and Ms. Rabey. The facts of this particular incident are only a side item in what is clearly the real issue.
The initial movement to support #teamharpy gained traction fast. This leads me to believe that others in the library field and beyond had seen this type of behavior before. Perhaps not with Mr. Murphy, but with other men and women who make conferences uncomfortable. And we all know that it’s not limited to conferences. A recent chat with a colleague revealed that several members of her staff were “bearing up” under near-daily harassment from patrons at the front desk. Another friend recently confirmed that coworkers just told her it was a compliment when an older man consistently made her feel uncomfortable by commenting on her appearance and apparent singleness.
This is not limited to #teamharpy. Be angry if you want – we all have our reasons for disappointment. But don’t for a moment believe that we are beyond this type of harassment. That we don’t try to silence those who would come forward with veracity. That we are, as a female-dominated profession, beyond this. We see it at the front desk, in the conference room, in interviews, and at conferences. I see it from a rather privileged place, and my stories are tame compared to many that my friends and colleagues have experiences.
I’ve already seen the references to “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
If the only way you can “raise awareness” is to lie and harass an innocent man, then perhaps your grievances are imagined. #teamharpy
— Dr. Kanko Jazz Hands (@kankokage) March 26, 2015
There’s the idea that people who are honest about these claims will be less believed now than they have ever been.
So if I’m sexually harassed and a guy is skeptical, I’ll have women like #teamharpy to thank. Way to stab all genders in the back, ladies.
— Ali (@bluehoodiegirl) March 26, 2015
But Ms. de Jesus and Ms. Rabey had little to do with that. They were a cry of wolf, and when the people showed up and it wasn’t there, they said not only was there not a wolf now, but maybe there are never really wolves to begin with just a lot of bored shepherd boys. Rape culture works to insidiously discredit victims who would speak out before they are even harassed. Exceptions are claimed as rules and the experiences of myriad women are swept away as “compliments” or “lies” or “attention seeking.” There’s a wolf out there. Sometimes packs and packs of them. Don’t ignore them because it’s more comfortable.
I have been called a harpy and worse for talking about things that make people uncomfortable. I have been told I’m not telling the truth to the point I started to believe it. I have watched the same camps that are now screaming about this case fight time and time again. #teamharpy was the battleground this time, but let’s not pretend that the fight is over.