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Just What Is Sexual Harassment Today?

Uploaded: Aug 5, 2021
I don’t know what our society thinks sexual harassment is these days. Our standards seem to change over time, and what was “permissible,” say 20 years ago, is no longer tolerated today.

I suspect the “Me, too” movement had a lot to do with this.

I remember once meeting Nelson Rockefeller, who was at that point running for president of the United States. I was a young, blond, managing editor for an Illinois newspaper and the state Republicans were having a big pre-primary meeting in Waukegan. My local Congressman, Robert McClory, and I were talking and he said he had to go up to a small meeting in Nelson’s room at the hotel, and would I care to join him as a member of the press? Yes, I said, delightedly.

And so Congressman McClory and I went, as well as five other people, to meet with Rockefeller, a former New York state governor and then vice president under Gerald Ford. I took notes at the meeting, asked him two questions, but now can’t remember what was said. As we were leaving the room, we each greeted Nelson, a tall, good-looking, smiling man. When it was my turn, he hugged me saying it was so nice to meet me and my questions were great.

I said thank you. Then we all went to dinner and he was at the head table and he smiled and waved at me. That was followed by an exiting line to shake Nelson’s hand. He shook my hand, put his other arm around my shoulder, and said it was “delightful” seeing me again. In return, I replied something like, “We have to stop meeting this way – three times in two hours.”

I I drove home that night, just happy, and thought that Nelson’s wife, Happy Rockefeller, sure had a good man as her husband. To me, at that time and age, it was an innocent incident. I was on Cloud Nine – well maybe Eight, as I drove home to tell my husband about the event and the hug.

Sexual harassment? Of course not.

Some people are touchers and huggers. I doubt Nixon was a toucher; we know Biden is one. It’s just part of their nature and a way they communicate with people. I have male and female friends who are huggers – and some avoid it just through their body language. Both attitudes are understandable.

About two years ago, at one of the Christmas parties I attended, a longtime Mountain View friend came up to me saying “How are you? It’s so good to see you again. Do I have your permission to hug you?” he quietly queried.

“Of course, why are you even asking?”

Well, he was newly divorced and quite aware of the new mores of asking first.

That was then, this is now, and Andrew Cuomo is learning a lesson – at warp speed. His world is toppling on top of him, as 11 women have legally complained of “unwanted sexual advances” by Cuomo, including in an office environment. “He touched me --- without permission.” “He kissed my cheek!” “He hugged me and didn’t ask if he could.’’

All of his friends, supporters and political pals have left him, insisting he must immediately resign.

Cuomo explains he is Italian, his family hugged and kissed everybody and that’s “just the way we act.” He even showed a number of photos in which he was hugging and cheek kissing men and women. But people don’t seem to understand. Now women are claiming harassment, with thousands of others chiming in saying he must resign, or be impeached from office.

I simply don’t understand this overwhelming outrage at what Cuomo has done.

Our previous president, Donald Trump, had numerous affairs. He lied 150,0000 times while in office, according to the Washington Post. Trump got away with so much filthy locker room talk, terrible comments about people he didn’t like – “She’s ugly,” “he’s weak, “he’s stupid.” And then there are all his financial shenanigans. And many people simply said, “That’s just Trump being Trump.”

Part of this going-after-Cuomo drive is political, of course. But I am not sure the “injured” women are thinking in political terms. They feel women’s bodies are being violated by any man who may touch their shoulder or even their back without asking permission,

It’s like sexual harassment of a woman (or a man) has become the biggest offense a person can commit in this country — subject to an immediate loss of job and reputation.

That’s pretty much what Andrew Cuomo is going though these days. I agree he has crossed the (as yet unidentified) “line” of a proper relationship between a man and woman by touching a breast and probably using sexual innuendoes to women in a work environment. That’s not allowable. But at this point, his acts are misdemeanors, at best. Yet some individuals are searching around to see if he committed a felony. They are after him.

But as my husband said, “I now don’t even know if I should shake hands with a woman. Even a small kiss on a cheek with a long-time friend suddenly seems like potential harassment to a woman.” I think a lot of men are wondering how to act around a woman these days.

Okay, people, we need to draw a line. It cannot be a “do not touch” line, but we also can’t be too touchy.

Local Journalism.
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Comments

 +   10 people like this
Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Aug 5, 2021 at 5:01 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Yes, he should resign. He's not only accused of sexual harassment, he's accused of groping. Which is sexual assault. Criminal charges are warranted.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Cordelia, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Aug 5, 2021 at 9:07 pm

Cordelia is a registered user.

We older women put up with a lot of sexual harassment because at the time, it was considered normal. The first time I was sexually harassed was my very first job. I was a cashier at a grocery store. He waited until I was tallying my tray to close the door. He touched my arm and said how soft my skin was. I was almost 16 and I didn't need the money. So I quit on the spot. When I got home, I found he had called my mom and complained. He said I was overly emotional. My mom didn't want him to be upset, so she suggested I go back to the store and give him another chance. He had a family. Back then, most would have said what my mom did, because women were supposed to accommodate and not make people upset. This is a revolution and revolutions make people upset. It's about time.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center,
on Aug 6, 2021 at 7:57 am

Neal is a registered user.

In today's environment, flirting = sexual harassment.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Cameron Lucas, a resident of Stanford,
on Aug 6, 2021 at 9:42 am

Cameron Lucas is a registered user.

The question: Just What Is Sexual Harassment Today? The answer: Unwarranted/unwanted 'getting to know you' overtures (including touching and/or remarks). BTW...this kind of harassment also takes in the LGBTQIA world. Lesbian and/or gay male superiors (with issues) can also make life miserable for straight employees.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by CalAveLocal, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 6, 2021 at 10:05 am

CalAveLocal is a registered user.

I think the answer is actually pretty simple. Unwanted sexual overtures from someone who is in such a power dynamic position that YOU are going to hesitate to turn these overtures down. And I think every person knows exactly what it is. Example 1: One is on a date which is not going too well for one. At the end of the evening one's date leans over for a kiss and you firmly say no. One's date stops, maybe looks a little hurt or disappointed, but thats the end of it. This is normal and appropriate. Example 2: One is having dinner with one's boss and some clients. After a glass of wine or three, one's boss puts their arm around one's shoulders while walking them to a car, and caresses/pats. One wants to pull away immediately; but has thoughts such as "I can't loose this job right now; I need my health insurance; I can't afford to be unemployed at the moment" and lets the boss do it (or shakes them off, whatever). This is sexual harassment. And just for the record - these horny old men know exactly what they are doing. And they know exactly about the thoughts that run through their subordinates heads and do it anyway. And another just for the record - its not only heterosexual men who harass their subordinates. LGBTQ & women do it as well; just not as often. But also... one only needs to remember Katie Hill. However, its way past time to hold the men in power accountable.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 6, 2021 at 10:11 am

Bystander is a registered user.

I remember in my early working day being shocked at what went on in offices, both men and women being very suggestive in their talk and in their actions. To say it was always male on female is very wrong. There were just as many women who made suggestive comments and jokes, particularly to married men who were just trying to get home to their wife and kids at the end of the day. Some of those men would blush just as much as any of the young women who were praised by the boss in some suggestive way. Yes times have changed and the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. There are many young men in their teens and 20s who are scared of women and don't want to get involved in real relationships and would rather spend their time playing video games and watching porn. Can we be surprised when all they hear is vague descriptions of what constitutes sexual harassment. They see real women as trouble and virtual women as something they can have without any problem. And yes, the sexual flirting was done by both sexes. Don't let that be forgoten!


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Cameron Lucas, a resident of Stanford,
on Aug 6, 2021 at 10:15 am

Cameron Lucas is a registered user.

Consensual is another key word. Consensual flirting is normal and part of the mating ritual. Non-consensual = harassment pure & simple.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Aug 6, 2021 at 10:56 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

One word -- boundaries.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Marcie Walters, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 6, 2021 at 12:14 pm

Marcie Walters is a registered user.

A good slap in the face also gets the message across when someone is overstepping certain boundaries.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Ozymandias, a resident of another community,
on Aug 6, 2021 at 4:12 pm

Ozymandias is a registered user.

Funny how that sexual harassment works. When the object is a Republican everything is assumed to be the worst, even if it means going back to high school in the case of Brett Kavanaugh. The accuser simply had no witnesses to corroborate her story. Never mind. The dopey mayor of Palo Alto at the time even arranged a proclamation in honor of the highly questionable accuser.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by CalAveLocal, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 7, 2021 at 8:55 am

CalAveLocal is a registered user.

Ozymandias, FBI had 4500 reports that they did not look into on Kavanaugh. So please don't try to pull the conservatives as victims card.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Rick Billings, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 7, 2021 at 10:01 am

Rick Billings is a registered user.

Nothing new here. Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas, Donald Trump, Brett Kavenaugh, and now Andrew Cuomo (along with other unreported cases). Both Democrat and Republican male 'leaders' are running neck and neck in terms of sexual harassment and exploitation.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 7, 2021 at 9:34 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

@Diana-I am wildly disappointed in your blog this week and I believe The Weekly should take this one down. What started off harmless enough took a grave turn for the worse when you launched into Cuomo/Trump, all under the guise of “feigning ignorance as to what constitutes sexual harassment." First, you conflated what would be considered “proper social norms" when greeting someone casually at a social event with sexual harassment to build your premise. Next, you managed to make “Cuomo the victim" as you accepted all of his excuses of “being Italian"/ “this is all about Politics"/ “these were only misdemeanors." NO. On top of this you put “injured" in quotes indicating subtly that you don't believe the women were harmed. “Injured" in this case was a bad choice of words anyway. You also glossed over the accusations of the 11 victims in your rush to defend Cuomo-“just a back touch." NO. 3rd, you literally pulled “The Trump Card" as to “what constitutes all things evil." Of course Trump is the bigger degenerate in his personal life and he's more abrasive. No one is disputing that. He too should not have gotten away with his nonsense either. Here's the difference. Trump did this in his personal life and not at his place of work creating a hostile work environment. What is left out of the victim's accounts in media clips is the constant day to day harassment/mental strain they went through. You also stated “I agree he has crossed the “line" of a proper relationship between a man and woman by touching a breast/using sexual innuendoes to women in a work environment." These women are not in a man/woman relationship of any sort with Cuomo and are only coworkers. They are there to WORK and not to be fondled and harassed by THE GOVERNOR. That is the actual definition of sexual harassment Diana. Under the guise of feigning ignorance, you casually defended Cuomo and dismissed the victims. The Voice of Palo Alto stands with the rights of the 11 accusers.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Barry Podesta, a resident of Barron Park,
on Aug 8, 2021 at 7:10 am

Barry Podesta is a registered user.

It is permissable for a gay male to hug/kiss a female acquaintance because they are non-threatening. Straight males need to exercise more discretion.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Curious Parent, a resident of Community Center,
on Aug 8, 2021 at 5:12 pm

Curious Parent is a registered user.

Diana wrote: >I drove home that night, just happy, and thought that >Nelson's wife, Happy Rockefeller, sure had a good man as her husband. Diana, you are aware that Nelson Rockefeller was married to Happy Rockefeller when he died of a heart attack while having sex with his mistress, right? I'm in no position to judge Rockefeller, but your story of flirting with Rockefeller sounds naive, at best, in light of his reputation.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Hinrich, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 8, 2021 at 5:59 pm

Hinrich is a registered user.

Everyone is expected to know the rules of social engagement and respect the feelings and boundaries of others. Some are really slow to understand and they need to be confronted. It's hard for many men to approach women - courtship and it's complications fill our magazines, tv soaps, and matinees because the topic interests all of us and few are very good at it. I think 'harassment' generally means unwanted persistence and pressure - way out-of-bounds. I might be troubled by the Crome charges but I don't know anything about them. Almost no one does buy we live in a time when charges, investigations, indictments, and convictions take place in tabloids - people think they have the full picture because they've heard all the sound bites. MeToo means almost certain loss of reputation and employment and we, who allow the cancel vultures to prevail are happy to move on. I don't like Cuomo at all but I also don't like the railroading in progress. The AG investigation was fact finding and a report but we're not seeing the whole picture. Our justice system, to be fair, has to see the whole picture. We are so close to our own system in California that we don't see the machine for the woods. Newsom runs a machine that essentially holds all power in California and so will survive recall because only if he is perceived to be a liability to the machine will he lose office. Same for Cuomo - they see blood in these trivial matters but some things ought to go to HR.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Reality Bytes, a resident of another community,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 8:51 am

Reality Bytes is a registered user.

How did Bill Cosby manage to get away with his wrongdoings?


 +   3 people like this
Posted by John Donegan, a resident of another community,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 10:43 am

John Donegan is a registered user.

What is harrassment? Well, that depends upon whether the offender is a Democrat or Republican. Since becoming politically weaponized, different standards are applied, including as to whether the accuser "must be believed" or not.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by valorie25, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 11:04 am

valorie25 is a registered user.

A firm "NO!" and a slight push worked in the old days. Today's women need to try it instead of letting it happen over and over again and being afraid of the man. Take charge!!!!


 +   2 people like this
Posted by jeand, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 11:21 am

jeand is a registered user.

I admire Diana for speaking the truth that women of a certain age will recognize. We were naive, but in a lot of cases, the interchange was innocent. Usually, several opportunities are available for backing away or shutting down an overture, often before anything needs to be said. (Yes, there have always been very real and abundant abuses. People are varied, and complicated.)


 +   2 people like this
Posted by resident, a resident of Stanford,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 11:43 am

resident is a registered user.

I appreciate this very honest essay. We all think that we know what is right and what is wrong. But that is changing every day. I would hope that we would allow Gov. Cuomo to have his day in court. This can be a learning experience for us all. Mob justice, no matter how righteous it feels, sets a very bad precedent.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Consider+Your+Options.+, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 12:46 pm

Consider+Your+Options.+ is a registered user.

I'm 62. In the 80's I had to rebuff the advances of two college professors in their offices. One of them required all of his students to come to his office for a consultation on a project. He shut the door, sat down next to me and put his and on my thigh. I promptly got up and left. In the dorms three hours later, friend who was also in the class (another pretty blonde) told me that he had done the same to her. He knew exactly what he was doing. We both (I was a very good student, generally) got poor grades in his class. I bet the guys in my class had very different experiences on their office visits. In the 90's, my supervisor began making advances--small things like asking me to "business dinners". We had to travel together on business for client meetings and production work. He would find excuses to knock on my hotel room door for no reason after I was ready for bed. I left that job because I knew that the male hierarchy in that company would not support any accusation of sexual harassment. I chose two female former supervisors for my letters of recommendation because I wasn't sure that he wouldn't retaliate for my rejecting him. BTW, he was married. I was single (but in a serious relationship) at the time. These experiences both were extremely upsetting at the time. One of them caused me to move out of town for a new job that I really didn't want. I could go on. I have had so many similar experiences. The level of entitlement that some men feel toward women is pretty awful. It really is time to balance the power in these relationships.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 1:12 pm

Anneke is a registered user.

I have truly been blessed in life. I was brought up in a wonderful family with caring parents, and I will be most happily married for fifty years later this month. I also feel blessed by being able to let you know that I have never experienced any sexual harassment in my life. May be unbelievable but true. I am sure it was a feeling at that time in the 1960s when I graduated from High School in The Netherlands. My father's greatest wish was that I would soon marry happily and be taken care off, as in the old fairy tales. A noble desire at that time, but no longer now. As a result, he did not wish for me to attend university, as I wanted to become a doctor, since he truly believed that women who were too smart would not attract husbands. While married, my husband was completely different. He greatly encouraged me to get my BS and MBA in Business, Summa Cum Laude and Magna Cum Laude respectively, and as a result I had some wonderful positions in great computer companies, while being happily married at the same time. Times change!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Rose, a resident of Mayfield,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 1:42 pm

Rose is a registered user.

I would hope that mothers and fathers would sit down with their young daughters and describe the kinds of situations they might find themselves in with men. They could do some role playing and let her practice how to respond. They could watch a movie together and discuss what happened, why, and how the woman might have responded differently. Young women growing up are young women -- inexperienced. They aren't familiar with what men want and the different ways a man might attempt to take advantage of a naive young woman. If it is a famous or rich man, an inexperienced young woman might take it as a great compliment to have such a man interested in her. She won't be prepared to recognize that someone is trying to take advantage of her.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by We+Told+You+So!, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 2:17 pm

We+Told+You+So! is a registered user.

Diane You are RIGHT! To all the "Prudes" out there! Unbunch your grannie panties and may be grow some Balls! Since the "Me Too" Movement this has gotten out of Hand! Now they are using this to get rid of Cuomo? Its obviously a tRump hit! They tried this on "Biden". They also did it to Al Franken? It is understandable that "touchy Feely" things has gone on WAY back In The Cavemen Days of this Country growing up? But what do you say about the Influences of those Men that come from other Countries with Antiquated Traditions? They are migrating into America EVERY DAY! There has to be a better way in going about this, beside accusing Men down the line and punishing them for what some Teacher did to a 12yr Old Twenty years ago? Like Rose said above. Mothers teach your Daughters about Predator behavior. Everyone that is nice to you, is not your friend. Like what Mike Tyson did to Desiree. That young Lady did not know going up to Mike's room customarily meant what she was supposed to do in Mike's eyes? And Cuomo Kissing at a Wedding isn't a sexual Assault. Society Brainwashed Males. Making these MEN what We have today! The Making of the Southern Belle etc. Males are the Stronger Specie. No debate when this was first implemented? Why wasn't this confronted back then? Sorry, but it sounds like we are going to have to "Skip" a few generation in correcting these habits. Start right now in eliminating this "BIG LIE" about Males are stronger and Females are the weaker Sex and are in need of being taking care of. Maybe this has to do with Females having be to taken out of the Fields while giving Birth and the Man having to take up the Slack?? Cuomo should NOT RESIGN. He should be put into "Sexual Sensitivity Program" for as long as he is in Office. Just my thoughts!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Carrie Peterson, a resident of another community,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 2:24 pm

Carrie Peterson is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


 +  Like this comment
Posted by peppered, a resident of Community Center,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 3:19 pm

peppered is a registered user.

@Ozymandias: You said: >> The dopey mayor of Palo Alto at the time even arranged a proclamation in honor of the highly questionable accuser. Many of us support the accuser and find her very credible, your opinion notwithstanding. I believe Brett Kavanaugh was guilty as charged and had issues with alcohol. He referred to the Devil's Triangle as a "drinking game". Here's the popular definition, which he must have been privy to: Web Link So your statement is not well supported.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by peppered, a resident of Community Center,
on Aug 9, 2021 at 3:19 pm

peppered is a registered user.

Here's that link again: Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Hinrich, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 10, 2021 at 7:22 am

Hinrich is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Banes+, a resident of Greater Miranda,
on Aug 10, 2021 at 7:48 am

Banes+ is a registered user.

I thought B&M Obama defined “sexual harassment “ for the entire USA already. And insisted on costly mandatory public restroom /bathroom installations for all with sexual harassing issues for any given moment. So when you don't know at any given moment and are sexually harassed by your psyche if you are a he/she/other variety and that moment - you can chose B&M's “3rd, Other Variety Bathroom" and no longer be sexually harassed by your psyche or anyone else ... Who might not appreciate someone using the ladies commode as a urinal.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sam Taylor, a resident of another community,
on Aug 10, 2021 at 10:37 am

Sam Taylor is a registered user.

Women at the workplace should not be subjected to this kind of harassment. On the other hand, SOME women at the workplace should tone-down their dress ( aka personal 'fashion statement') by dressing less provacatively or alluring to men. Save it for cocktail hour.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Green+Gables, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Aug 10, 2021 at 11:58 am

Green+Gables is a registered user.

Hey Sam Taylor, women can dress the way they want. What do you mean - COCKTAIL hour? What a stupid remark to make. You, like Cuomo are either naive, ignorant, or just plain stupid. Give it a rest, buddy! Sex is on many men's pea brains most of the time.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Elle Taylor, a resident of another community,
on Aug 10, 2021 at 12:17 pm

Elle Taylor is a registered user.

Peg Bundy on 'Married With Children' once advised her daughter Kelly that men are interested in only two things....eating & sex. That said, if some women want to dress provacatively that is their choice but expect to receive the 'come ons' by both desirable and undesirable men as well. Besides, in a business environment there is no need to dress in a manner that attracts unnecessary attention. Act and dress appropriately.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Bette Layne, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Aug 10, 2021 at 1:04 pm

Bette Layne is a registered user.

Women should not be flaunting their bodies and physical attributes at work. I am seeing way too much cleavage in so-called professional environments (banks, offices etc.) and I cannot help but wonder if this is a generational fashion statement or exhibitionism.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 10, 2021 at 3:59 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I would look at the number of places that insist on uniforms for their staff as being a result of people (men and women) not having any idea what constitutes professional business attire. Look at what students wear to high school, and look at the teachers too. If people are not learning at school how professional people look for work then they are not going to know when they start working. From fast food restaurants, movie theaters, chain restaurants, chains such as Target, staff are given uniforms and expected to dress modestly and professionally. If only the same could be said for local news anchors!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Lisa Mendez, a resident of another community,
on Aug 10, 2021 at 5:06 pm

Lisa Mendez is a registered user.

> If only the same could be said for local news anchors! The decree among most (male) TV producers is that 'anchorettes' and 'weathergirls' be young, hot, and preferably blonde (on-air cleavage optional). The male anchors are expected to present themselves in a business-like manner (conventional suit) and credibility is ensured if they are middle-aged and appear distinguished. As a feminist broadcast communications major, I have encountered this mindset as both an intern and prospective applicant for a full-time position in front of the camera. That's just the way it is and let's not even get started on the sexual barbs and lewd innuendos some attractive newswomen must endure on a regular basis.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Harold Beasley, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 7:17 am

Harold Beasley is a registered user.

Andrew Cuomo is gone (good riddance) and will never be considered a serious candidate for higher office. Like Newsom, Cuomo had presidential aspirations but both big-state governors are not viable or suitable candidates for such a role. Times have changed and perhaps Monica Lewinsky will be viewed in a different light.


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