Monday, November 05, 2012

the funny side of sexual harassment

Here is a cartoon from a 1955 issue of the New Yorker I happened to come across yesterday. The theme of sexual harassment is persistent in that magazine - and many other magazines - from the mid 1940s through the early 1970s.

I recently stopped working on theater projects with a playwright because he personally invited me to sit through three short plays of his, two of which were what I'm sure he considers a brave stand against the "political correctness" of sexual harassment policies. I had some sense that he had retro attitudes about gender, and on top of that he is not a very good playwright, but I was going through a phase of trying to be accommodating and politically non-judgmental. Serves me right: this guy's plays were so incredibly offensive I wanted to puke. His attitude is basically that everything was just fine in the good old days (this guy is in his 60s) until prudes came along and ruined everybody's fun.

Now the New Yorker cartoonists of the period didn't have any ethical qualms about sexual harassment, but as this cartoon indicates, even they were aware that the good times were more fun for some people than others.

It's men of that 60-something age-group that are so enraged about everything these days, because they remember how incredibly sweet it was to be a white man - once upon a time the world belonged to you thanks to your ethnicity and gender. But in the past 40 years that privilege has been chipped away. And like David Mamet, many of them focus their rage on Obama. And as David Mamet's OLEANNA indicates, that generation of men still doesn't quite get the problem of sexual harassment - Mamet's play is basically a cautionary tale of what can happen when "The Group" runs rampant, trying to destroy innocent men with their blackmail and false rape charges. Because you know, that happens all the time. Well, like Obama's alleged kenyan-muslim-atheist-socialism, it doesn't have to be real - their paranoid fevered resentment is all that matters to them.