Just a typical week of American news in the Trump era. A dozen pipe bombs mailed to Democratic leaders, prominent liberal figures and media outlets, and Donald Trump, Divider-in-Chief fumbles yet another opportunity to display unifying leadership. After initially condemning the coordinated attacks (we knew it couldn’t last), he tweeted this:
“A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description.
Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”
A classic Trumpian effort to blame and shame the victim, a tactic he has deployed with impunity throughout his lifetime in the spotlight. A man credibly accused of sexually harassing and assaulting at least 22 women has an exhausting habit of smearing and degrading those who go public with stories of his misogynistic conduct, recasting himself (always) as the victim of a vast conspiracy. For example at one of his 2016 campaign rallies, the Republican presidential nominee said this:
“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign…Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”
It’s worth noting that the ever litigious Donald Trump has yet to make good on any of these legal threats, though he is himself is the subject of multiple lawsuits filed by his victims.
In 2018 America, utter disregard for women, their stories and their bodies starts at the top. This week, we learned that one of our country’s most powerful and influential global companies has taken steps to eradicate workplace harassment, with a clear if unspoken demand that we pat leadership on the back for its forward thinking.
On Thursday, reports emerged that Google fired 48 employees over a two-year period for sexual misconduct. Great news, right? The company sure seems to think so. Note the overt self-congratulation in an internal email sent to global staff:
“In recent years, we’ve made a number of changes, including taking an increasingly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority.”
As a woman, a corporate worker and a thinking person, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about this news, though Google would clearly appreciate my gender giving thanks for its wokeness. Last night, as I sat on the couch watching the news with my husband, a headline about the Google firings splayed across the screen. Bob knee-jerked the reaction the Internet giant desires. He said simply, “Good for them.” The observation was sincere, a breath of relief from a feminist man exhausted by a two-year barrage of heinous #MeToo revelations.
My mind went a different way, traveling directly to a question. Why in the hell were 48 serial harassers, at various leadership levels, walking the office hallways unchecked for so long? That is almost 50 men (because of course) subjecting colleagues to daily acts of employment terrorism, with very few repercussions until a disgusting President and the fallout from the #MeToo movement forced Google into a cultural reckoning. Should you place doubt upon my cynicism regarding the timing and genuine nature of the company’s bloodletting, consider this charming anecdote from writer Sean Burch of The Wrap:
“The email follows a New York Times report that Android co-founder Andy Rubin, while working for Google in 2013, ‘coerced’ a coworker into oral sex at a hotel. The woman reported the incident to HR in 2014. Shortly after, Rubin was awarded a $150 million grant from the company, although it was ‘unclear’ if Google co-founder Larry Page was aware of the harassment claim at the time, according to the Times.
Google later found the sexual misconduct claim to be ‘credible,’ the Times reported. Rubin was awarded a $90 million exit package, according to the Times, and was publicly praised by Page when he left the company in 2014.”
That’s the way of the corporate patriarchy. Force a woman, a professional deserving of respect, to provide a blow job. Leave her with a lifetime of humiliation and trauma. Get rid of the man maybe, but make sure his bank account and ego are left intact. Excuse me if I find Google’s decision to deny exit packages to 48 abusers – just four years after Rubin’s golden parachute – less than impressive. I’m going to hold onto that thank you card just a bit longer before it’s mailed.
Let’s not forget that this is the same company employing engineers who felt empowered to circulate a misogynist view of women as “biologically” less likely to succeed in tech fields – as recently as 2017. Google’s decision to get tough on harassment is not the organic result of soul searching and moral rectitude. It’s a response to bad press and even grimier optics.