Toxic Masculinity, Sexual Harassment And Iowa

iowa state capitolSeems like as we get older we slowly lose touch with the latest in trends and terms. This week the term “toxic masculinity” is new to my vocabulary, although the behaviors it describes are hardly new to our society. In fact, the behaviors that toxic masculinity describes seem to be on a dramatic rise which is why a term to describe it was needed in our discourse.

To quote Wikipedia on toxic masculinity: 

The concept of toxic masculinity is used in the social sciences to describe certain traditional standards of behavior among men in contemporary American and European society that are associated with detrimental social and psychological effects. Such “toxic” masculine norms include dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotions.

Conformity with certain traits viewed as traditionally male, such as misogynyhomophobia, and violence, can be considered “toxic” due to harmful effects on others in society, while related traits, including self-reliance and the stifling of emotions, are correlated with harm to men themselves through psychological problems such as depression, increased stress, and substance abuse.

With that as a background it isn’t hard to connect the current president’s past and current behavior as one of the catalysts that has catapulted toxic masculine behavior into a major problem. If the president’s behavior on its own is bad enough as an example to follow, the fact that many in the dominant right-wing corporate media excuse and even cheer his behavior adds gasoline to an already disastrous fire.

It is not just the pussy grabbing comments of the current president that make him the leader of the toxic masculinity movement. Add to that his exhortations from a campaign rostrum to “beat the hell out of him” or “go ahead’ I’ll pay your legal fees” not to mention his grotesque imitation of reporter Serge Koveleski among many, many other examples:

To bring the discussion of toxic masculinity home to Iowa, a lawsuit charging a “toxic work environment” was brought by the former Iowa Senate Republican Caucus communications director Kirsten Anderson. A verdict was reached Tuesday in Anderson’s favor.  In the report by KCCI TV in Des Moines, Anderson had this response to the verdict:

“The verdict that the jury put down sends a strong message to the Statehouse (and) to Iowans, about workplace harassment and retaliation,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the memo she sent described a “toxic boys club” culture at the Statehouse.

“I’ve told the truth,” Anderson said. “The work environment is poor. It has been poor, it’s still poor and needs to change.”

This is not the first lawsuit decided in Iowa this year concerning gender. Just a couple of months ago former U of Iowa Senior Associate Athletic Director Jane Meyer was awarded $1.43 million in her suit against the U of Iowa Athletic Department.

In both cases the plaintiffs expressed hope that their verdicts would serve to reverse such behaviors. But as Kirsten Anderson noted in her comments above “the work environment is still poor.” So even the filing of the lawsuit did little to move the boulder of toxic behaviors.

In her comments on the trial the Des Moines Register’s Kathy O’Bradovich points out that:  

“Testimony detailed offensive jokes, racial slurs and abusive comments about women from Senate Republican analyst Jim Friedrich, who still works for the caucus.

Republican senators who testified were oblivious. Anderson’s previous supervisors had collective amnesia about past complaints about the work environment and harassment. Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, who was the Senate minority leader at the time Anderson was fired, continued to deny that she was fired for any reason other than her work performance.

It’s not entirely clear what Senate Republicans did to investigate the complaints reported before the trial. The Register’s Grant Rodgers reported that one staff analyst and attorney who testified, Tom Ashworth, said no senator or supervisor asked him a single question about inappropriate behavior he witnessed.

Meanwhile, throughout the country we see males especially seem to feel liberated by the comments and actions of their president to harass those of a different color or religion. On social media women especially are harassed. As if in a time warp we are seeing the rise of racist groups.

One thing that is really grating about this is that my tax dollars, your tax dollars and those tax dollars of all Iowans will be paying for the toxic boys club escapade. Sure would be nice if those in the offending group were assessed the damages. That would include those who did not stand up to stop such behavior. That would also be in line with the oft-stated Republican mantra of personal responsibility.

My estimation is that there were 24 Republican senators at that time. Thus each then-senator would have to pay about $10,000. That would also be in line with their mantra of penalties being a deterrent to future bad behavior. This harassment was not part of their official duties and has been prohibited for a long time.

Feels like we have hopped in a rocket ship backwards, doesn’t it? Thank goodness some juries in Iowa have the intelligence to see through the crap and administer justice.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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