There’s always That Guy
Ellen Bravo October 19, 2016 MJS
The voters, men and women alike, need to say decisively, “Not in this nation. We will not stand for this.”
Athletes and sportswriters have been quick to pounce on Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” defense as inaccurate and insulting. Is there crude talk in locker rooms, boasting about sexual exploits? Yes, they say. Boasting about sexual assault? Never.
And yet, as a friend of my husband’s pointed out, there’s always That Guy. That Guy is the one who crosses the line. He goes beyond sexual banter or dirty jokes or anything resembling flirtation. Even in an all-male setting, his words cause people to flinch. Too often, he surrounds himself with guys who will laugh. Others shrug or walk away.
Most times, no one tells him to stop. And no one in authority says, “We won’t stand for this.”
That Guy (and sometimes they come in pairs or even packs) shows up in locker rooms, but also in board rooms, operating rooms, break rooms, classrooms, green rooms. His goal is not seduction but humiliation. He’s not just lewd, he’s a harasser. Typically, he engages in molestation, acts that are not just inappropriate but illegal and criminal. His taunts frequently roam beyond gender to race, sexual identity, physical ability, national origin.
If you ask people to identify That Guy in their workplace, virtually everyone will write down the same name.
The women he goes after tell him “no” in dozens of ways. Yet, most of the time, no one in authority says, “Not in this school / this locker room / this workplace / this town. We won’t stand for this.”
On the Access Hollywood tape, Trump claimed he could get away with the groping and unwanted advances because he was “a star.” Often That Guy is, indeed, someone prominent, a rainmaker for the company or a person with enough power for others to fear repercussions if they stand up to him.
I’ve called That Guy the “UGLI,” the Untouchable, Godlike Individual. If women complain about him to someone in Human Resources, they usually hear something like this: “Oh, That Guy. Sorry to hear that you’re having a problem with him. We’ll be glad to move you to another location.”
When women stand up to That Guy, he accuses them of making it up or claims whatever happened was consensual. That Guy has a lot of money to spend on lawyers and publicists and other staff to hound anyone who dares accuse him. He’s ruthless, aiming not just to make the accusation go away but to demonize the accuser and destroy her reputation.
Not surprisingly, That Guy often gets away with his crimes.
Now That Guy is running for president of the United States.
And the voters, men and women alike, are the ones with authority. We’re the ones who need to say decisively, “Not in this nation. We will not stand for this.”
Ellen Bravo is a long-time activist on working women’s issues. She’s written a non-fiction book on sexual harassment and a novel, “Again and Again,” involving date rape and politics.