In a story that just couldn’t get more soap-opera-esque if it tried, the Secret Service scandal that includes drugs and prostitution took a slight detour into sexual harassment last week. One of the fired agents, David Randall Chaney, used to protect the former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. During that time, the man posted pictures of himself watching Palin on his Facebook page with comments about “checking her out.”
First of all, let’s all agree that Chaney’s act was disrespectful and inappropriate. He was supposed to be protecting Palin and her family. Instead, he was making public comments about her attractiveness and posting pictures of her on his Facebook. Obviously, his actions went against the policies of the secret service. Also, I would like to point out that if one of my male employees was making comments about my appearance online, I would’ve considered that sufficient grounds for dismissal.
No matter who agrees with Sarah Palin’s political views, her personal appearance should not have been an issue. Even worse, the people who were assigned to protect her should not have been making her feel uncomfortable and insecure, as such a comment clearly had the power to do.
Now, as upsetting as the entire incident was, one political pundit’s remarks on the situation were even more troublesome. Martin Bashir, an MSNBC host, referred to a clip with Palin discussing the issue as her “bragging” about being checked out. That’s right, simply by discussing an issue of sexual harassment, Bashir said that Sarah Palin was bragging, presumably about her physical attractiveness.
I realize that it was one word he used to describe the incident, but it was an extremely poorly chosen one. And it’s something that we shouldn’t let slide.
Women who speak up about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct in the workplace are not bragging that some man paid attention to them. This idea that harassment is just attractive women who are offended by compliments is a horrible bit of victim-blaming that has been accepted by many for far too long.
Whether you agree with Sarah Palin’s politics or not, her position as a former-Governor and influential member of the Republican party should garner her respect for her thoughts and actions, not simply for her appearance. And if she points out that she was treated disrespectfully by a member of her security team, she is not bragging about the compliment. She’s pointing out a serious problem of men undermining women in the workplace by turning them into sexual objects.
What’s even more disappointing is that I don’t think Bashir would have used that phrase if he were discussing a liberal woman who had been treated this way. If Michelle Obama, whom I deeply admire and respect, were talking about inappropriate comments on her appearance, I think she would have been hailed for sticking up for women in the workplace. Because Palin’s views don’t always align themselves with feminist principles, Bashir must think it’s okay that she isn’t afforded the same thought and consideration when she’s presented with harassment.
This situation was sexual harassment and Palin’s discussion of it was completely appropriate. Whether we agree with their politics or not, every woman deserves the right to be respected in the workplace. That includes Sarah Palin. And a true liberal would stand up for any woman who was being objectified by her male co-workers. Martin Bashir should be ashamed of himself.