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'It Is What It Is, Whaddya Gonna Do?' Is Not an Appropriate Response to Harassment

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | April 20, 2017 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | April 20, 2017 |

Kirsten Powers, a political analyst who frequently appeared on The O’Reilly Factor, spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper last night about some of the experiences she has had with O’Reilly. She wasn’t groped or physically harassed like some of the other women who have detailed their experiences with O’Reilly, but Kirsten Powers speaks to the culture of harassment at Fox News. It is depressing as hell. O’Reilly reduces Powers to her hair color, and when she complained, she was told, “Oh, you know, there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s Bill. He’s kind of a throwback … we’re sorry, but there’s nothing we can do … he’s a jerk, no one likes him … but what am I going to do? No one likes him, but he makes so much money.”

I don’t know why this particular complaint hit me in such a weird way, but it made me feel really sad, because I understand that even if there is no assault or physical harassment involved, this is the kind of environment that a lot of women have to endure every goddamn day of their lives, and if Courtney were still here, she’d probably share a lot of similar experiences.

I obviously don’t have any such similar experiences, because I’m a dude and no one gives a shit about what color my hair is, but I know that line, “Oh, whaddya gonna do? He’s a throwback,” because we all hear that line to excuse any number of abhorrent behaviors, whether it’s sexism, racism, transphobia, or anti-Semitism. It’s gotta stop. This is on us. On dudes. We just can’t pull that shit anymore. Same with, “Oh, he didn’t mean anything by it,” or “he’s harmless,” or “he’s got a good heart,” or “just ignore him,” or he’s “well intentioned.”

It doesn’t fucking matter where is heart is, or if he’s not likely to act on his racist or sexist impulses. If he didn’t mean anything by it, then he shouldn’t fucking say it. You may not be able to stop your sexist uncle from being a fuck-O, but you don’t have to excuse it. You can’t “it is what it is” away a problem. Fucking listen. Say something. Fire someone. Do something, because assholes like Bill O’Reilly may ignore frequent and repeated complaints from women, but they might listen if a boss or a male colleague had says, “Cut it the fuck out, asshole, or you’re out.”

Or maybe he wouldn’t have listened. I don’t know. But you can’t just fucking sit on it, and say, “It is what it is, whaddya gonna do?” A culture of harassment doesn’t start with approval; it starts with acquiescence. It starts when we start looking the other way, or come up with excuses, or minimize complaints. So, listen, say something, or do something.

And when Kirsten Powers shares her experiences, don’t fucking ridicule them because they weren’t as bad as some others.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.