Happy Christmas Day



Everyday Harassment on TV

Sexual harassment is in the news.  Politicians use their positions of power to force their will on vulnerable persons.  Hollywood moguls?  Tales about casting couches are certainly nothing new.  Are we surprised to learn that star power individuals might want to get in on the action?

The Silence Breakers deserve their recognition.  The public outcry is justified — overdue.  But is it enough? And are we addressing the mixed messages popular culture is broadcasting?

When I am in my car with my grandchildren, they like to listen to the radio stations popular with the young.  Sometimes I have to switch it off.  I don’t think I am anything close to a prude, but the sexually explicit lyrics shock me.  The F-word might get bleeped but you can still hear some graphic descriptions of sex acts in the lyrics.  They make it sound nasty.

Television, and not just cable and not just ads, is a whole other story.   All of a sudden I am aware of how sexualized this ubiquitous media is.  I found some numbers to confirm my impression.

Portrayals of sex and sexual relationships are prevalent in mainstream media. Analyses estimate that sexual content appears in approximately 85% of major motion pictures (Jamieson, More, Lee, Busse, & Romer, 2008), 82% of television programs (Fisher, Hill, Grube, & Gruber, 2004), 59% of music videos (Turner, 2011), and 37% of music lyrics (Primack, Gold, Schwarz, & Dalton, 2008).


Lots of the sexual content is implied, sly innuendo.  Lots of it is found in popular sitcoms and we laugh along with the canned audience.  It’s not porn, but I can’t help but think it is normalizing something of a tee-hee, wink-wink, boys will be boys, girls will be sluts mentality.

I remember as a kid (naive to be sure) thinking TV was a reflection of reality to the extent that I wondered why I was the only one in the world who did not have Donna Reed for a mom, an Anderson or a Cleaver family.  Is Two and a Half Men anymore representative of reality?  If my grandson watches that or similar shows will he think sexual harassment is normal and acceptable?

I don’t think TV needs to be the fairytale, sexless la-la land it may have been in the beginning, but is there no middle ground?  And where are the shows depicting women and men confronting offensive behaviors, showing children and adults how to deal effectively with unwanted attention?

I don’t watch that much TV, so maybe I am wrong.

A New Kind of Therapy

There was a wellness fair at an alternative health center in Burlington today.

I had a free salt water foot detox procedure.  That was okay.

I also had a free sample of didgeridoo vibroacoustic therapy.  Now that was interesting.  You lie on massage table that has speakers in the mattress.  The speakers are attached to a didgeridoo.  So as the instrument in played, the table vibrates and you get a strange kind of gentle massage.

The guy who offered this also makes and teaches playing the didgeridoo.  He had some research information on his table.  Some evidence suggests that playing it strengthens throat muscles that tend to go soft and cause obstructive sleep apnea.  An alternative to one of those C-PAP machines.

Interesting that there is always something new to learn.


The set up did involve an impressive array of sound mixing equipment — something of current interest to my grandson.  Sometimes it’s hard to encourage his varied interests.

What I Want to Know

From the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, responsible for enforcing Federal laws related to discrimination and harassment:

Sexual Harassment

It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.


Hearing all the news lately, it is tempting to say all men are pigs.  However, I know many fine men and, unfortunately, I have known a few women who were completely capable of harassment.

Like sexual assault, there is a concerning balance of power issue at play.

As I understand assault, it involves attempted or actual physical harm.  The harm alluded to in the above definition of harassment seems to have to do with either an uncomfortable feeling (hostile environment) and adverse impact on job security.  It almost seems more benign that assault.  Is it?  Because sometimes psychological harm lingers longer than the physical.

Harassment becomes illegal when it is severe or frequent.  This is not simple teasing (bad enough) or offhand comments (I’ve made them but I learn quickly from adverse reaction) or isolated incidents (whoops, so sorry).  Things happen and you say, “Not okay.”  Not to blame victims, but if you don’t confront the small things some get the idea they are okay.


What I want to know is what do we call sexual advances, requests for “favors” or inappropriate language of a sexual nature when it is not part of the workplace environment?  It’s still harassing, right?  But is it illegal? (I’ll note here that I took a career aptitude test when I was in college and my aptitude for anything law related was nearly zero.  I supposed I could have had a legal career, but I would have had to always act in a way that was the opposite of every instinct of thought and action that I own.)

I also want to know if there are women out there who have never experienced some level of discomfort in the presence of someone else’s acting out in a sexual way?  I had a dentist who had to wipe his hands each time he put them in my mouth (way before the days of latex gloves).  Of course the most convenient place to wipe them was down the paper bib covering my young breasts and giving a little squeeze along the way.  My sister din’t have breasts yet but he wanted to play a game with her called “touch tongues.”  So gross.  So completely unprofessional.

And why didn’t we ever tell our parents, you might wonder. Well, we didn’t want our dad to go to jail for killing the guy.  This experience made us uncomfortable for sure but did it harm us psychologically?  I just think it made us feisty feminists and pretty darn good at recognizing and avoiding predators.


Some people are pigs.  Some just plain don’t know any better.  But it’s time for us all to say, “Stop it!”


November in Vermont is not the most delightful time of year.  That’s my opinion.  I know those who disagree.

But, seriously, it’s cold.  Today the temperature hovers around 32 degrees but a sharp wind coming out of the northwest makes it feel much colder.  It’s dark, gloomy dark with heavy grey clouds blocking out the feeble attempts of the sun to show its face during the day.  It’s dark early.  The arc of the sun sticks close to the horizon and sunset is underway at 4 in the afternoon.  There is snow on the ground.  Plants and shrubs have the depressingly drab look of having withered in the killing frost.

I find nothing pleasant about walking out my front door and having the tiny hairs in my nose instantly freeze.  Bulky sweaters and socks, hats, mittens, coats and wooly scarves — all such a bother.

And yet, there are spots of bright and warmth.

Last night I went out with three women friends.  We had dinner at a trendy new restaurant in downtown Burlington.  We sat around the table with our wine as lovely eastern Mediterranean mezze dishes were served one after the other.  We shared food and conversation.  We moaned with pleasure and laughed together.

It really didn’t matter what the weather was like outside. It was a delicious evening all the way around.

Let the NBA Lead the Way

Perhaps there is a certain unexamined logic to the notion that the answer to gun violence is more guns.

We cannot use the increasingly frequent incidents of mass shootings to discuss any kind of gun control, but it’s perfectly okay to suggest that church goers carry their weapons to church on Sunday.  (I believe there was actually a law to that effect in Vermont at one time.)

Wouldn’t we feel the world is a safer place for our children and grand children is every teacher had a hand gun of some power tucked away in his or her desk? Riiight.  (Although it might have proved useful in convincing that clod who exploded lunch in the faculty microwave every day and left the mess to harden into a cement like coating.)

I don’t follow sports teams much.  I never heard of Steve Kerr before.  Never heard of the Warriors, but their coach said this after the Texas shooting this past Sunday: “We have to look at this as it has nothing to do with partisanship, political parties. This has got to be a public safety issue, a public health issue.”

Yes.  How about we can go to church if we choose and not even have to give a thought to being shot in the process?

According to a CNN report, United States own more civilian guns per capita than any other country.  With 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. is responsible for 31% of global mass shootings.  This should not make us proud of ourselves.

A visual aid:



Something is broken and must be fixed.

Sufi Story


A man being followed by a hungry tiger, turned in desperation to face it, and cried: “Why don’t you leave me alone?”

The tiger answered: “Why don’t you stop being so appetizing?”



And doesn’t that just say it all?

A Buddhist might use this as an illustration of the first and second Noble Truths.

There is suffering — fear of life for the man and hunger for the tiger.

The source of suffering is craving — a craving to continue life and a desire to forestall death for the man; a craving for food and a desire to avoid death from starvation from the tiger.



What a conundrum.  Are there solutions to such conflicts?