Thursday, January 08, 2015

Special Victims: the "she had an affair with him" accusation

The other night, I caught up with a friend whom I hadn't seen since before the holiday. Let's call her Mariah. Mariah is married, has a child, and likes her job. She generally seems in good spirits when I see her. So I was surprised when she needed to unload a story of frustration.

Mariah was complaining about some mutual acquaintances, and saying how she heard that ThisOtherGirl "had an affair" with OlderGuy (who is sort of a mentor figure in this situation).

Which just sounded like nasty, unfounded gossip to me.

Not to defend ThisOtherGirl, since I don't know her very well, but I tried to explain that I think this is something people often say about women they don't like.

Mariah said, "Oh, I didn't think of it that way. And now that you mention it, I'm not sure I trust the source."

When Mariah said that, I suddenly realized I knew exactly who the source was, and I knew he wasn't reliable. So it was probably just gossip.

But Mariah is really struggling. She wants more mentorship than she is getting, and she is looking for a reason why.

It reminded me a lot of the favoritism I witnessed in academia, and the office politics I've seen since I left.

Because what if OtherGirl is actually being harassed by OlderGuy, but everyone else is misreading the situation? It's so much easier to choose the default option of blaming the woman, like she was asking for it. Or trying to sleep her way up the ladder.


I was still thinking about this today when I watched this new episode of Law and Order: SVU .

SPOILER ALERT: I can't really say what I want to say without ruining it a little bit for you, so if you watch the show, go watch it first, and then come back. We'll still be here. 


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