Anne Robinson, You’re Dead Wrong (And Somewhat Confused)

Like many, I listened to and then read, Anne Robinson’s recent words on sexual harassment. Yup, she said it, I didn’t mishear it, she actually took younger women to task for not putting up with harassment in the workplace, or “men behaving badly” as she euphemistically phrased it.

“In the early days, 40 years ago, there were very few of us women in power and I have to say we had a much more robust attitude to men behaving badly.” Her points meander all over the issue however, as she adds: “… the glass ceiling seems to have been shattered but running alongside that is a sort of fragility amongst women who aren’t able to cope with the treachery of the workplace.”

Gee Anne, I wonder why that glass ceiling has been shattered (a questionable statement in itself). Could it be that these fragile, not-cope-y women are actually stronger than you’re giving them credit for? Could it be that there are more women in higher jobs now directly because they didn’t just accept the discrimination and harassment? Or, to use your verb – “cope”. And by the way, speaking up about it doesn’t mean women aren’t coping, they’re just feckin’ furious.

You contradict yourself by saying- “It shouldn’t be happening but on the other hand why have women lost confidence… I despair!” What? No buts, Anne, it shouldn’t be happening. With the word “treachery” we see you knew it then and you know it now, so stop with the “In my day…….” line of attack. In your day kids sat in the front seat with no seat belts, in your day school children were belted by sadistic school teachers, in your day more women stayed with abusive husbands – doesn’t mean anyone was more “robust” and it doesn’t make any of it OK.

You’re all over the place with your points – “It would be helpful – and I say that in inverted commas – if women really, particularly older women in power, stopped it being tolerated. There needs to be a sort of collective amongst women because the flipside is that if it’s a youngster complaining about sexual harassment, not only is she unlikely to be believed, particularly if she’s complaining to a male boss but also that goes on her record. Who is going to hire someone who’s already made complaints in another workplace about sexual harassment?”

Wait what? So on the one hand Anne, you’re telling them they’re whining, and on the other you’re admitting that younger women need the help of the collective. A collective that includes you perhaps? That part you got right. Because if women like you continue with this “get some robust-ness”, guess what? No young women will ever say anything and it’ll be just like the your day all over again.

But where you’re totally wrong Anne, is on this question of robustness, strength, coping or whatever other humble-brag you want to indulge in. How much courage and confidence does it take to say nothing? (And pardon me but most young women are not in a position to just slap their male bosses and tell ’em to grow up.)

Because of detractors like you Anne, it takes far more courage and confidence to speak out about harassment in the workplace. It also takes an empathetic commitment to making things better for other women- something you now seem to be calling for even if it didn’t occur to you at the time. That’s a real shame Anne, because with your robust nature and clout, you could possibly have saved some other woman from that man behaving badly.