So, you want to run for president. And the fact that you have minimal political experience, can’t say Uzbekistan properly, and borrowed your tax plan from Sim City has somehow managed to keep you in the primary race long enough for your (alleged) history of sexual harassment to be made public. It looks as though you might not have the necessary PR wranglers, and, if you do, they’re definitely not attentive ones–so I thought I’d do you a solid and provide you with some helpful tips for not making yourself look like an even bigger asshole in the wake of a scandal like this.
When the news of these allegations is first broken, DON’T convince yourself that it’s clever or effective to turn the question “have you ever been accused, sir, of harassment in your life by a woman?” back onto the person asking it. When you’re accused of doing something bad, any response that sounds like “well, everyone does it” is not going to be a successful one. Most of our parents managed to drill that knowledge into us by the time we were in third grade.
DON’T refer to a woman who has more power and political prowess than you as “Princess,” regardless of your feelings about her political leanings. Don’t do it on your radio show; don’t do it during a nationally televised presidential debate; don’t do it in any capacity in which you have an audience who might be seriously questioning your level of respect for women. That is barely an appropriate way to refer to a girl throwing a temper tantrum at her fifth birthday party. It is certainly not an appropriate way to refer to the former Speaker of the House.
DON’T make jokes about the woman involved in the most well-known sexual harassment scandal of our time. I mean, I would probably say that there’s not a lot of times when an Anita Hill joke is appropriate or funny. Nonetheless, if I were to make a list entitled “the least appropriate times to make an Anita Hill joke,” number one on the list would, without question, be “while you are embroiled in a very public set of sexual harassment allegations yourself.”
(Taking a tonal break here: My friend Courtney recently pointed out that Cain’s terrible-answer response in these scenarios is similar to the one detailed in this Aziz Ansari bit, and I haven’t been able to get the comparison out of my head.)
Finally, the best solution I can give for dealing with sexual harassment allegations is a preventative measure: DON’T sexually harass people. Don’t make lewd comments to your employees, don’t ask for sexual favors in exchange for employment, don’t start any by acting like a creep and there won’t be any. It sounds crazy, I know. But there’s this thing called a filter that will help you out in this endeavor, and a lot of grown-ass people have managed to figure out how to develop one and put it to use in their professional lives. You can apologize all you want, but the most effective way to stop looking like an asshole is simply to stop saying stupid shit in the first place.
However, I’m going to be blunt here: Wanting to stop looking like an asshole is one thing, but wanting to stop acting like an asshole is a far more effective approach. Filtering will only get you so far on the not-sexually-harassing front until you manage to develop this weird little trait known as “respect for women.” This one seems a little harder to come by than a filter these days, but it’s a useful trait to have at your disposal in that it helps you consider women as diverse human beings with professional, intellectual, and interpersonal skills, rather than as a monolithic category of sexual creatures who have worth solely in your enjoyment of them.
And, for those of you who aren’t public political figures and are looking for a great way to demonstrate that you aren’t an asshole and that you would never treat women with disrespect? Discontinuing your support of a presidential candidate who doesn’t respect women might be a great way to start.