The “security measure” becomes a chilling reminder that women are never safe
“His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.”
Matt Lauer issued an “apology” today for the years of abuse he subjected the women around him to. “There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry,” he begins. He goes on more, but blah blah blah WHO CARES? None of what this man says matters now, nor will it ever matter — because he’s a goddamn comic book villain disguised as an overpaid morning show host.
If you missed the paragraph that began this piece, here it is again. Lauer had a BUTTON UNDER HIS DESK THAT ALLOWED HIM TO LOCK HIS DOOR FROM THE INSIDE WITHOUT GETTING UP. “This afforded him the assurance of privacy,” Variety wrote in their chilling story about the allegations. “It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him.” The New York Times reports “People who worked at NBC said the button was a regular security measure installed for high-profile employees.” But in the hands of someone like Lauer, it just adds another layer of horrible to this story.
This man is not sorry. He’s sorry he’s caught and those are two very different things. The thought of a button like this existing in an office that a man like Lauer could use at his discretion is chilling. It essentially made women unaware that they were now in an office cut off from the safety of the assumption that someone could walk in at any time.
As a woman, the thought of that makes me simultaneously claustrophobic, terrified, and disgusted. It’s made even more disgusting knowing now that a former employee told the New York Times that in 2001 Lauer summoned her to his office, locked the door, and sexually assaulted her. She fainted during the assault and had to be taken to a nurse. This isn’t an “oops, I behaved poorly” situation that can be rectified by an apology.
“Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed,” said Lauer. Which of the allegations are mischaracterized? Is there a better way to explain giving an employee a sex toy with explicit instructions of what you wanted her to do with it? Or dropping your pants and showing your penis to another? That behavior isn’t flirting. It isn’t even sexual. It’s a methodically planned need for power. It’s a vulgar need to disarm women and make them feel less than, unsafe, and small.
Men who do things like this know the first thing they are hitting us with when they behave this way: the knowledge that in most workplaces, men are implicitly more protected than women. And have more power. And can quash careers with a single bad word. Men like Lauer and Weinstein and C.K. know this so well. And when they’re caught they pretend that they don’t. And we all pretend that this is just a case of a man being overly sexual and not being able to control himself around the women he works with. And it has absolutely nothing to do with that and everything to do with a Voldemort-level need to suck the life force out of the women around them to make their small, pathetic selves bigger in any way they can.
There is no way to be a woman right now and not walk around like you’re ready to go scorched earth on any motherfucker who crosses you. And it’s not because we’re “extra sensitive” or are raising false red flags. It’s because this behavior has been excused for so long it’s absolutely rampant. So rampant, that people think it’s just not so bad. So what if a man exposes himself? The women should have walked out! The women should have spoken up sooner! The women should’ve noticed and supported each other! How about this? How about it’s not our responsibility to fix the shit that men have broken. And we certainly don’t have to accept an “apology” from a serial assaulter and alleged rapist.
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