I have no idea what Herman Cain did with the two, or maybe three, or possibly now four women who have raised allegations of improper sexual behavior about him. I don’t know whether any of them will come forward and run the risk of being labeled a slut for their efforts to do their jobs without being treated like pole-dancers. I do know that—as Amanda Marcotte so eloquently explained this week—the very same people who insist that we don’t know what actually happened all those years ago seem to know exactly what happened: nothing.
Sexual harassment is now nothing. Welcome to the era of gender harassment denialism. The harassment skeptics claim that harassment, like racism, used to exist but is now over. Twenty years ago, when charges were leveled at Clarence Thomas, supporters of the accused refused to take the accuser seriously. Now supporters of the accused refuse to take the accusation itself seriously. We have gone from not knowing what sexual harassment is to not believing it still happens. All in less than 20 years.
Remember, we don’t know what happened, beyond the fact that several employees came forward with complaints and received cash settlements. That’s not a lot of information. Cain defenders could have stopped there. Instead, great swaths of them have opted to assert that there could never be a valid sex discrimination claim because the whole thing is just a racket. And they went even further: The same folks criticizing the National Restaurant Association employees who came forward with claims that they were uncomfortable in their workplace are willing to deploy the most archaic and gender-freighted stereotypes to get there. Sexual harassment can’t be “real” because the women who claim it are money-grubbing, hysterical, attention-seeking tramps