Another day, another one (or five) bites the dust.
Wednesday evening, the Twitterverse went into overdrive with news that Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown was set to hold an emergency press conference.
Emergency press conferences that start at 9:45 PM aren’t usually a good sign.
Rumours had been swirling for some time about the man’s personal life and his conduct with younger females, both in his employ and in his social circles. But before he could get to the podium to categorically deny the accusations, his Campaign Manager, Chief of Staff and Deputy Campaign Manager all quit, citing Brown’s refusal to step down from his position.
Clearly, this was going to be huge.
When he finally did step up to the podium, the PCP of Ontario leader looked like he was on PCP, noticeably agitated and in a hurry to flee the stage.
Struggling to maintain his composure, he professed his innocence and said he would remain on as party leader. But it was too late. The inevitable happened by 1:30 AM. Brown was done.
As is usual with salacious political stories, opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got one, and everyone else’s stinks. His detractors were quick to affirm that every allegation must be 100% accurate; to not believe all women is a sign that we condone this behaviour.
Others cried out for us to hold off judging the man because he is innocent until proven guilty.
Again, people on both sides have made a story about power imbalances, sexual assault and harassment into one of political partisanship, obscuring what should be the takeaway in this story.
Because I don’t have much space, I’ll sum up the allegations quickly.
The first complainant is a woman who alleges that when she was in high school, Brown picked her up drunk at a bar, brought her back to his home and coerced her into performing oral sex on him.
Sexual conduct with a girl in high school is an extremely troubling allegation and the death knell for any political career. Just ask Roy Moore.
The second complainant alleges that when she was a 19-year-old student and working outside the academic year for Brown in his Barrie constituency office, there were numerous instances (independently verified through email and social media messages) where the much older Brown maintained a suggestive correspondence with the young woman.
After a charity hockey event that Brown tasked her with organizing, she says the group partied in a local nightclub and she consumed “too many (drinks) to count.” The party continued on after the bar shut down, and spilled into Brown’s home. Social media verifies this.
A sober Brown (he’s a teetotaler) invited her and a friend into his bedroom to look at photographs from a trip to Asia.
You know how this story plays out.
The friend slips away and leaves the two alone, at which point Brown allegedly forces himself on her.
Upon realizing that she was not reciprocating, he stops and drives her back to her parents’ home.
The woman says she felt powerless to complain, as she was professionally associated with him and his political party. He subsequently invited her on an all-expenses-paid trip to India, and Brown, ever the Casanova, allegedly told her that she would “look really good on an elephant.”
Great line, I’ll have to use that sometime.
She went on to continue her work with Brown over the next summer, explaining that she didn’t want what happened to get in the way of building her career in politics. She told several people about her experiences. Brown allegedly continued to act inappropriately in her presence, speaking about sexually explicit experiences with other women and wanting to find “an older version of (her) to marry.”
In recent weeks, the #metoo movement has opened a Pandora’s box of revelations; experiences most professional women could have and already have told you happen regularly.
In times past, we looked on this sort of thing as just part and parcel of women navigating male-dominated corridors of power. But it appears as though we’re moving towards a future where such behaviour, from serious cases of harassment and sexual assault down to questionable compliments on appearance or lingering physical contact, will spell a man’s professional ruin.
Every man is just a #kenthehr away from seeing bad behaviour ruin their political aspirations.
We want and quite frankly need more women to assume positions of power; this should be a natural progression. But it doesn’t seem all men have got the memo.
There is no time to prepare for this shift. It’s already happening and men had best examine their conduct, both at work and in social settings.
The standard of innocent until proven guilty is one used in a criminal court of law, but not in the realms of politics. Even the appearance of impropriety can sink careers. This isn’t 1998, serial philanderer and harasser Bill Clinton is from another era; you can’t abuse a Cuban cigar like that anymore and get away with it.
I remember a few months ago when Vice President Mike Pence revealed that he doesn’t spend time alone with women other than his wife. The media and The Left heaped opprobrium and derisive scorn on the man; this supposedly being proof of his backwards and outdated views on women.
I happen to think the Billy Graham Rule could be a very useful tool for married men in politics. It doesn’t have to mean that such men would ever harbour tendencies that would lead them to harass or abuse women.
It means that out of respect for their wives and with the knowledge that they’re a public figure, they wouldn’t want to give rise to what I previously referred to as “the appearance of impropriety.”
We want to give women the benefit of the doubt, but there will be and have been instances of false allegations being levelled. This rule provides married men protection from that.
I have a friend who works as a pastor; part of his job is to provide counsel to both men and women. He related that when he took on that role at his church, he replaced his opaque wooden door to his office with a transparent glass one. Transparency, both figurative and literal, is advisable in our professional conduct.
The aforementioned and anachronistic socially conservative rule isn’t for everyone, but here’s a rule that is.
The George Clooney Rule.
To wit, never go outside the boundaries of dating someone younger than this simple formula: (your age / 2 + 7). Anything more elastic than that, and you come off as a cad and a dirty old man. Patrick Brown might or might not have been guilty of that which he has been accused, but we do know he harbored a romantic interest in very young women, some of whom were teenagers.
Just because something might be lawful, doesn’t mean it is good for you. Unless you are Madonna, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, a Texas oil tycoon or a Liberal Senator, you would do well to keep the George Clooney Rule in mind.
Also, remember that only one out of four of those people are currently alive.
One tendency on the part of men that still baffles me is shaking hands with guys, but greeting women with a hug. May I suggest that you just don’t hug people that aren’t your family or friends? Be a professional. That’s your co-worker, not your mother.
I’ve been privy to accounts alleging just such experiences with another casualty of Wednesday, Nova Scotia PC ex-party leader Jaimie Baillie. Lingering hugs and whispering things into women’s ears is level 11 creep mode. Don’t do it.
Quite often we become acquainted with people at work who we go on to start relationships with and even marry. This is normal. But consider that due to the power imbalances that can manifest between coworkers, and that you’ll likely continue to see such people in the event the relationship doesn’t work out, this is best avoided.
Remember the old maxim advising not to “dip your pen in the company ink.” Politically incorrect but percipient. Try to live by the inverse of Grant Hill’s famous Sprite advertisements of the 1990s: “Image is everything, thirst is nothing. Deny your thirst.”
There is something to be said for keeping it in your pants, particularly in politics. It doesn’t make any less of a man. In my eyes, self-restraint and acting a gentleman are very masculine qualities.
Having worked rigs, there have been enough times when things become uncomfortable for what is usually the sole female on location, the medic. She doesn’t even have to be particularly attractive; on some crews, it’s like a game to one-up the rest and hit on the medic.
Not even to get a date, but to make the guys laugh and assert some antiquated alpha male tendency. She knows complaining and “being difficult” could mean that the consultant gets rid of her. No woman should have to choose between being subjected to unwanted advances or keeping her job.
A medic is there as an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR); she isn’t there to look pretty. Not everything that comes into your brain needs to be said. What may seem like an innocent compliment to you could be interpreted as objectifying or sexualizing to a woman. If you wouldn’t say it to another man, don’t say it to a woman.
Politics works such that partisanship will lead people to defend and deny even the worst behaviour, chalking it up to attacks from political enemies. There are creeps and perverts from all walks of life and political affiliation. It doesn’t discriminate. There is a fine line, I will concede, between standing up for women and giving into the mob mentality.
No one wants to enable a liar with stories contrived as a means of destroying a political enemy.
But if believing one liar until the evidence proves them to be so creates an environment where ten more women can come forward and seek redress against predatory behaviour, I have to support that. Or even better, if giving a liar the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise scares enough men into preventing ten more incidents from happening in the future, I’ll support that too.
There is a reason many of these women don’t want to come forward, or will only do so under the veil of anonymity.
Look at how they are treated.
Blindly partisan defenders will apply a degree of scrutiny to the accuser that they refuse to apply to the accused. Women will have to answer for why they were alone with a man, or why they were drinking; why they agreed to a date or why they sought the man’s company or advice.
The attack becomes trivialized, and the victim’s dignity becomes lost in the ensuing political tug of war. Staying silent can be a soul-crushing exercise, but coming forward can be even worse. #MeToo wasn’t about seeking justice in a criminal courtroom, it’s to level the playing field and effect positive change for women everywhere.
There’s no financial incentive in coming forward, quite often it can open women up to civil litigation or career ruin; the fact that Brown’s accusers desire anonymity is a hedge against being blackballed and ostracized. Disgraced pervert Jian Ghomeshi was found not guilty in a criminal courtroom, but then again so was O.J. Simpson. But Patrick Brown is a politician, not a CBC radio host. People can rightly question whether the worst of the allegations against him are true, but they cannot deny that he conducted himself in a way that disqualifies him from being a leader. This isn’t about legality, it’s a matter of ethics. The man did it to himself.
Brown’s conduct was inappropriate, yes, but he very well could be innocent of the accusations. It seems everyone involved in Ontario conservative politics says they were aware of unsavory rumours about the man.
So why act now, when political expediency demands it? Why didn’t the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario address the rumours a long time ago?
I don’t much care about whether people are “disgusted” or whether they “stand against this behaviour.” I want to know if policies and attitudes are going to change so we avoid creating any more victims. Men, these are our wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters.
They deserve better.