Okay. Here’s what I want to know about Harlan’s inappropriateness: Why didn’t any of us do anything in that moment? I’m asking sincerely, because I get furious with myself, after the fact, for actions I fail to take. When the groping happened, I was horrified; I leaned over and asked the person next to me if he thought it was staged; I was uncomfortable and shocked.
But I didn’t do a damn thing. I didn’t stand up and boo Harlan off the stage, or shout that it was inappropriate.
Peer pressure is enormous: we see it when someone gets a standing ovation, in when people stand up and when they sit down; either action is started by one person. If one of us had had the guts to stand up in that auditorium and say Harlan’s behavior was wrong–in that moment, as it should have been–I think many people would have followed suit.
And I get mad at myself because there have been too many situations in my life where I would swear, in the hypothetical, that I would react one way, and yet when the actual situation presents itself I’m so…shocked or surprised or hurt that I react in another way entirely. (I’ve been the object of plenty of inappropriate behavior, and I’m willing to bet that Connie would have sworn she’d react differently, too.) I don’t believe that we know what we’d do in a given situation until we’re actually in it, despite what we might say. A week ago, if someone had asked you what you would do if you were in a Hugo audience and Harlan grabbed Connie’s breast onstage while receiving an award, what would you have said your immediate response would be? Do you honestly believe it would have been “nothing” or “I would have leaned over and whispered about it” or “I’d have blogged about it when I got back to my computer”? If not, why didn’t we do what we think we should have?
Because that’s not what I envision myself doing, and it frustrates me.