This blog will be a departure from my usual sassy stories about my writing. I want to address the issue of sexual predation more directly than I have done in my mysteries, although it is a theme in several of my books especially the Laura Murphy mysteries.
The workplace for many women has been revealed to be a minefield of sexual predation. I for one am not surprised by this, nor was I immune. In graduate school students work closely with professors and fear their futures are in the hands of powerful mentors who have say over grades, degrees and future employment. We have heard little about harassment on the college campus, but it is commonplace, students being the unwilling targets of both faculty and other students. In the decades I have been associated with academe nothing seems to have changed. When my students and I in the nineties applied for money to do sexual harassment research on my college campus, the proposal was turned down as simply the “rant of a feminist professor and the students she swayed to her point of view.” Note: we went ahead and accomplished the study without the funding.
I doubt much has changed since then except I’m beginning to hope that women coming forth with complaints are more likely to be believed now than they were in the past. Most important, and I see little discussion of this, I hope that others will be less judgmental of how women responded to the harassment. Is saying “no” the only alternative when your job or career is on the line? If a woman gives in to the approach, should we call that consensual sex? We need to talk more about this because women are carrying a heavy load of guilt, and the judgment of peers about how they handle the encounter or when they chose to report it, or why it happened to them is not something they should shoulder along with the harassment itself.
I hope the conversation about women in the workplace, in the military, in colleges will not fade away, but that it will raise our consciousness about the attitudes toward women in our society. I am aware that many think sexual predation is not something that I should include in my cozy mysteries. But I do. I will continue to take on serious themes because I think cozies deal with the lives of people like ourselves, about lives like our own. They do not create fairy tale worlds but tell tales of everyday lives disrupted by shocking evens like murder…or drug trafficking, bigotry, even sexual predation. What they also do is provide the reader a resolution to these issues, a way out of the bad, reestablishment of the light–if only for the moment.