Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another Channel at 11:35 p.m.

I often find that a particular decision I need to make percolates so far under the surface of my conscious brain that I am surprised to find the decision made, lodging itself in my consciousness fully formed and with no "mulling over" needed.

That's how my goal of running a 5K in less than 30 minutes came to me. And that's how I started avoiding CBS at 11:35 on weeknights.

I am almost always still up at 11:35, and over the decades I would usually turn the television to The Late Show with David Letterman. Although I wasn't a rabid fan, I enjoyed the show and would consider myself a "habitual" viewer. I knew what to expect from the show (in general); that I could anticipate a Top 10 list; that something would be said during the monologue that would make me miss New York City; that he had an intern named Stephanie. Over the years I knew a little about his personal life, and in the past few years I knew about the open heart surgery, and especially that Letterman had become a parent. The night he described his child's birth, I sensed the kind of emotions that transcend sarcasm and wealth: the "I never expected to feel this way" awe of a new parent.

When the news broke a few weeks ago that Letterman had had interactions with several staff members that went "beyond typical office behavior," I watched Letterman address his audience in what he considered a "proactive" way. As events unfolded, it became clear that Letterman had engaged in intimate behavior with subordinates.

He's not the first to do so, and not the last.

Many viewers will probably not change their viewing habits and will still get their nightly kick out of the Top 10 lists and the Stupid Pet Tricks. I'm done.

My first experience with an "authority" figure who took advantage of my subordinate status occurred when I was 13. Although he was removed from his volunteer leadership role, I will always wonder how many other young women had had similar encounters. Fast forward five years to college, when a revered professor approached me from behind, groping. I was at so many gatherings attended by that same gentleman over the years. I could never bring myself to applaud when he was showered with this or that accolade.

So, have there been supervisor/subordinate relationships that started at the office (or the volunteer effort) that worked out beautifully for all parties involved? I'm sure there have.

But I do not believe that's usually the case. By its nature, there is a power imbalance between a supervisor and a subordinate.

Like Anne Bradstreet said,

Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than to polish.

In solidarity with some young women who I imagine came away "bruised," I'll be tuning in to a different channel from now on.

I'll "run" into you next week.

1 comment:

Velva said...

I don't think I thought that deeply about the Letterman incident-Then again at 11:35, I am sound asleep.