What is the one thing that the women “targeted” for alleged sexual harassment or sexually suggestive remarks by Morgan Freeman have in common? They are attractive, that is.
If I’m to make a politically-correct comment on his behaviour, I will praise CNN for its “courage” and “boldness” for exposing the “dirty old man”. But if I’m to throw such rhetoric out the window, “poor guy” is the only label I can think of.
For those of you who haven’t read the news, famous actor Freeman has been accused in a CNN lead story of bad sexual behaviour that includes conspicuous remarks made to women in public and physical contact such as shoulder rubbing or attempted skirt lifting – again in public places.
Some incidents were caught by cameras, since the Oscar-winning star was involved in a lot of interviews. Out of curiosity, I clicked on some of the YouTube videos. My jaw dropped. Not because the videos were shocking, though, but because I was expecting something a lot worse than a prolonged handshake or eyes that lingered on sexy bodies.
“Is this it?” one comment below one of the videos read, precisely reflecting my thoughts.
Another one said if a young actor was caught checking woman interviewers out during taped talks, he would be considered flirtatious at worst and cutely naughty at best.
A more serious comment, apparently made by a guy, claimed CNN misled everyone. The poster was expecting to read about Freeman coercing women into having dinner with him or using physical strength to have his way with women, but the news story only featured things that are somewhat milder.
Make no mistake, after you finish the CNN story, Freeman doesn’t come across as an adorable, good-natured grandpa. Some of his reported behaviour did appear weird to say the least.
Should someone talk to him? Yes. Does he deserve character assassination? For all the evidence presented at the moment, no. (It appears too late now, as my woman friends were sharing his story like crazy.)
“He likes sexy women. Send him to the death squad,” another poster below the YouTube video said. Satirical as it sounds, this kind of comments is at the centre of the sexual harassment debate.
Sometimes, the line is blurred. There have been charges from women that push the limit – Freeman saying, “I wish I was there” being a case in point – and there is genuine misbehaviour by men that is often treated traditionally as harmless but in fact should be stopped.
Shoulder rubbing at the workplace by someone in power can make you feel very uncomfortable, for example. While most incidents involving Freeman can be dismissed as “creepy” but not totally in violation of sexual harassment rules, a man in his position should have known better when it comes to touching a girl who could have felt extremely uneasy but is not in a position to do anything.
The shoulder-rubbing thing gives considerable weight to the CNN story, whether the rest of it can be really qualified as sexual harassment or not. If it had been somebody else, the touched woman could have stared him down or even slapped him. Freeman got away with it because of his position or status.
His lawyers are demanding a CNN retraction. I don’t know what their legal argument is, but it’s my honest opinion that while women have the right to be sexy, men should have the right to check sexy women out.
This is where the sexual harassment claims against Freeman lost me. You wear short skirts because you are confident of your beautiful thighs, surely? In other words, you don’t want people to look exclusively at the skirt, and not your thighs. (It’s impossible anyway to look at one thing and ignore the other.)
In one incident, recorded on tape, Freeman said to a female interviewer: “I don’t know how you all manage to do that all the time. You’ve got a dress that’s halfway between your knees and your hips and you sit down right across from me and you cross your legs …”
He’s accused of “inappropriate sexual behaviour” for wondering out loud how short-skirted women manage to sit cross-legged.
In a separate incident, he allegedly tried to lift a woman’s skirt. Well, that’s too much – but, to me at least, it’s debatable whether that should be in a gossip column or an “exposure” cover story that is threatening to rip the man’s reputation to shreds and make his mega-buck commercial sponsors squirm.
That all this is happening in America further confounds me. Maybe I have watched too many Hollywood movies showcasing young women kissing strangers and letting themselves go wild at parties. Of course, Freeman is a “fatherly figure” in America, but here’s my bottom line: he’s still a man.
At 80, Freeman’s sexual hormones may still be unusually high. Arguably, he has not controlled them properly, but there are real sexual predators out there who deserve to be locked up, let alone exposed by a news agency.
I’m writing this article with a friend in mind. On the one hand, he’s a younger version of Morgan Freeman, albeit not as popular or powerful, and women did frown upon him. On the other hand, I haven’t seen anyone else so openly appreciative of, and poetic about, women’s beauty and sexiness.