Bob Filner Sexual Harassment: Filner Stays as the Media Overlooks Women's Suffering


Many have called for Filner to step down after sexual harassment charges, but the mainstream media refuses to cover it. This is just another case of mainstream media ignoring women’s suffering.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner (D) stated Monday that he will not resign after sexual-harassment accusations, even as a slew of former supporters of Filner have called on him to step down. Rep. Susan Davis (D), Rep. Scott Peters (D), City Councilwoman Donna Frye (D), and many Republican leaders have also called for his resignation. The mainstream media has largely refused to cover the issue — just another example of their track record of ignoring women's suffering.

Bronwyn Ingram, who broke off an engagement with Filner after he “began texting other women sexually explicit messages and setting up dates while in [her] presence,” also asked Filner to submit his resignation.

With Filner’s chief of staff resigning late Friday, it seems that Filner will have to fight an uphill battle if he is to have a successful term as mayor. And with the mainstream media refusing to seriously report this event, national pressure on Filner to resign is unlikely to arise.

When Eliot Spitzer was found to be using an elite escort service, the media covered the event for weeks. Then, when Anthony Weiner tweeted sexually suggestive pictures of himself, the media had a field day (not only with puns, but again by spending a few weeks covering the affair). Both politicians were forced to step down, in part thanks to media attention.

But now, with the mayor of a city of over 1.3 million people being asked to step down for sexual harassment, no one seems to care. The front page of CNN seems to prove that point.

So is it true that “Raiders may build smallest stadium” is more important than sexual harassment charges against an elected official? If not, then why aren’t media giants like Fox News, CNN, and the Huffington Post covering the scandal like they did the Weiner and Spitzer scandals?

These questions are important to ask, but the blame does not belong to the media alone. While varying media outlets differ in their coverage of issues of sex and gender, ultimately, they know their audience.

When harassment by public figures earns a headline, whether it be Obama’s reference to Kamala Harris as the "best looking" general attorney, or Baltimore Ravens’ Jacoby Jones calling reporter Michele Tafoya “gorgeous,” the only attention given is a single headline, and everyone outside of the feminist blogosphere shrugs their shoulders and moves on with their lives.

While half of all working women have experienced workplace sexual harassment, only 5-15% report it. Not only do these women frequently feel shame or embarrassment, or fear that reporting will impede career advancement, but they believe, and rightfully so, that their claims and discomfort will be invalidated.

And now, when women finally report sexual harassment, even when it's against a prominent politician, the media passes it off as unworthy of coverage.

It seems that harassment, whether on the street, or in the workplace, is seen as inevitable, a reality of being a woman, a compliment, or the result of someone's clothing or behavioral choices.

Ultimately, the media is not reporting Filner’s harassment as a serious event not because it isn’t important, but because many Americans dismiss sexual harassment, refusing to confront it head-on.

Hopefully, the mainstream media will learn to report prominent sexual harassment claims. Without the media's help, it seems unlikely that pressure on Filner will force him to resign in the face of the aforementioned allegations. But if the media decides to report these events, maybe Americans as a whole will realize that sexual harassment is indeed newsworthy.

I would like to thank fellow PolicyMic pundit Kat Kelley for her valuable contribution to this piece. For more on feminism, follow her on Twitter: @KatKelley46

For more political gibberish, follow Christian: @C_Rice3