• 81°

Leonard Pitts Jr.: How the times have changed

By Leonard Pitts Jr.

You may, if you are old enough, recall a TV actor named Foster Brooks.

He was a guest star on such classics of boomer kitsch as “The Monkees,” “The Munsters” and “The Mod Squad.” But if you do remember him, it’s likely for one thing only: his imitation of inebriation. Brooks made his slurring, stammering “funny drunk act” a TV staple, back when drunks were still considered, well … funny.

To recall his career is to marvel at what a difference a generation or two makes.

That era produced another TV trope that, in hindsight, seems equally bizarre: the funny sexual harasser. A hundred times, you saw it: the lecherous boss chasing the nubile secretary around the desk. A hundred times, it didn’t register as anything but a joke.

And again, the memory makes you marvel at how the times, they have changed.

In their new book, “She Said,” Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, The New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment story, remind us that early October brings three anniversaries, each a milestone of the progress we have — and have not — made in learning to take sexual assault seriously.

• Oct. 7, 2016: The Washington Post releases the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” video where presidential candidate Donald Trump brags about sexually assaulting women. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” he says. “You can do anything.”

• Oct. 5, 2018: The Senate advances the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite a credible allegation that, as a drunken teenager, he attempted to rape a then-classmate, research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford.

• Between those two dates — Oct. 5, 2017 — the Times published its report on the film producer Weinstein and his alleged assaults on women in his professional circle, including actress Ashley Judd. Later, Gwyneth Paltrow and Annabella Sciorra would also number themselves among the accusers.

The story opened a floodgate. By the time the wave of accusations crested, it had splashed dozens of famous men: Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Mario Batali, Louis C.K., George H.W. Bush and Al Franken among them. Once-silent women found their voices under a hashtag — #MeToo.

“She Said” recounts the journalistic detective work that led to the breakthrough. It’s a compelling story that leaves one pleased to see the good guys — the good “gals,” really — get a win. But let us be clear on the limitations of that win. Indeed, the convergence of those anniversaries speaks eloquently to America’s ongoing irresolution on matters of sexual harassment and assault. Sure, Weinstein is facing charges, but Kavanaugh went to the Supreme Court, and Trump, to the White House.

Still, the story Twohey and Kantor broke changed gender politics. Predictably, there came a backlash, increasing numbers of male managers reportedly refusing to mentor female subordinates. That would seem to open them to civil sanctions. It will be fun to watch one of them try to defend his sexism in court, perhaps before a judge with lady parts.

Elsewhere, folks just want to know, where is the line? Is it allowed to tell a co-worker you find her attractive? Can you share — or laugh at — a bawdy joke? “So much was suddenly open to question,” write Kantor and Twohey.

And it is. And that is surely frustrating and difficult.

On the other hand, some of us remember when the boss chased the secretary while the laugh track howled. We thought nothing of it. Now people are wondering what’s acceptable?

Maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla. 33172. Contact him at lpitts@miamiherald.com.



Salisbury man receives up to 20 months for carrying gun while subject to domestic violence order, having fake license plate


Rowan County COVID-19 vaccination numbers see major improvement after inclusion of new data


Top shot: World champion skeet shooter conquers competition, helps grow sport


Local cultural institutions receive funding from Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program


David Freeze: New Mexico brings mostly flat roads


Rowan-Salisbury Schools teachers reflect on summer institute


Education briefs: Superintendent awards excellence in educational performance


Mayor Alexander talks infrastructure, growth with Kannapolis, Concord mayors on ‘Charlotte Talks’ radio show

Legion baseball

Baseball: Honeycutt excited, humbled by being drafted

High School

High school football preview: Falcons have experienced offense


Olympics: Livingstone graduate Hayes among final eight in 400


Freeze: Day 9 — What makes the best day


Salisbury Police talk worsening crime data, initiatives at first Neighborhood Action Group meeting


Spencer’s Park Plaza town hall project still on track, change order coming


RCCC names new foundation director


North Carolina experts worry as schools don’t require masks


NC sports betting bill gets winning vote from Senate panel


Salisbury man charged with 79-year-old woman’s murder says cellphone location resulted in charges


Salisbury City Council will return to virtual meetings, require face masks in city buildings


Landis goes big with two helicopters for National Night Out


Spencer and East Spencer join forces for National Night Out


City Council approves Grants Landing development on Rowan Mill Road


In lighter-than-usual year, RSS nutrition staff serve more than 100,000 summer meals


CDC issues new eviction ban for most of US through Oct. 3