Lori Borgman's anniversary

Dateline: Thu 20 Oct 2011

Twenty years ago today, the Indianapolis Star published the first of many columns written by Lori Borgman.

Lori, a wife, mother of three and consummate card, was also refreshingly conservative in her world view. Hence readers either adored her or hated her.

Ted Daniels, who headed the features department in that era when I was a features editor, loved the drama. "I want us to get calls and letters," he used to say. "I want people to talk about us!"

Talk readers did, and so did some editors -- one was so offended he once threatened to quit over one column, in which she mocked a husband (her own) trying unsuccessfully to find mustard in the fridge. "Insulting to men," the editor fumed. "How can she say that???" He stayed, but he did eventually exit.

Her debut piece, published Sunday, Oct. 20, 1991, in the long-gone Lifestyle section, took on a then-sacred cow: Anita Hill's version of sexual harassment. After describing a situation in which, as a young employee in a law firm, Ms. Borgman's hair was sniffed and stroked by an eager attorney, she delivered her take-no-prisoners response: "I looked him squarely in his beady little eyes and said, 'See this 23-pound slate-blue IBM Selectric typewriter? You ever touch me or talk to me like that again, and I throw it at your head.'"

"But now," she demurred, in a purr, "after studying Anita Hill's model of recourse, I see I handled the situation poorly. Following Hill's pattern, if a woman believes she has been sexually harassed, she doesn't confront the man, blow the whistle, call him on the carpet, report the scoundral...or even distance herself from the guy. Just wrap it in a thick blanket of secret silence and sit on it for a decade."

Her defense of women, which might have been praised by many feminists for its boldness, instead enraged many women and not a few men -- that apoplectic editor, for example.

Geraldine Ferraro, Borgman wrote, claimed sexual harassment as an 18-year-old typist who was offended when a male co-worker stood at her side and jangled coins in his pocket. Jill Long, Borgman continued, once claimed sexual harassment when a male colleague complimented her on her appearance. "The federal code defines sexual harassment as anything a woman says makes her feel uncomfortable," explained Borgman.

Borgman concluded that she'd been consulting with a "shrewd regional think tank" -- moms who congregated at her neighborhood school after dropping off their kindergarten kids.  The concensus was that marital harassment is alive and well.

"Several moms confided that their husbands have made repeated romantic gestures when ... they were not in a romantic mood... Moreover, these Neanderthals have complimented wives, female relatives and friends of wives on their appearance."

Lori always knew how to wrap her brick in a pink velvet blanket, just as she once wrapped her first unpublished book in pink ribbons and pink tissue paper when she was trying to attract the attention of an editor. (She has been successfully published, more than once).

Soi it all paid off. The Star long ago dropped Borgman's column -- Gannett simply does not pay for her sort of sly but stealth wit -- and she's gone on to have a successful career as an author, national speaker and syndicated columnist for McClatchey News Service. She is still adored by many women and men, she is still pitching, and she is still hitting home runs.

No doubt, she's also still causing some readers to tear their hair out -- which is the response newspapers once courted. Those were, in retrospect, the good old days.

Here's her link:

http://www.loriborgman.com/about-lori-borgman.php

And happy 20th.

 

 

Comments

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

In advance, this will qulify as a rant, But Clarence F888ing Thomas is one of a handfulof subejcts that gets my goat. Because I'm a Supreme Court lover.

Bully for Lori. But:

Any rational person who reaches those conclusions about Anita Hill:

**Wasn't paying attention to the real evidence.
**Is over-simplifying the facts
**Needs an attitude adjustment

Lori: white woman at a law firm. No biggie. And I never believed the typewriter thing. At that time, in big Indy law firms, such a statement would've resulted in her immediate firing. Without cause. No appeals. Zero. The sidewalks are littered with similar women.

Anita: black woman at the EEOC working for a misogynist Republican wannabe. Huge deal. There were almost **zero** opportunities for black women in DC at that time.

It was 20 years ago when Ms. Hill made her accusations. Her accusations were very specific: Mr. Thomas made repeaed references to the size of his manhood. He talked "dozens of times" about women in gang rape scenes in pornographic movies. He made graphic sexual references about other female workers in Ms. Hill's presence. Did she complain late: Hell yeah. Was she worried about rent? Hell yeah. It was 1991 Reagan DC.

The specific accusations involved their time together at the EEOC. She had worked for him at the Dept. of Education in the Reagan administration--a dubious distinciton, but hey, someone had to do it. She followed him to the EEOC where his graphic dicsussions turned rampant. The "pubic hair on a Coke can" reference came later.

She was a black woman in a far-right Republican administration afraid for her job. She was a trained lawyer, and should've known better. Somehow that piece of the story--above all the other facts--rose to the level of contradiction for Ms. Borgman and her ilk. It was a cruel observation regarding the tardiness. And the baseline charges were true--Ms. Hill took and passed a lie detector test. Results professionally-reviewed twice. Mr. Thomas refused.

I was in DC for much of that kerfuffle. It was ugly. Mr. Thomas used his testosterone-driven stage time in his favor. At the time, and sadly since--the Republican Party looked valiantly for blacks who agreed with their views. Because so few did, let alone educated blacks. Those who did rose rapidly, oft beyond their abilities or temperment. Little has changed: evidence Herman Cain.

And we should not be surprised that since, Mr. Justice Thomas has become one of the most undistinguished jurists in SCOTUS history. And that's putting it mildly.

Mr. Borgman is a talented writer. Very much so. But her career was catapaulted on the back of this story. She was snotty about Ms. Hill--although she's entitled to her opinion.

My beef with Ms. Borgman is that she used wry humor to push aside Ms. Hill's valid (but tardy) accusations. It was uncalled-for.



2011-10-23 05:57:47

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I digress. It was BUSH DC.

All worked up and forgot the timeline.

2011-10-23 05:59:17

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2011-10-24 04:35:41

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