by Meredith O'Brien (Moms in Pop Culture & Politics)
Twenty years ago, a reporter for the Boston Herald walked into the New England Patriots' locker room and was confronted by a naked player asking her, according to media reports, "Is this what you want? Do you want to take a bite out of this?" A couple of other unclothed players "crowded around her making lewd gestures," People Magazine reported while one shouted, "Give her what she wants!"
The then-Patriots' owner Victor Kiam blamed the 26-year-old reporter, Lisa Olson, saying that the newspaper was "asking for trouble" by sending her into the locker room. Charmingly, the owner added, "I can't disagree with the players' actions" and publicly called Olson a "classic b---- ." While Kiam eventually apologized, other players on the 1990 team, continued to pile on, calling Olson humorless ("If she can't take a joke, she ought not be down here."), perverted ("What kind of a woman wants to be in a locker room?") and asking for it ("You learn it's part of the job."). She had her home burglarized, was inundated with hate mail and obscene calls, and threatened with violence ("leave Boston or die"), the American Journalism Review reported.
It's part of the job, just put up with it, you humorless (*insert your favorite females-only slur*). Olson actually wasn't on my mind when I watched a recent episode of Mad Men, circa 1965, where two women working at an ad agency - Joan Harris and Peggy Olson -- objected to being sexually objectified and demeaned only to be verbally assailed by their harassers when they objected to the harassment. They were told that putting up with this was part of their job, that women have no sense of humor (the refuge of ill-behaved heathens, blaming the woman for not "getting" the humor in her harassment.). Joan Harris was told by a male employee, who likened her to a w----, that her attire sent the message that she was "trying to get raped."
Olson's nightmare leapt to mind when I learned this week that in some quarters, not a hell of a lot has changed in the past 20 years, hell, the past 45 years.
Do you pay attention to how the mom characters are portrayed on your favorite TV shows? Loathe the so-called "mommy wars" on which the news media love to focus? Each week, Meredith O'Brien's Moms in Pop Culture & Politics column provides a reality check on how TV shows, movies, and the media depict moms. A longtime journalist and mother of three, Meredith O'Brien formerly taught journalism at the University of Massachusetts, is the author of A Suburban Mom: Notes from the Asylum and writes the Picket Fence Post blog for GateHouse Media. Follow Meredith on Twitter: @MeredithOBrien.