Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sexual harassment is no longer entertaining

All the embarrassing news about the Armed Services' sexual harassment problems has gotten me thinking about how much things have changed in not so many years.

Take the movie "MASH" or the television show of the same name. What would now be considered criminal sexual harassment was a staple of the humor in the movie and TV show. I happened upon a "MASH" rerun recently that was the pilot of the TV show. In it, Capt. Hawkeye Pierce put together a raffle with a grand prize of a weekend in Tokyo with the sensuous "Nurse Dish." Maj. Margaret Houlihan tried to put a stop to the affair, calling on a general with whom she'd had a heated affair, to punish the perpetrators of the raffle. The general called Maj. Houlihan "Hot Lips."

In the movie, the frat-boy doctors at the 4077th MASH first sneaked a microphone beneath the cot where Houlihan and Maj. Frank Burns were about to consummate their lustful longing, broadcasting all the heavy breathing and her urgent, "Frank, kiss my hot lips!" to the entire unit. Later, the doctors took revenge on Houlihan by rigging the wall of the shower tent to collapse while she stood naked in the shower for the pleasure of the men gathered around in chairs.

These episodes, based on the book "MASH" written by a MASH doctor, were set in the Korean War — about 60 years ago — when the definition of sexual harassment and relationships between the sexes were far different from what they are today. But the comedy of these episodes were viewed and popularly accepted by movie and television audiences. The movie was a huge hit in 1970. The TV show ran from 1972 to 1983, and I cannot recall a single objection to the humor being offensive or insensitive to women.

This doesn't change the current problem at the Pentagon. If news reports are true, the Armed Forces have a serious problem with ranking officers and non-coms forcing subordinates to provide sexual favors and a larger problem of senior officers not viewing the issue with sufficient seriousness. The Armed Forces seem to be lagging behind the general public, which only a generation ago found mistreatment of women and sexual harassment to be entertaining comedy. Not so any more.

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