09/22/2014 01:07 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2014

Why Women Don't Name Names: Kirsten Gillibrand, Daniel Inouye And Women's Calculus For Survival


The New York Times launched its new morning politics brief on Monday by “solving a Washington mystery.” That mystery happened to be the identity of one of the men who Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said harassed her after the birth of her second child. According to the Times, the late Daniel K. Inouye, a Democratic senator from Hawaii and the first Japanese American to serve in Congress, was the man who told Gillibrand that she shouldn’t lose too much weight because, “I like my girls chubby.” As the Times also noted, Inouye, who was celebrated as a champion of women’s rights, was also alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman in 1992. After news of the alleged assault broke, nine other women came forward with stories of being sexually harassed by Inouye. None of the women wanted to go forward with their claims.

The Times report likely sated some of the public’s curiosity (and it certainly heaped a bit more shame on the muck-brained journalists who accused Gillibrand of concocting the story to score political points), but it also does a few other things. For one, it reminds us that women rarely, if ever, get to control their own narratives. In a series of interviews about her memoir, Gillibrand has maintained that she didn’t name names because the point wasn’t about some isolated incident of harassment, but a culture of workplace harassment that women face, and the real and daily consequences of that culture.

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