The Norwood Teague story isn’t about Norwood Teague

If the Norwood Teague scandal isn’t causing a discussion on sexual harassment in your workplace, you’re doing it wrong.

Teague, who has a problem treating women in the workplace with anything approaching respect, is rapidly becoming a minor part of the Norwood Teague story. He’s gone from his athletic director gig.

All that’s left is for the rest of us men to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask, “what can I do to make doing a job a safe endeavor for women?”

The Teague story is going to be less about Teague as it moves forward, and more about the men who covered for him, who looked the other way, or who flat-out slapped him on the back and said, “good one” when he eyed his latest target.

Columnist Dave DeLand makes all the right points in his post today.

Sexual harassment is about power more than it’s about sex. It’s about using your position to flex your leverage over others, and to do it with impunity.

And that’s an unfortunate byproduct of the behemoth that big-time college athletics have become. At least tacitly, the system enables things like Teague’s abuses to happen.

This isn’t about being drunk and stupid.

This isn’t about being overserved, or oversexed.

This is about abuse of power, in a system that has completely forgotten the mission of a public university — to educate students, not to generate revenue and contributions for athletic facilities.

The Teague incident does reflect the culture and values of the university.

And Chip Scoggins, writing in his Star Tribune space today, appropriately calls for an exhaustive investigation into who knew what at the U of M.

Their investigation must be exhaustive, starting with Teague’s arrival in 2012. Did the school consider the possibility that this wasn’t an isolated incident, that there might be more victims of his harassment? If not, the university took an incredibly naïve approach in addressing the problem.

In cases like this, we often learn that the perpetrator engaged in a pattern of such behavior. That should be the crux of the U’s investigation.

Officials need to find out who knew what. They need to comb through Teague’s e-mails, text messages and cellphone photos to see if they can find a pattern.

They need to interview every member of his management team and all the cronies he brought with him from Virginia Commonwealth University to Minnesota and comb through their e-mails, texts and photos, too.

It’s tempting to approach the Teague story by making it a story about the University of Minnesota. But it’s not. It’s about our culture. It’s about when we looked the other way. It’s about when we didn’t speak up.

I’m not embarrassed by Teague because he brought shame to a university I embrace, or a state I love.

I’m embarrassed because I’m a man.

Aren’t you?

  • Neil

    Amen, Bob.

    Men: stop. Now.

  • KTFoley

    Thanks for this, Bob.

  • MrE85

    I’ll do my part.

  • Paul

    Shouldn’t the victims who didn’t speak up and allowed other women to be victims be embarrassed as well?

    • crystals

      No. No, no, noooo. You don’t get to put that on them. This is not their fault.

      Examine the structures and systems at work when a woman speaks up. Did you see the “options” Amelia Rayno was given? Do any of those really look appealing to you, as a professional?

      If you want more women to speak up, do something to change the way that they’re treated after they do. (And never again asking whether victims should be embarrassed about not speaking up would be a good place to start.)

    • Bark

      Embarrassed for not enduring death threats while the perpetrator likely goes free?

      If it were only one woman reporting this Teague thing (like, say, the one without as much text message evidence), do you think the conversation would be the same? Or would the victim be blamed on talk radio and Teague would still have his job? Or if it were only the reporter who came forward? You really think she wouldn’t have been shut out of all sports (plus death threats!) and Teague would, at worst, have been hired elsewhere?

    • No, I don’t believe so and the answer to the reason why is in your third word of your sentence.

      It’s also in the first paragraph of DeLand’s quoted text.

      • Paul

        So say I don’t report a crime and the criminal carries on harming other people I shouldn’t feel embarrassed about my inaction?

        • Is there something in Amelia’s write-up that suggests to you that she was at all UNconflicted about this?

          The first thing men want to do when the spotlight is shined on a culture of oppression, and harassment is shift attention back to women.

          You should stop doing that.

          • Paul

            Enabling someone’s bad behavior doesn’t help stop the behavior, it encourages it.

          • I think when you’re a man, things seem pretty trivial about being a female victim of a man. I think the first thing men should do is acknowledge they don’t know a thing about that perspective when it comes to judging women victims. When they speak, they speak from a position of ignorance.

            That’s why they should spend their time recalibrating their own attitudes and actions as men.

            Sadly, that’s not the first thing they do. It’s not what they do at all. Ever. And that’s why I’m embarrassed.

          • Paul

            So don’t treat women as equals?

          • Didn’t say that, and now you’re just trolling.

            So try this: Don’t be ignorant.

            Now let me return the discussion to the point of the piece. What are YOU doing to do to make the workplace safer for women?

          • So far this thread is proving WHY the Norman Teague story isn’t about Norman Teague. So thanks for that, I guess.

            It is correct that sexual harassment is about power. But so is the blaming of victims and the continuing attempts to refocus attention away from men and shine it on women. For whatever reason — cultural, pathological, psychological — this is the only power that some people still feel they have.

            I think it’s why there’s been so much pushback against Amelia’s story in particular by many men. They feel their power is being diminished. And it frightens them.

          • Postal Customer

            It could also be that people have a tendency to blame all kinds of victims


          • Paul

            I would think the just-worlders are the ones who don’t blame the victims, their empathy will make their world right. The perp’s karma will be their undoing, not the police.

          • Jason DeRusha

            I’ve had discussions with female colleagues about this very topic.I’m committed to asking more follow-up questions when people tell me about creeps who are hitting on them. Did you feel uncomfortable? Did he physically invade your space? Do you feel threatened? What can I do to help? Instead of just responding “What a creep” and hoping the whole thing goes away.

          • Postal Customer

            What sort of reactions are you getting from the women to whom you ask these questions? Are they relieved that someone asked and is concerned?

          • Jason DeRusha

            I think they also have been quick to dismiss a lot of these things – and so it’s been a good time for soul-searching among media members about lines. It’s OK for a single guy to hit on a single woman. It’s OK for a single woman to hit on a single man. But when is it too far? When it is harassing? When is it a power play that’s about implied information control? Lots of good discussions.

          • Postal Customer

            So you actually have broached the topic with women who you perceive to have been threatened or have been victims?

          • Jason DeRusha

            I’m not sure that’s a matter for discussion here, Dave.

          • Postal Customer

            But that is exactly what Bob keeps saying this thread is about.

            “What are YOU doing to do to make the workplace safer for women?”

            Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do. You say you have had discussions with female colleagues. Asking follow-up questions, etc. My point is that it isn’t exactly an easy conversation to have, especially when I’m not involved, and there might be privacy issues to think about.

            So I’m trying to get at the heart of the discussion.

          • Jason DeRusha

            I think when someone comes to you, then you have that opportunity. Then you can ask the questions I’ve posted above. Or if you overhear something, you can ask. But yes – you have to have a friendship on at least a work level to have that chat. I have that with most of my coworkers.

          • Postal Customer

            Right, when you’re already friends, and if somebody comes to you with a problem, then you talk about it. Makes sense. I get that part.

            The general question, however, isn’t so easy to answer. It could possibly be that whatever theoretical people Bob refers to as “enablers” really aren’t enablers. It could be that anybody who knew about this Teague situation (or any similar situation) either (A) didn’t think it was their business; (B) really had no idea what to do in such an uncomfortable situation, if anything; (C) feared for their own safety and/or job security and/or retaliation from the perpetrator and/or employer.

            It’s not just as simple as, “Well what are YOU going to do, man?”

          • Actually, it really is that simple. One way to start is to stop viewing the problem only through the lens of Teague, and view it through what you see in your workplace.

            Some men are trying to make this much harder than it needs to be.

          • Postal Customer

            Bob, if it’s that simple, then please tell us what YOU are going to do.

            So far you’ve claimed that it’s simple. You’ve told us that pretty much all men are to blame (either by commission or omission) for this horrendous situation of workplace harassment. You’ve implored us to look in the mirror. Usually when people say an issue is simple, it’s really not simple.

            I don’t see sexual harassment in my workplace. That doesn’t mean it’s not there; I just don’t see it. (It probably helps that 80% of my co-workers are women.)I don’t go out drinking with my co-workers, we certainly don’t have work parties, I leave work around 4.30 Friday and don’t see any of them again til Monday morning. I cannot imagine that I’m close enough with anyone that someone would confide in me an incident. So I have no idea what I would do BECAUSE IT’S NOT SIMPLE.

          • Dave, I can’t help but notice that every question you’ve asked is what someone else is going to do.

            But the answer to your question is in the short term I’m going to focus the public debate away from Norwood Teague and the U of M and to the problem that — despite what you might think — women seem to understand quite well,if my email and these are comments are any indication.

            So why does our gender so reflexively not see it?

            Here’s what I’d do if I were you. Go talk to your 80% women colleagues today and then report back with what you learned.

          • Postal Customer

            Likewise, Bob.

          • One thing I think men in the workplace can do is to start testing what they think they know with those about whom they think they know something. Maybe ask a female colleague if she feels safe in a workplace, for example. If not, why not.

          • Jack

            Thanks Bob for your last sentence. So true.

          • Neil

            These all sound like good ideas. I think that sometimes as men we can feel sort of powerless to affect change in this area. We’re terribly unlikely to catch Teague-like behavior when it is occurring, right? But we CAN be more vocal about what is and isn’t okay. I’ve occasionally been pulled into conversations with other men about female coworkers that have crossed the line. The temptation is to laugh it off in hopes that it goes away. (Sounds familiar, no?) It feels like not enough, but as men, at least we can do better at resisting that urge.

          • LD

            Thank you, Jason, for committing to a concrete step!

          • Postal Customer

            Frankly, men (especially politician-type men) speak from a position of ignorance on just about all women’s issues. But that doesn’t stop some women from voting for them. So why is that?

          • What are YOU going to do make the workplace safer for women?

          • Kassie

            I think we need to acknowledge that this isn’t just happening to women. I think gay men are often also harassed, but in different ways, and just don’t say anything either. People of color are often belittled and have ignorant and hateful things said to them, but don’t report them as part of self-preservation. And I imagine there are white men who are sexually harassed who are even LESS likely to come forward out of embarrassment and victim shaming. So to Paul, this IS about treating women as equals, meaning that no victims regardless of race or gender should be shamed.

          • Paul

            If no one reports anything how does anything change?

          • The underpinning of the story is that women DID report something.

            And now the focus is on the men who didn’t.

            That’s why your question reinforces the culture that must change. Your first instinct is to focus on women victims rather than male perpetrators and male enablers.

            That’s why today is a good day for men to look in the mirror.

          • Kassie

            Actually, I don’t report crimes all the time. Reporting a drug deal won’t fix anything as a) the drug dealer likely won’t be caught and b) if they are caught, it is likely someone will replace them. But, it may hurt me because I may become targeted by the dealers in my neighborhood, which I really don’t want. Sure, if I keep reporting and my other neighbors report, we may eventually clean things up, but in the short run, I’m screwed and I’m hoping to be out of the neighborhood by October.

            Same with someone who is harassed (which isn’t illegal in many cases.) Reporting it may not do anything. But it is likely that your career will be hurt, in the case of the reporter they may have had to change the focus of their career completely. You may be called names. People may blame you, just like you are doing now. What’s the incentive there? Best to just keep going for that next promotion (similar to a better neighborhood) and hope things are better there.

          • Eric Hall

            About 15 years ago, I was at a bar with a few friends. We had just ordered our first beers. Outside, we could see some kind of commotion between two people – so could several others at the bar. Everyone else sort of put their head down. When we saw this guy shove this young woman a few times, my friends and I got up and confronted him while the young woman ran inside. After the guy made the right decision not to go three against one and shouted several expletives at us as he walked away, we went back inside.

            About 15 minutes later, the dad who was eating in the restaurant part of this bar came over and bought us a round. After talking to him for a few minutes, he said his daughter was afraid to tell him her boyfriend was being abusive and she was afraid to leave him.

            So Paul – have you ever thought that fear of the unknown can be powerful, and perhaps it is our attitude which can continue to perpetuate that fear, thus leading to victims not coming forward? The young woman in my story didn’t want to disappoint her dad or upset him. He felt horrible she didn’t feel she could tell him.

            It isn’t as simple as “just tell someone.” We need to as a culture work towards it being OK to tell someone without judgment or shame.

          • Kassie

            So does responding to trolls, apparently. People tell you why you are wrong over and over, but you keep responding the same way. Quit victim shaming.

        • Neil

          This attitude exhibits – even by internet comment section standards – a staggering lack of empathy.

          • Paul

            Empathy will make you feel good but it won’t fix anything.

          • Neil

            Empathy with a victim of a crime, put in the difficult situation of choosing between pursuing justice and preserving their livelihood does not make me feel good.

          • Meghan

            Empathy is the first step towards finding the best and most effective solution, in this case as well as most others in life. And really, as Neil said, it usually doesn’t feel good. Burying your head in the sand often feels way better.

  • brwgrl

    Spot on again. This is an incredibly complex discussion that has to recognize certain societal norms that allow for these transgressions. There is the gender power dynamic, there is the athlete power dynamic, and all sorts of other engrained actions/reactions that play into why certain members of society (in this case men) don’t necessarily face repercussions for their actions. Recognizing that this behaviour happens, and that it’s wrong is just the first step. Having open conversations as to the why is another. Here’s to moving forward together.

    ps. Stop blaming women for not coming forward. Do you know how frickin’ hard that is when there are so many men in power positions who are the perpetrators of this kind of behaviour or (sometimes at best) complicit?

    • The only accurate answer a man can provide to your last question is “no.”

  • PG

    Bottom line, this man was a complete jerk. Using his position and status within the university is not acceptable, period! He obviously felt untouchable and had been able to get away with this behavior. Enough is enough and we as a society should believe so. The University should believe so. I believe so!

    • Jack

      Thank you!