Why men stay silent about sexual harassment

Bora Zivkovic, who I have met several times, and did a podcast with when I was at NYU, has admitted that he did something wrong, something that amounts to sexual harassment. I’ve read some of the discussion on blogs and on Facebook, and a question keeps coming up — why don’t men say more about this?

My opinion: it’s impossible to navigate the minefield without saying something that can be interpreted as supportive of the accused, or not sufficiently condemning him, or harming or dismissing the accuser. Staying silent is easier and safer. And staying silent is something men are good at.

But I’m a blogger, and I know Zivkovic, and I think I can shed some light.

I read Ms Byrne’s account and Zivkovic’s mea culpa.

I’ve had the experience that Byrne describes with Zivkovic, him talking about personal topics, without pausing, not allowing others to get a word in. This happened several times, once at a group dinner in Chapel Hill and another time in a podcast. I’ve remarked about it to a friend, who said she had never seen him do it. But my experience was exactly as Ms Byrne described.

Had the topic been sexual I would have been more uncomfortable than I was, and I was plenty uncomfortable, even angry with him.

But we have a fair number of mutual friends, people I really care about and like, so I find it impossible to believe that there isn’t a lot of quality to him as a person. I would give him the benefit of the doubt, and accept his account as true.

Further, Internet shitstorms deliver their own punishment. I’ve been at the center of them in the past. Maybe it would be possible to give this to a mediator, who would examine all sides, and come to a conclusion and recommend a punishment. Then he could do what was asked of him, and everyone could feel that it had been resolved and possibly some good had come from it.


About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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