Life Advice



Women Should Simply Tell Harassers To Stop

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When did women lose the right to say, Unhand me, you cad? To be clear, I am not blaming the victims of groping or assault. I just want to know: What changed?

Our grandmothers would not have stood for the gaslighting attempted by today's powerful and entitled men. I was taught from a young age never to put my hands on anyone, or to allow it from other people; physical touch outside immediate family and intimate friends was considered insufferably declasse. The lines were very clearly drawn.

Now it seems that the price of employment and advancement is being fondled. My own Unhand me, you cad moments were 30 years ago, and I didn't hesitate. What's changed? Am I just hopelessly old-fashioned?

GENTLE READER: Did those cads have any power over your livelihood? Were those grandmothers the employees or subordinates of their molesters?

Some who were did, nevertheless, fight back openly. When the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a student, her reaction to an offending professor was a loud How dare you? That is still a useful phrase, and Miss Manners does not consider that its old-fashioned sound makes it in any way hopeless.

But she would like you to feel some sympathy for victims struggling to overcome considerable intimidation. It is brave of an increasing number to do so, despite the sometimes horrendous consequences.


DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife was hospitalized for over a week. (She's fine now.) I received calls from several of her friends, asking if there was anything at all they could do.

I responded by saying yes -- dirty laundry is piling up, the bed is unmade, dirty dishes are in the sink, and I need groceries. Everyone demurred.

At 93, was I wrong to answer them honestly? Why do people ask that question when they don't really mean it? Were they merely trying to show concern?

GENTLE READER: Not only did you snap at your wife's well-wishers, but you made it embarrassingly clear that that poor soul is taxed with all the household work, and that what you miss is being waited upon.


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