We expect the headlines these days: Yet another powerful man has been accused of sexual harassment. And we expect the rightful outrage, disappointment and frustration that follows.
What we don’t expect are moments of thoughtful reflection on past behaviours from the perpetrators, followed by forgiveness and grace from those harmed.
Earlier this month, comedy writer Megan Ganz tweeted that she had been sexually harassed by her former boss and Community show-runner Dan Harmon. This week, she asked her Twitter followers to listen to his podcast, where Harmon didn’t just apologize for his behaviour, he reflected on his mistakes and moral calculus when he pursued and “creeped on” Ganz after she repeatedly rejected his advances.
— Megan Ganz (@meganganz) January 11, 2018
“I crushed on her and resented her for not reciprocating it and the entire time I was the one writing her paychecks and in control of whether she stayed or went and whether she felt good about herself or not, and said horrible things,” Harmon told listeners of his podcast, Harmontown (starting around the 18:30 mark). “Just treated her cruelly, pointedly, things I would never, ever would have done if she had been male and if I had never had those feelings for her…
“I’ve never done it before and I will never do it again, but I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it if I had any respect for women. On a fundamental level, I was thinking about them as different creatures. I was thinking about the ones that I liked as having some special role in my life and I did it all by not thinking about it. So, I just want to say, in addition to obviously being sorry, but that’s really not the important thing, I want to say I did it by not thinking about it and I got away with it by not thinking about it.” (You can read a full transcript here.)
For her part, Ganz called it “a masterclass in How to Apologize,” and appreciated that Harmon didn’t make excuses for or attempt to rationalize his behaviour. Instead, he gives a full account of the situation and encouraged men in similar positions of power and authority to stop and think.
Ganz said she only listened to the podcast episode because she expected a public apology. “But what I didn’t expect was the relief I’d feel just hearing him say these things actually happened,” she tweeted. “I didn’t dream it. I’m not crazy. Ironic that the only person who could give me that comfort is the one person I’d never ask.”
Apology accepted, Ganz tweeted. She also expressed that she believes that there’s value in talking publicly about harassment, but also bringing forgiveness for the acts into the open.
While we can’t expect all women to forgive their harassers — every case is different, after all — Ganz and Harmon’s story is an example of what’s possible in the next phase of #MeToo. That maybe it can get better from here.