How Shirley Temple Responded to Sexual Harassment

Is much of the current dialogue on sexual differences between men and women patronizing toward females?

Shirley Temple was probably the greatest child star, not only of her generation, but of any generation. She was not just popular, she was phenomenally, outrageously popular. No one hadn’t heard of her. Of course, her popularity was at its height in the 1930s. But even for someone growing up in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, she was still—despite the fact that she gave up acting early in her life—familiar to everyone and her movies were still frequently aired on television (which, those of us with cultural memories know, was the only way one could see old movies).

Of course, she was almost unbearably cute. But she perpetrated her cuteness on a nation at a time when it was okay to be cute—and innocent. We have forgotten that there was a time when simple innocence was not considered abnormal. It was taken for granted that innocence was a desirable thing. There was a time when people actually thought well of good people and wanted to be like them and our culture didn’t conspire to undermine these sentiments.

As an innocent child star, it is hard to think that Shirley Temple might be the object of sexual abuse. But as Ann Hulbert relates in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, on at least one occasion she was.

One day, the twelve year-old Temple was alone with MGM producer Arthur Freed in his office when he exposed himself to her. She didn’t rush out to a microphone or call a lawyer. She looked at him for a moment … and then burst out laughing. The humiliated Freed was so incensed that he ordered her to leave immediately.

She then went and told her mother, who shared her own stories of attempted abuse at the hands of an industry that today gives everyone else preachy lectures on how to behave towards women, but has a sorry record of practicing what it preaches.

Today, despite all the talk of how women handle themselves just as well as men, the whole dialogue about sexual harassment seems infected with the opposite presumption that women are vulnerable and defenseless. When the issue is women in combat, they can fight with the best of them, but when the issue is sexual harassment, they are fragile flowers in need of protection from those mean old hairy men. The whole discussion is at once in denial about sexual differences, and patronizing toward women.

So let’s remember what one famous child star did to put her harasser in his place.

Written by Martin Cothran for and published by Intellectual Takeout ~ February 16, 2018.

Oh, my goodness!”

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3 thoughts on “How Shirley Temple Responded to Sexual Harassment

  1. Mike

    Did the author mean to say that today’s accusers should not have reported the crime? Sure sounds like it.

    The gist of the article seems to be “Ladies, if I grab you by the pussy, laugh it off.”

    Using the diminutive “fragile flower” and the sarcastic “mean old hairy men” shows us that the author is part of the problem.

    What a Neanderthal! It’s not funny. The next time a coach or a teacher backs your 14-year-old into a corner and grabs her breasts by force, YOU tell her to laugh it off. By what criteria is The Publisher choosing which views to support on this website?


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