Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×


Senior Member
  • Posts

  • Joined

Posts posted by kfw

  1. nanushka, the chorister’s male, and given the compositon of the Met’s chorus, he’s probably white. So I’m scratching my head at your theory.

     Also, I didn’t dispute Copely’ s right to decide for himself, I posed alternative options and asked why they weren’t better. We’ve been putting ourselves in the chorister and the director’s shoes all along and offering opinions on their choices – it won’t do now to say “we can’t know what’s best.” My question stands.

     And aurora, you ought to see my “extreme privilege,” ;-). All that privilege and three bucks buys me a cup of coffee bigger than I really want anyhow. You’ve already presumed I’ve never experienced any sexual harassment.

  2. 44 minutes ago, aurora said:

    It is hard for white men to lose a bit of the dominance they've always had over other groups. 

    I think what I wrote is at the heart of the matter, and I’d be interested in hearing other people's responses.

     Marta, I think the safe space mentality quite clearly produces incidents like this, if not necessarily in this case by making the chorister feel bad in the first place, but in affirming his ethical “right” to handle the situation as he did. 

    Good point about how the law works. Of course you're right.

  3. 18 hours ago, aurora said:

    Consequences for your actions do not make you a victim. If Copley is a victim it is of his own bad judgment.

    And your conditional slight attempt at empathy is noted, however the fact you consider the man who said such an inappropriate thing in a work situation the true victim rather negates it.

    The punishment should fit the crime, as the saying goes. 

     You’re welcome to believe me or not, but I think if he is a victim, quite possibly what he’s a victim of is the whole triggering/safe space mentality, in which not only sticks and stones but words also are thought to break bones, that makes people turn inward and become extra sensitive and fragile. We live in a culture which we're all about rights rights rights and every group asserting their rights against other group’s rights. Humanistic it's not. 

     Would it not have been better for the chorister himself for him to have spoken with Copely face to face? If the chorister was truly traumatized (which we don’t know), would not a face to face apology and expression of understanding by Copely have made him feel better than getting Copely fired? Why not? To quote a phrase, what’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding? 

     Having written this, I just saw a tweet that said “Offended is the new righteous.” To which a man I know replied, “The new self-righteous.” Exactly.

  4. 1 hour ago, nanushka said:

    That, to me, was telling. I'm not saying that, since then, you have expressed no empathy here. But I can see where aurora is coming from (and I share the feeling) in thinking that there has been a lot of blaming the alleged victim here and a lot of excusing of Copley's offense (to the extent of suggesting there was no offense at all, in some cases). (I'm not singling you out in summing things up thus, by the way. It's come from several different sources.)

    Whether the chorister was a victim is what’s been under discussion, but in any case he’s victimized Copely, or he and Gelb together have. One tasteless joke and the guy loses the job. 

    Aurora, talk of what the law says is beside the point. No one thinks all laws are just, even when, as in this case, they are clearly designed to address a very serious problem. We all judge the laws. And despite thinking the chorister overreacted, I wrote that if he was truly traumatized (which we don't know), "I feel for him."

  5. Aurora, I not only have empathy, I’ve expressed it in this conversation.        


    having supervisors at school make sexually suggestive jokes is literally no different than what Copley did (I wasn't a minor).

     Context can make an enormous difference. Copely may have been the director, but the atmosphere of a good rehearsal is collegial.


     I'm quite sure his age played a role in him thinking that he could get away with that

    You can’t possibly know he was trying to “get away” with it. That's possible, but not knowable, and people's reputations do precede them. Copley has known to be flamboyant but not unpleasant to work with. Age may have played a role in that he was in the habit of saying that kind of thing and having it understood and not objected to.

  6. Aurora, I am very sorry those things happened to you. But I think they are clearly far, far worse - so far worse as to practically be in another category - than what Copely did. We're all sick of putting up with other people's harmful mistakes. It's the human condition. We all also make harmful mistakes. 
    nanushka, in regards to whether the remark was absolutely and without question inappropriate I go back to what Mashinka said. I myself would never in a million years make a remark like that, but I have known people who would and wouldn't mean anything by it and would therefore be understood. Would I have advised Copely against making it? Most definitely. Would I have winced if I had been there when he said it? Yes. 
  7. nanushka, I'm not inventing the details, I'm thinking of possible scenarios. You've imagined a plausible but worst-case scenario in which the chorister was truly traumatized. While yours may be accurate, I've imagined a scenario that I think fits with what we know of Copley, namely that he was only joking. Both can be true of course, because we're talking about two different people.

    Aurora, I'm a firm believer that everyone does wrong and everyone does harm, and that therefore it's best to show as much mercy as possible whenever possible. Whether that harm involves a sexual joke or not is to my mind beside the point. In this case, it seems as if an apology would have solved the problem the chorister said he had going forward, that of a hostile environment. It's not like Copley could have been expected to make a similar remark again. 
    Helene and Aurora, I have also repeatedly agreed that the remark was probably inappropriate. However, a racist remark is a put-down. An admiring one by itself is not. Also, Copley's silence on this matter may simply indicate embarrassment and a wish that the matter be dropped
  8. The union could have been expected to defend Gelb’s handling of the situation if it felt his action was warranted. Instead it implicitly criticized both Copely and Gelb, taking Copely's side in regards to whether he should have been fired - in other words, in regards to the seriousness of the offense.

    Leonard Egert, the national executive director of the union, said in an interview, “It’s our understanding that a written apology to the chorister involved and a slight modification of the rehearsal schedule would have been sufficient to resolve this.”

    Clearly the union didn’t feel the chorister was too traumatized to continue working with Copely or even to meet with him to ask for an apology. The chorister both said that he’d accept a written apology and that he “felt unable to continue working with Mr. Copley because of the hostile, sexually charged environment that had been created.” One passing remark that has been formally apologized for creates a lasting hostile environment? C’mon, Mr. chorister. :dry: As Helene said earlier, this is about power. I hope the next time you or I screw up we're met with mercy and understanding, not an unfeeling, I-got-my-rights application of the law.
  9. Quote

    "I'm thinking of you in my bed with your clothes off." That's what Copley reportedly said. (He also, reportedly, did not deny saying it.) I fail to see how that statement is a "joke."

    If it was said with a twinkle and a chuckle? Union members who were presumably present came to Copely's defense (union officials act on their behalf). In fact, has anyone besides Gelb, who of course would have been afraid of a lawsuit, come to the chorister's? That says a lot right there. 

  10. Quote

    Some of those things you've said yourself that he was essentially saying — e.g. "You should like being an object for my sexual fantasies, because it means I find you attractive." The others I outlined all seem pretty inherent in the remark, in my opinion, no matter what was "intended."

    A "complimentary" joke can absolutely denigrate, if it is given in a professional environment, in which one expects to be treated like a professional and not a sexual object. I really don't understand how the fact that it may have been intended as complimentary is a mitigating factor.

    I don't know what your second sentence means - this discussion has gotten so involved - but the first isn’t what I was trying to say. Liking and not taking as demeaning are two different things. The chorister didn’t have to like it to not feel demeaned. He might, for example, have felt embarrassed for Copley given he’d made himself look bad.

    Respecting someone for his work and expressing admiration for his looks are not mutually exclusive. Copely made one joke, not a running series of them. One joke doesn’t set the tone for a whole relationship, and the chorister didn’t accuse him of anything else.

    Intention should be a mitigating factor here just like it should be in any other human relationship. Do we really want a society where people just assert their legal rights and don't try to understand the person their asserting them against? Does that chorister prefer to be offended and (possibly) feel demeaned? If not, a simple conversation, or if not that then a written apology, could have done the trick. 


    I specifically said that he couldn't possibly know the man's past. 

    Yes you did, and I'm sorry not to have noted it. You say it's crucial to several of the points you were making; we just disagree about your logic. If the guy was traumatized, that might explain his reaction, but it would still be an overreaction because it would be rooted in what happened to him earlier, not in what Copely did, which only triggered memories of the trauma. Copley, of course, did not sexually abuse the guy. So Copley should not in effect be held responsible  for what (might) have happened to the guy.

  11. Helene, racist jokes insult and denigrate. A complimentary joke, even one that’s sexual and makes the recipient uncomfortable, does neither, and this chorister didn’t have to either suck it up or do what he did. He had other ways to deal with it. The joke may be and probably was ill-considered and inappropriate, but it did not have to be handled the way it was, as even the union representing the chorister has said. People in the room, according to the Times, said “there appeared to have been a miscommunication.” A miscommunication is not like a racist joke.

    sandik, I would say that not that the explanation is an excuse, period, but that it may be a mitigating factor. The older we get, the harder it is for us to change our ways, after all. If Copely was relaxed, caught up in his work and enjoying himself, that could explain why he said something he might not have if he’d stopped to consider it. But he misjudged, and then he was shown no mercy, no understanding.

    nanushka, I agree that if the guy was traumatized he couldn’t just reconsider in real time, and perhaps as soon as the rehearsal ended, before he had time to think it through, he made his complaint. That doesn’t change the fact that there may be other ways to take the remark, other ways other people might have taken the remark (actually, see above, they did), other ways he could take such a remark from someone else if he hears it again.

    As for your hypothetical, I had considered it. But Copely is not responsible for the chorister having been abused, if in fact he was. And as for all those other things Copely “essentially” said, what I’ve been saying is that were quite likely imagined and not essentially said at all. While we can ask Copely to be more sensitive, especially in 2018, insensitivity is not “hostile,” as the chorister charged it was.

  12. 1 hour ago, nanushka said:

    I don't understand how one can "get it wrong" if one is genuinely just reacting, not deciding to react in a certain way.

    By get it wrong I mean for one thing to misunderstand the tenor of the remark. But more than that, one can not realize that it isn't necessarily necessary to feel insulted or demeaned and all the rest. One might, for example, just see Copely as a character who came up in a time when he could joke about sex without people taking offense. One might just be embarrassed for the guy. Or one might just ask for an apology and get one.  

  13. sandik, Copely had no control over that chorister’s career. He probably had no control even over whether he sang in that production, nor was the remark in any way a demand. He also spoke man to man, not man to woman, in the context of the whole ugly history of men mistreating women sexually and otherwise. Relative stature between director and chorister doesn’t enter into it, I don't believe – they’re both human beings. If someone who is basically decent offends you, the decent thing to do is to give him a chance to apologize, not to get him fired. Sometimes if an issue looks like it’s all about power, that’s because we’ve been trained to view it through the lens of power and only through the lens of power. That’s an impoverishment of human relations, in my opinion.

    nanushka when I said “really traumatized” I meant really traumatized, not self-centered and self-aggrandizing. Having said that, if society drums into people that every tasteless remark is by definition an abusive one, people are going to feel traumatized by a tasteless remark. It’s possible the guy deserves sympathy, but still got it wrong.

  14. 52 minutes ago, nanushka said:

    I don't see why the guy couldn't have objected in some other way, either. But I don't know the guy, I don't know his past, I don't know anything about him, and so I don't judge his reaction, assuming that he acted within his rights.

    If the Met were to tolerate Copley's remark (and, again, I don't think firing Copley was necessary to show that they did not), it would communicate to everyone, basically, "This is a workplace in which people in power have the right to sexually objectify you rather than dealing with you based on your professional merits. If you want to continue working here, that's the environment in which you will have to work." It's not a question of getting fired, it's a question of workplace culture and what that says about the basic "rules of the game."

    And yes, to my mind it is demeaning to be sexually objectified in a professional context, where what should matter is one's professional work, not the fact that a man or woman in power finds you sexually attractive. Copley's stature matters, in my mind, not because it makes his comment more or less demeaning but because, if it were tolerated by the Met, the institution would be suggesting that people with power or stature can get away with such things. Basically, Copley's stature matters, in my mind, because, as another member wrote on this topic above:

    "Hostile work environment" is a common phrase from labor law; personally, I use it in reference to the case at hand not because Copley's remark was "hostile" in the literal sense, but just because it's a phrase many people know and use in this particular way. I completely understand if anyone finds the phrase to be literally inapt; perhaps it is. I am using it in its conventional, legal sense.

    That's good of you not to judge his reaction, but we're judging Copely's action. I don't know what the difference is. Just because one person acts badly, that doesn't mean the other person's reaction can't be bad, whether it's within his legal rights or not. But perhaps this guy really was traumatized (harmed) by Copely's remark. I feel for him then, but that doesn't mean he needed to be. That doesn't mean his was a reasonable reaction Copely should have anticipated. 

    I'm not arguing that the Met had to tolerate an inappropriate his remark, and not that Copely because of his statute should have gotten away with it if it bothered anyone. The Met could have asked for - demanded, if it came to that - an apology. Nor do we have any indication that Copely's finding the chorister's attractive in any way impacted the work Copely gave him to do. In other words, it was apparently incidental. 

  15. 38 minutes ago, Helene said:

    Intention has nothing to do with the legal definitions of hostile in hostile work environment

    I think what's legal or not is a side issue, beside the point. The question at the heart of the matter here, at the heart of why this firing is controversial, is what the  appropriate way is to deal with an unwanted comment. What's legal should follow from that. But to say that intention shouldn't matter legally is like saying that "please" in a joking voice and "please" in a threatening one should be heard in the same way. It's a willful lowering of understanding, in my opinion. It's unnatural. It serves no good purpose and gets people fired for going too far when no harm was intended. 


    I'm having difficulty understanding why it's so hard to grasp that making sexist or sexual jokes at work is inappropriate in the same way   

    Sexist jokes are in another category - they demean by mocking people for their gender or implying they are inferior for their gender. Copely's joke may have been inappropriate, but there is no indication he meant to demean, and some people would probably have been flattered even if they were discomfited. Should people be fired for every inappropriate thing they do? That's like saying people should be fired for any mistake. ETA: Why should the chorister have felt demeaned?

  16. 37 minutes ago, nanushka said:

    A "hostile work environment" can be defined, among other ways, as one in which it is understood that one's continued employment is dependent upon one's willingness to be sexually objectified and demeaned. If the comment were tolerated by the institution, that would communicate to all employees that such an environment exists. (As I've suggested above, I don't think it was necessary to fire Copley in order to avoid communicating that.)

    To me personally, it goes without saying that for an esteemed and powerful opera director (no matter how old or how used to such "silly" antics) to pick out a chorus member and say, in the workplace, in front of colleagues, that he is thinking of that chorus member naked in his bed is indeed sexually objectifying and demeaning.

    I don't take issue with that definition, but why should we assume it describes the situation here? I don't see why the guy couldn't have objected - politely, humorously, angrily . . .  whatever, when the comment was made. Or done it later, if he didn't have the presence of mind at the time. Why would that have got him fired? Obviously he didn't think it would, or he wouldn't have gone straight to management without even getting the union on his side. 

    I also don't know why Copely's stature in the opera world would make his comment demeaning or any more demeaning, or just anymore in bad taste. Nor do we know that everyone thought it was truly in bad taste (we don't know context or tone of voice or the tenor of his relationship with the choir and with this chorister, if any, or the general reaction in the room). Is it demeaning to be found attractive? 

    Helene, that "imposes" is a big word for what was apparently just a bad joke. This remark was probably inappropriate, but there is no indication it was hostile. 

  17. 17 minutes ago, Helene said:

    I've never subscribed to the "sexual harassment, plain and simple" explanation, and have maintained that it is a hostile work environment issue from the beginning, so I haven't moved anywhere, fast or slow.

    What has not been explained here, or elsewhere that I've seen, is why that comment would create a hostile workplace, why it would rise to the level of harassing - of being harmful - instead of just mildly embarrassing and unpleasant if one couldn't just laugh it off. Appeals to workplace rules and legal standards don't answer that question. Rules and standards are good in principle, but that doesn't mean every rule and standard is good, and in this case the chorister, by going directly to management, apparently broke another workplace rule and norm, even if it was only an unwritten one. Leaving that aside, acting within one's rights and demanding one's legal rights doesn't make one right. 


  18. 13 hours ago, Helene said:

    Age has little to do with it.  George Balanchine was nearly 80 when his nurse left on cue to leave him alone with drawers full of liquor and Wilhemina Frankfurt.  Chuck Close is in his late '70's and in a wheelchair because he is severely paralyzed. It's a shame that Copely didn't think a change in tide applied to him in a workplace situation, and that he didn't have to assault or try to trap someone privately for his behavior to be no longer acceptable.

    An old man known for his wild and irreverent sense of humor makes one flip comment in front of a whole group of people and some guy is too "traumatized" to work the rest of the night? Sillier and sillier. How exactly was this chorister harassed? Certainly he didn't think Copely was propositioning him in front of the entire chorus. Certainly he didn't fear for his job if he didn't sleep with Copely. Certainly, given the existence of the union, he didn't fear that expressing his displeasure right there and then would cost him his job. In what way was Copely abusing his power? Since when do men - I am one - get bent out of shape at being called attractive?

    The Close and Balanchine situations don't come close to paralleling this one. Balanchine, I was very sorry to read, groped Wilhelmina. Close asked women to pose naked and then made ugly comments. 

  19. 5 hours ago, Helene said:

    At one point, Calcium Light Night was included in Ivesiana, but I haven't paid attention to its history for a while.  

    How was that done?? I like Calcium Light Night, but I think I'm glad I didn't see that combo. Or did you mean done right before or after Ivesiana? Was this while Balanchine was still alive?

    I've liked a few other Martins things well enough. From what I've seen of regional companies, I'm guessing Drew makes a good point that a lot of his stuff shows up a lot of contemporary work.

  20. 4 hours ago, canbelto said:

    I don't really think it's a false parallel. Some of the same reasons (traditional roles of people, the statements of religious leaders, a special "culture" that would presumably be ruined by the changes that were being "forced upon" by Supreme Court decisions and federal laws) were used to argue against desegregation. 

    Helene, thanks for explaining. Canbelto, none of those reasons are ones I was referring to. As for the reasons you mention, traditions can of course be good or bad, can be adequately or in adequately grounded. Likewise among both religious and religious people, there are those who examine and evaluate the ideas put forth by leaders, and evaluate the norms of their time and culture and sub-culture, and those who don't. 

  • Create New...