Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lets Discuss Attittudes behind Sexual Harrassment

I often read the blog of a woman who recently moved from the US to Canada. The posts are varied, insightful, relevant and really make you think. Last night, she posted a interesting article about an important sexual harrassment case. She poses a question about why some men think and behave badly like in this famous case (Jensen vs Eveleth Mines).

Anyway, I know that a lot of liberal, insightful, talkative men hang around here, so I thought I'd post a link to L-girl's blog and hopefully you'll go over there and share your thoughts. I'm interested! (Of course, women's thoughts are welcome too!)

11 Thoughts:

Blogger pawlr said...

As the company HR dept explained to me back in the day, sexual harrassment is 'unwanted attention', like 'nice legs' or 'nice ass'. Of course, some women like it when you compliment their body parts, so its not unwanted attention until you try it and perceive the reaction. So better safe than sorry, I guess, which is why you don't hear that stuff around the office much.

They DO allow you to compliment clothing though, or jewelry. That doesn't raise any red flags.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger brooklynmum said...

Sexual harrassment is all about power - and seeing just how far that power will get you with a subordinate. How bad do you want that raise/promotion/corner office? Having been sexually harrassed out of a job myself, I can certainly sympathize with those having to endure "unwanted attention". However, I also think that people have become way too sensitive and what was once considered simply a compliment ("nice legs") is now "harrassment" - and not surpirzing, grounds for a lawsuit.

I'll tell you what constitues harrassment, my ex-boss saying to me during a meeting to discuss my yearly raise, "You know [insert name here], when I'm soft I'm hard and when I'm hard I'm soft". Then proceeding to grab my hand a place it in his crotch. I snatched it back and walked out.

Needless to say I didn't get the raise.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger L-girl said...

Thanks for the link, Kyahgirl!

Pawlr, the kind of harassment addressed in the Jensen case was a whole lot worse than unwanted attention. It was daily abuse and humiliation, including violence.

Not that women need to be told "nice ass" in the workplace! Gotta save that for after hours, and don't worry about whether they like it or not.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 1:37:00 PM  
Blogger Kyahgirl said...

sexual harrassment is such a broad topic, we almost need different words to describe what those miners did to Jensen. It was outrageous.

So much of it comes down to being respectful. And Brooklynmum, I really feel bad for you, having to deal with your boss.

Another perspective is that of a reversal of the traditional roles. Speaking as a female leader to male subordinates, I've had to learn or re-learn higher awareness of my own language. I grew up in a family with a lot of boys, in a neighborhood with a lot of boys and have worked closely with men for years. I have accidentally said something that could be misconstrued as inappropriate and have worked on learning to not do that! Women used to be able to say things that a man would get slapped for if it was the other way around. I'm trying not to promote the double standard.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 4:36:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I believe at least part of the answer can be found in the succubus illustration below. Fear and desire of women come all rolled up in a nice package for many (not all) men.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 7:05:00 PM  
Blogger pawlr said...

After sleeping on this topic (or with it) last night, I'm wondering whether its even possible to avoid a double standard at all.

"The Workplace" as a construct is in a sense, male to begin with - an arena where rigid hierarchies are enforced. When a female enters and plays by the rules, she adopts male poses and patterns to compete.

Harrassment in this context is a concerted effort by one or more males to break down or dissipate the "male patterns" adopted by the female in order to reduce her to a biological function.

I think it does happen, in 99% of all cases, unconsciously, as a tribal male impulse. Its also not just about power, but also about sex. Sure the male is dominating the female sexually in order to restore the social order.

But also there is an urge to penetrate and impregnate as well. Subconsciously, the male is repulsed, but also attracted, by the female who tries to make it in a man's world.

I think Hollywood knows this, why else would they pick Charlize Theron to be in the movie?

Sex and power are often so intermixed its hard to separate them.

Thursday, March 30, 2006 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Kyahgirl said...

very true!

p.s. I didn't swipe Pigletson's posting day did I? Didn't mean to.

Thursday, March 30, 2006 4:08:00 PM  
Blogger pawlr said...

Pigletson vs. Kyahgirl! Grudge match! Cue the Star Trek battle music...

Thursday, March 30, 2006 4:59:00 PM  
Blogger Manola Blablablanik said...

Hey, it's called WORKPLACE for a reason. It's called SCHOOL for a reason. And all this awful harrasment stuff, trying to bring down these boundaries of respect, good taste and civil manners.

I remember a 6 grade teacher who would fondle his balls while talking to me. Guess what? Even then, I knew that was off the mark. I transferred to another school, which wasn't easy, because there were only two American schools in Caracas.

Thursday, March 30, 2006 6:15:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Paul, I think you'd need to show (and I don't know how you could) that 99% of sexual harrassment cases are "subconscious."

Also, your insistence on locating the overwhelming source of actual behavior in some posited, but unproven, sex-dynamic (with an evolutionary basis understood and assumed, but, again, far from proven) is open to argument. Biology, even if one grants your version of it (and we've been discussing this for months now, "offline" -- for the rest of the cyberpolers' knowledge), which is questionable, is not destiny. You're still caught in an is/ought situation, even granting an old-fashioned (or evolutionary-psychological) version of reality.

Furthermore, when my now wife was sexually harrassed at a former company (Palmer will remember! -- no, he wasn't the harrasser), I'm not sure the harrasser was concerned at any level with male power, rather than simply power, as he held down men in the department as well.

I do think there is a case to be made for "fear of invasion," but I think the fear has more to do with traditional cultural and social power roles than some genetically determined pattern.

Finally, some people are simply sadistic, regardless of gender/sex/whatever, and I've seen plenty of female-on-female, male-on-male, f-on-m, m-on-f, versions of that in the corporate world.

Example: a female VP made my boss at the time wear a sign that said "I'm a bad person for smoking" during an entire director's meeting. He did it -- was gender the real issue or the power structure of a corporate environment?

I think the key with sexual harrassment is that "sexual" is a modifier -- "harrassment" is the noun, and that implies, rightly, that harrassment, the abuse of power, is what's at issue in the corporate, undemocratic hierarchy. Harrassment of all kinds occurs almost constantly, from the subtle to the not-so-subtle. The old-school term is "exploitation," and it is rife.

By the way, my wife had a case, as several lawyers told her, but one honest one (a friend) said that no one would take her case because her salary was too low (I guess that's how damages are calculated). What does that tell you about justice and power? LOL!

That most sexual harrassment is male-on-female is a reflection of the still disproportionate amount of power males have in the corporate hierarchy. I wonder how much of a difference it would make, harrassment-wise, if and when power is roughly evenly distributed. That is, I wonder how much structure determines behavior, rather than "genes" or somesuch biodeterministic construct.

Friday, March 31, 2006 1:53:00 PM  
Blogger Kyahgirl said...

Doug, as always, you make some thoughtful and insightful comments.

I still think there is an element of the 'unevolved' animal that pushes some of our bad behaviour. Many people, like animals, when getting the scent of blood, can't help but go for more.

And there is a the whole issue of the pack behaviour. In the case that l-girl was discussing the miners were really violent. They seemed to feed off each other.
You don't see that as much in the corporate world. However, the harrassment is still very destructiive.

I just realized its Friday and I'm supposed to be doing a new post so I better hop to it!~ :-)

Friday, March 31, 2006 4:32:00 PM  

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