Thursday, March 04, 2010
Though I am not generally a fan of litigation as a means of curing social interaction problems among people, workplace harassment is a sticky issue that warrants some type of forum, even when the aggrieved party is a man. AP reports:
From 1990 to 2009, the percentage of sexual harassment claims filed by men has doubled from 8 percent to 16 percent of all claims, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission...If a gay boss repeatedly harassed me (I am straight, er, NTTAWT, or it matters in this case), I think that after some fair warning, I would risk the assault charge and go with the knuckle sandwich remedy. Again, not a big believer in litigating this and wasting time and money. If a female boss harassed me, then we are getting awfully close to fantasy territory, especially if she looked like Angelina Jolie...but I digress. Since I know less about women than just about anyone (paraphrasing George from "Seinfeld"), it's generally a good idea to give them what they want and hope for the best. Seriously, that is a very difficult situation, and obviously I would not strike a female; and, one would hope that a frank discussion -- explaining all of the possible repercussions -- would ward off further unwanted advances from a female boss. Nonetheless, a "power relationship" exists, and it is not right that I should lose my job or have to seek employment elsewhere because a female boss thinks I have gone all Right Said Fred and I Am Too Sexy.
...While some cases allege harassment by female supervisors or co-workers, most charges involve men harassing other men. Sometimes it's unwelcome romantic advances. Other times, men are picked on because they are gay, perceived as being gay or not considered masculine enough for the work setting.
So, men, what would you do?
Sunlight being as good a disinfectant as it is, I would advise my children (since it's unlikely to be my problem!) to seek out the designated compliance officer and follow his/her advice.
Maybe I'm being naive, but I believe businesses want nothing to do with genuine harrassers, and will work hard to make sure the employee exposing the harrasser is safe from vengeful action.
Well, it's more complicated than your wink-wink suggests. When in my 20s I had a middle-aged woman at work who was after me. The after-me part was not a particular problem, but she was deranged. My (male) boss thought this hilarious, and made a number of fairly obvious jokes of the "Any woman who's interested in you must be deranged," and "Still cutting a swathe through the old ladies, eh?" type. Finally they searched her desk one night after she'd left and found clear evidence of mental illness. She was gone the next day.
Another woman of about my own age was just extremely difficult to get along with, but the outbursts and disagreements were masked as professional. The guy before me had left. I just fought back, and eventually left for other reasons. The guy after me filed a complaint. It was interesting to note that the only people she had "professional" issues with were blond males of about the same height, with glasses, aged about 30. They found against her.
Neither of these cases comprised sexual harassment as I understand it, there being no disparity in position or attempted extortion of sexual favors. But both were certainly perceived as harassment and both contributed to a very difficult work environment.
If it happened to me, I would either
b) find a way to deal with it on my own
c) say adios and find other work.
Whining to superiors about harassment and having that sort of thing in my personnel file does not strike me as career enhancing.
What would bother me far more than the situation you describe E-81, would to be falsely accused of sexual harassment. Perhaps it never happens but I can imagine that to be career killing as well.
Well, what happens depends on the organization and how valuable each employee is. I recall reading, some years ago, about a researcher who made a habit of harassing women. He was so good a researcher that his company simply paid the women off when they complained.
And I recall an even worse case of a famous academic who was an overseas pedophile. And his field (geology?) was one that gave him a lot of chances to travel. When he finally got in trouble, he got a surprising amount of support from people in his field, again because he was thought to be quite good.
And unwanted advances can be problems even if they come from a woman or man with a lower rank. A person can do terrible damage to you with just a few words of gossip, in the right places.
Simon, I did not mean to make too much light of situations such as yours. That sounded as if it could have gotten kind of scary, almost like a B movie.
I am sure there are non-deranged women who might want to harass you.
Workplace issues have a distinct legal air to them because that's where people earn their living, and you can't screw around a person's livelihood.
Outside the workplace, I can recall two distinct episodes of being fondled from behind by a female, each time unknown to me, and without my consent. One was at a local bar, another at a Jimmy Buffett concert near Boston. Those gropings scarred me for life, and I was frightened. Not. All I could think to do at those moments was to turn around and laugh. But it would be an unusual circumstance indeed if a female fondler actually posed a real physical threat to me (by means of a size and strength advantage), so I am in no way suggesting it is OK to do the same with the roles reversed.
A gay man harassing one of his employees is, while possible, vanishingly rare. Gay men know they are outnumbered, and know that they face the very real threat of assault or even murder, if they make unwanted advances.
The most common scenario is that a man is discovered or even just perceived to be gay, and so becomes the target of constant harassment, or even violence. This is very real, and common. Because of this, many gay men go to great lengths to hide their homosexuality at work, because after all, they're there to make a living. Lesbians, for whatever reason, don't seem to attract quite the same degree of hatred and violence, probably because homophobic men don't find them directly threatening.
This is one area where people need the full defense of the law. The right to live your life, and have a productive career, without the threat of harassment or violence, is a fundamental right that we all want and need.
In some situations, the hatred against gays is so intense, that no amount of lawyering or policing will have any effect, and so gays and lesbians just have no options in some corners of society, unless society changes. Trying to push gays and lesbians into those situations will only generate more hatred, so that's pretty pointless. But that should be considered the failure scenario -- not something that we lightly tolerate or accept as normal.
Eric, touche (I can't find the accent character, but "too-shay"). You are correct in that narrow respect as it pertains to violence in such a situation. There are certain aspects of my upbringing that are absolute and I will not undo, and striking a female is one (I suppose the exception to that is if my life was directly threatened, but you get my point). Guys are fair game if they've been warned. If that is sexist, so be it.
Stack Trace, good points.
Escort81, so sexism is OK, sometimes. So long as it comports with one's upbringing (or one's long-held, cherished belief?). No need to try to exceed oneself or to try to surpass one's upbringing. No need for social progress.
Feel free to belt me, Escort81, if it helps social progress.
For what it's worth, I have never belted a woman either, not that I wouldn't if she threatened me, but I have belted a guy. I guess that makes me a sexist too.
I hit a woman once. She blocked my way to leave the room and house, then hit me. She was overly dramatic, but truthful, and told her mother the facts. Her mother said, "Good for him."
Now I would never do this. It's not worth losing your second-amendment rights over. I warn my kids you better be very careful about the women you hang around. You could lose your guns. It has already happened to one of them, via a faked claim of domestic violence.
Eric, your ability to twist reason is impressive, and you have the talent to be a litigator. You would have a hard time convincing most judges or juries, however, that being willing to hit a woman represents social progress simply because I have been able to overcome my upbringing! It seems to me that such a willingness would be a return to the bad old days of tribal society.
But part of your point is well taken. There are other instances unrelated to this matter where I have modified attitudes developed during my upbringing. We aren't robots with hard-coded programming, after all.
And I won't hit you Bomber Girl, if only because your nom de plume includes the word "Bomber." That, and you would hit me back, probably harder.
My point was not that hitting women--or anyone--represents social progress; rather that the selectivity of an interaction, based solely on gender where gender is irrelevant, is sexist, and losing that artificial discriminant would be an aspect of social progress.
Apparently I'm not the only one capable of twisting reason.
Ah, but Eric, that is where your resoning breaks down -- you are posing the erroneous assumption of an "artificial discriminant." There is nothing artificial about the fact that I am 6 feet tall and 195 lbs., and reasonbly fit for a man of my age, and that it would take an unusual woman (well, unarmed, anyway) to be able to threaten me physically. I simply wouldn't feel threatened or fearful, such that I could justify striking back with effective violence, as would be the case if a man came after me.
If what your are really trying to get at is that violence is never justified, that is probably a different discussion in a different thread; topics of pacifism crop up here from time to time.
Escorft81, your own argument violates the going-in assumption of identical circumstances, and so is irrelevant.
No, my point remains centered on sexism. Violence is nothing but part of the circumstance posed by you in your original post.
"So, men, what would you do?"
Surreptitious recording, followed by blackmail.
"A woman's punch is less to be feared than a well placed stiletto."
Hah! My kind of girl.
Eric: I side with you. Women want all the nice things about gender-equality (equal pay, no discrimination, etc.), but none of the shitty things (having to split the bill for dinner, opening their own damned doors, getting hit when they deserve it, etc.).
'Treat me like a man, unless I say otherwise' doesn't fly, ladies.