The Me-Gender: Sexist harassment
By Wade Balder
As conceived by feminists, the purpose of the legal concept of sexual harassment is to attack the male sexual role, and that's sexist!
It's not about fairness
1995 Seattle, WA - Jane Gallop has impeccable feminist credentials. In 1992, she was teaching feminist theory at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Apparently, she taught her students well. Two female students charged her with sexual harassment. She detailed her thoughts in an article in the September-October '94 Academe. Even after being caught in the ever-expanding sexual harassment net, Gallop just doesn't get it.
For example, she states that the basic principle behind sexual harassment is sexism not sexuality -- that "sexual harassment is a way men obstruct women from doing work." Bull manure! Oh, excuse me. I don't want to be sexist. Cow manure! Look at the EEOC definition of sexual harassment: "Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature ..." And think back to actual occurrences in the news. In word and deed, sexual harassment is about sex, not sexism.
But Gallop is correct in a way that I'm sure she did not intend. Sexual harassment itself is about sexuality. But the way sexual harassment is used is about sexism. Because it is aimed at men. Or more specifically, because it is aimed at the male sexual role. Gallop states that feminists must avoid setting standards which more women than men will fail to meet. However, it appears that standards which affect men to a greater degree are OK. Or as my old granddad always used to say: "Woman is a contradiction at best."
Since the male and female sexual roles are so different, it is easy to fashion a law which tendentiously criminalizes the male side, while ignoring the female role. And that's the case with sexual harassment. It is a way to punish men for any discomfort they cause women. No matter how unfair to men. No matter how much discomfort it causes men. The self-indulgence of The Me Gender is unbounded.
Can you imagine the outcry if behavior usually limited to women were criminalized? New law: any person who waits for a love interest to call, and then complains that the jerk didn't call, will be guilty of a Miss Demeanor. Punishment will include a $100 fine and completion of the remedial course Phone Dialing 101.
Clearly, phrases like "sexual advances" and "requests for sexual favors" in the legal definition disproportionately single out men as the culprits. Sure, sometimes women are charged, but only if they assume the traditionally male initiator role. As a society, we may well decide that the initiator role is the problem. But, if that's the case, women better damn well start doing half of the initiating. It's hypocritical for women to criticize (and criminalize) men for behavior which women demand of men and generally refuse to perform themselves.
The word "unwelcome" also singles out men. When it comes to sex, most anything is welcomed by men. And most everything is unwelcomed by women. One would think a compromise is in order. Not a chance. Once again, the law protects women's interests. Or as my old granddad always used to say: "Total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation."
Men can certainly see that women's sexual behaviors are not discouraged in the workplace. Women can wear sexy outfits, leave Cosmo or romance novels on their desks, flirt, and use sex to get money and promotions. And they are rarely punished for this behavior. Yet, men must be careful when telling a sexual joke or admiring the effects of a Wonderbra. Quite a double standard. Or as my old granddad always used to say: "When men talk dirty to women, it's sexual harassment. When women talk dirty to men, it's $3.98 a minute."
Sexual harassment has always been a very vague concept. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has complained about the "vague statutory language." Not that the courts are doing anything to make the situation any clearer. The Ninth Circuit Court has said that, to a large extent, sexual harassment is whatever a "reasonable woman" says it is. (Talk about begging the question!) Using a reasonable woman standard instead of a reasonable person standard, incorporates stereotypes and sexual roles into the law. He is seen as aggressive, dirty, animalistic, and promiscuous. She is seen as passive, innocent, spiritual, and virginal. This makes it easier to punish men's and ignore women's sexual behaviors.
And why do we focus on just "sexual" harassment? There are many behaviors in the workplace which can harass or obstruct people from doing work. Why single out sex? Is it to protect The Me Gender?
Sexual harassment seems to be much about money. If Joe bothers Kate on the street, Kate has little recourse. But if Joe does the same thing at work, suddenly a heavily insured employer with deep pockets magically appears. Every Joe now has a Sugar Daddy behind him. BINGO! The employer must pay for Kate's discomfort.
Of course, there are bona fide examples of sexual harassment---cases that require governmental intervention. But the definition and application have become so very broad. To the point of ridiculousness. Just ask Jane Gallop. Of all the aspects of sexual harassment that she just doesn't get, that is one idea that she (finally) gets.
Balder's grandfather liked to paraphrase Alexander Pope, St. Augustine, and Mike Dougan.