Reader JC left a comment on a recent post about sexual harassment that led me to a Feminist Law Professor post on a sexual harassment lawsuit against Brigham & Women’s Hospital. It is a post well worth reading, if you have ever wondered why more women don’t sue over sexual harassment, or why women don’t just speak up immediately and complain at the first sign of harassing behavior. Maybe you have been secretly suspecting that women who file sexual harassment charges or lawsuits just have some ax to grind and/or are trying to ruin some Nice Man’s career because they are bitter pre-/post-menopausal shrews and are just doing this to get sympathy. Uh huh. Well, read this, my dears, and be disabused of all your false ideas and pretty fantasies about how easy it is to file these lawsuits, and just what it means to “win” one. Here’s a taste:
So even if you get a verdict like this, the amount is barely enough to cover the costs of litigation (that’s definitely true here) because the impact of the attacks on your livelihood, professional reputation, etc. is minimized. You of course realize that this woman is now marked for life: she will never, never, ever, get a job offer from any other hospital in this country. So, the bonus payoff here is, she gets to work in an environment where she is ostracized, despised, feared, and hated – barred from any leadership position – and will never be taken seriously as a decision-maker or policy-maker – for the rest of her professional life. And that’s because she WON!
It’s certainly a tragedy when anyone takes their own life. I feel very sorry for the surviving family members and colleagues affected by the suicides of two U. of Iowa professors accused of sexual harassment who took their own lives last year.
And yet. I have little patience with this Chronicle of Higher Education article about them. You can file it under the category of “but he was such a really wonderful person! There’s just no way he could have done these things!” Or, alternatively, “Those TERRIBLE women RUINED the lives of these WONDERFUL men!”
According to the Chronicle Newsblog
Female professors at the University of Texas at Austin earned an average of $9,028 less than their male counterparts in 2007, and senior female faculty members there feel more isolated and less recognized for their work than do their male colleagues.
You can find the full report here and a press release from the university here.
The comments section at the Chronicle post is full of the usual dismissive commentary that arises whenever the issue of gender inequities in salary is broached. I liked this response from Meshiko:
A warning: if you are a survivor of sexual assault you may just want to skip this post and the ensuing ugly comment thread it is sure to engender.
A week or so ago the redoubtable Dr. Isis wrote an open letter to me.
In part she wrote:
The pragmatic part of me wants to agree with you that there is no place for open ogling in the workplace. The other part of me fears that there may be a hint of truth in Greg’s argument that we are inherently sexual beings…
I see no reason to fear the truth that we are inherently sexual beings. But the fact that we are sexual beings does not mean that women just have to put up with tit-ogling in the workplace because men are just incapable of controlling themselves. One can both be a sexual being AND exercise self-control. This point has been made before but apparently it bears repeating: tit-ogling in the workplace is not just, or only, about sex. It’s about power, dominance, and control. This has little to do with us as sexual beings and everything to do with patriarchy.
Dr. Isis also commented on a blog post of mine:
So, to recap:
A couple of women are having a conversation, and the topic turns to tit-ogling. “No one should be staring at my tits in the workplace,” they all agree. “That makes me uncomfortable, creates a hostile work environment, and constitutes sexual harassment! How difficult is it to look at my eyes? Staring and ogling is a threatening display of power enacted in a sexual manner. This isn’t the Mad Men era. Haven’t men figured out how to behave in a professional situation by now?”
A dude at the table next to them has been listening in and feels compelled to pipe up:
The comments on tit-staring make me wish the women could occupy a man’s body for a day. Ignoring tits in your visual field is as easy as it is for a woman to simply ignore a cute baby in the vicinity.
I was flabbergasted, to say the least. What to be more annoyed at? The suggestion that women are somehow programmed – biologically, of course, I am sure – with some sort of infant-adoration module? Or Mr. Murray’s casual insult to his fellow men, that they are simply incapable of behaving decently? That’s quite some theory Mr. Murray’s proposing – that because women have tits, and because they are visible, men must stare at them. It’s the women’s fault, you see. If only they didn’t have the tits. Or hey, maybe if they covered them up! With a hijab! Then they wouldn’t provoke indecent male behavior!
Yeah. Bitch PhD has something to say about that in a post with the apt title It’s More Than Just Your Eyes, Dickwad. Clearly it’s not the visual presence of women’s tits that is responsible for harassment and other shameful male behavior. She notes:
Because the fact is, there is no rhyme or reason as to who gets harassed and who doesn’t, and what kind of behavior/clothing/location/makeup/companionship you have when you get harassed is totally not determinative.
I’ll leave you with one more fabulous quote from her, but you really need to read the whole post.
…[T]he daily drumbeat of the world treating you like you’re a piece of meat every time you step out of the house takes a toll on your psyche that nothing can erase.
Dudes, I totally believe you are able to look away from the magic tits. Do the world a big favor and start acting like adults who are in control of their behavior and able to make choices about their actions. Sheesh. Feminists get accused of whining and playing victim, but I’ve never seen such whining acolytes of victimhood as the poor menz whose bodies rule their minds.
You are a university president. You naturally wish to avoid scandal and negative publicity during your administration. The time to make it mandatory for all faculty and staff to undergo training in how to avoid sexual harassment is:
A: When you take office, or shortly thereafter.
B: After one of your professors is caught emailing female students a quid pro quo: A’s if they would expose their breasts and allow him to fondle them.
If you are University of Iowa president Sally Mason, you will, of course, pick option B.
If this is only the first time the esteemed Professor Miller has engaged in such shenanigans, I will eat his shoes rather than puke on them. I’m betting it’s not.
Meanwhile, over at the University of Missouri,
I’ve mentioned Kay Weber and her lawsuit against Fermilab on this blog before. Sherry Towers forwarded an email to me that gives an update on Kay’s situation: