Monday, April 11, 2016

The Myth of Sexual Harassment

There have been many reports about sexual harassment over the past year, from gripping he said/she said cases involving media personalities like TV star Bill Cosby and the CBC’s Jian Ghomeishi to campus scandals such as the Dentistry students at Dalhousie in Halifax, who used Facebook to joke and fantasize about their female colleagues.
According to the mainstream media, sexual harassment is all around us; a headline in the Toronto Sun newspaper recently warned that “One million Canadians, mostly women, report that they have been sexually harassed at work.” The report claimed that 3 out of 10 Canadian women have been victimized by workplace harassment just in the past two years. That’s even worse than
the 1 in 4 women supposedly sexually assaulted in her lifetime. 
It sounds like a problem of epidemic proportions requiring tough legislation and extensive public awareness campaigns, and of course that’s exactly what prominent feminist activists and lawyers want us to believe.
But if you look at how sexual harassment is defined by the authors of the Toronto Sun report—and, indeed, in most workplace harassment policies, you will surely be struck by how outrageously elastic the definition is.
When I was first learning about feminist social issues, I understood “harassment” to be a specific kind of threatening behavior involving coercion. Sexual harassment was when an employer or teacher—someone in a position of power—extorts sexual favors by offering something in return: “I’ll give you this contract if you’ll sleep with me,” “I’ll look the other way about your drug problem if you’ll make nice.” “You know what you need to do to get an A in this course.”
But that’s not what the study counted, or what feminists call sexual harassment today. The study includes actions like “charged talk,” whatever that is, and “unwanted sexual advances” among the behaviors that can be classed as harassment. You heard that right: charged talk and unwanted sexual advances. So if I make a joke in bad taste, and I’m a man, I’m a harasser. If I ask you out on a date and you say you’re busy, and then I ask you again a few weeks later, and again a week after that, not understanding that ‘busy’ meant ‘busy forever,” then according to the definition used in the study, I’ve harassed you.
A full 86% of respondents in the study indicated that what they experienced never went beyond the verbal: in other words, it involved such ‘assaults’ as jokes, suggestive comments, even compliments:  “Hey Julie, that’s a gorgeous outfit.” “Wow, Madge, I love your hair that way,” or to cite the famous quip supposedly uttered by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and that ignited a public furor when revealed by his assistant Anita Hill, “Who put pubic hair in my Coke?”
There is no mention in the report of abuse of power: in other words, any comment with a sexual overtone—or undertone—is counted as harassment, even simply amongst co-workers where there is no power imbalance.
The study also found that 4 out of 5 of the respondents preferred not to report the incident, with 26 per cent saying the issue was too minor, and 21 per cent saying they didn’t think their employer would respond.
In effect, simply reading the details of the report shows up the provocative headline to be a fudge. As with the now-infamous Mary Koss authored rape survey which, using very dubious methodology, found nearly every woman surveyed had been raped, so with this so-called study, based on misleading questions and the manipulation of data: anyone reading it with an open mind would have to conclude that the sexual harassment crisis is pure invention.
Except for the men who get the call into the office, the complaint from the co-worker apparently made “uncomfortable,” “unsafe” by “inappropriate” comments or actions the man can’t even remember—the man who finds himself in contravention of his office’s workplace safety and respect policy, tried, found guilty, and disciplined or dismissed without any clear sense of what he did and with no opportunity to defend himself or confront his accuser. These are the victims of harassment policies we hear almost nothing about.  
But Sachi Kurl, the senior vice-president of the Angus Reid Institute, which conducted the Toronto Sun study, comes to a different conclusion. She finds it “especially concerning” that more women aren’t coming forward to report harassment. For her, that’s not evidence of the trivial nature of the incidents, but further evidence of women’s oppression.
And, not at all surprisingly, feminist experts at large stoke the flames of concern: Kathy Laird, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, claimed in interview that sexual harassment is “happening every day,” and women are afraid to complain.
This is the standard story. In the same month that the Toronto Sun published its report on the one million victimized women, the Toronto Star published an article entitled “Sexual harassment at work a steady problem in Ontario.” This article also insists on a very wide-net definition, emphasizing how ‘subtle’ harassment can be, such as the case of a “boss who hovers and is overly complimentary with sexually-tinged comments that leave an employee uncomfortable […] and queasy about what might be coming next.” Really?—“hovering” and “complimenting”? Feeling “uncomfortable” or “queasy”? When such subtle behaviors and vague feelings count as sexual harassment, we can see that the so-called experts are willing to call just about anything by that name.
And the lawyers seem to push the agenda even harder. One Toronto labour lawyer named Kevin Robinson is quoted as asserting that although there has been some legal progress, “there is still a long, long way to go.” Yikes.
Robinson’s comments are striking for his unquestioning acceptance of the feminist narrative and his over-eager zeal to pursue complaints. For example, he gives several reasons why women don’t always come forward, one being that they may believe their own actions contributed to the situation. Remember that one part of even the very elastic definition of sexual harassment is that it is “unwanted sexual advances.” It can’t really be harassment if it was “wanted” and encouraged, right? Well, even that is too limiting for the pro-feminist experts. Kevin Robinson notes that women sometimes feel that they “participated in [the harassment] in some fashion or encouraged it […] and feel guilty about it.”  … Not that [they] should be,” he is quick to point out. There it is. No matter what the woman may have done to “participate” in or “encourage” the behavior, that is no reason why she shouldn’t make a complaint—the man is still guilty even if the woman encouraged and participated in what she is now calling harassment!
What we see in these reports is a disturbing willingness on the part of so-called experts to create a false picture of a supposedly widespread problem and to encourage women to disregard basic common sense and morality in order to launch complaints about their male colleagues even when their conscience tells them that what happened was at least partially their own doing or so trivial as to be not worth bothering about.
Am I exaggerating? Surely women know what harassment is. They’re not going to bring forward an unjust or untrue complaint?
Well, just recently, two female scholars named Julia Becker and Janet Swim published an academic paper in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, which calls itself a feminist peer reviewed scientific journal. This paper reported extensively on what the two authors called acts of ‘benevolent sexism,’ such as men holding doors open for women or offering to take the wheel on a long automobile trip. Such acts might seem kindly and generous, but they convey a subtle put-down of women, an assumption of male superiority. Conscious-raising was needed about such sexism, the two researchers concluded, so that both men and women would be more aware of the pervasive nature of gender inequality.
Keep in mind that this wasn’t just an opinion piece by two ideologues. This was an academic study whose publication was given the green light by other academics with years of university credentials, research experience, and so-called scholarly achievement behind them. If even the kindest and most gentlemanly of behaviors can be classed as sexism, we are dealing with a definitional category without any boundaries at all.
I’m not saying all women are irrational and vindictive, though it seems clear that a significant minority are and now have law on their side. And when you have ludicrous studies being published as ‘fact,’ when you create a culture in which women are told over and over again that they are victims of male evil, that their feelings are reality, and that they owe it to themselves and to other women to come forward with allegations that will be taken very seriously, and when you mix into that the sometimes volatile environment of workplace politics, interpersonal tensions, and sexual jealousy, rivalry, insecurity, and misunderstanding, you create a recipe for men’s lives to be smashed on the altar of political correctness.
So what can be done about an imaginary social crisis created by and for feminists that has now become workplace law with the power to destroy men’s careers and social standing? It’s really too much to ask of men that they never socialize with their female co-workers, never express any kind of sexual or romantic or even friendly interest, even in response to a woman’s overtures. It’s a disaster in the making, and I’m at a loss because it seems that many women and many workplace ‘experts,’ male and female, have enthusiastically implemented the myriad policies and rules that now stymy and stigmatize natural interactions between men and women in the name of their utopian design. 
Only perhaps a flood of big lawsuits against companies, by men improperly dismissed or disciplined, might begin to stem this tide. If I were a young man now, I’d get myself a law degree specializing in labor and employment, and prepare to take on this anti-sex, anti-love, anti-human leviathan. Until we’ve got an army of anti-feminist lawyers fighting in our corner, things will only get worse. It’s time to take back our offices and boardrooms and shop floors in the name of sanity and common sense. Let’s make the workplace safe for men.

No comments:

Post a Comment