We’ve Only Scratched the Surface

It turns out there is no safe job where you can eliminate the risk of sexual harassment. There are only varying degrees of danger.

The following is a round up of recent stories about women being sexually harassed.

One thing to keep in mind is while plenty of white women with prestigious jobs have come forward, there are so many women who simply cannot speak openly about what they face. If you can be harassed working at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, for a judge, for the police and while an elected official, there really isn’t a safe space where you can avoid harassment. Many jobs have far worse harassment than many of us can fathom. Women of color, disabled women, and poor women face sexual harassment too, often in conjunction with other forms of discrimination, and their voices should not be lost in the #MeToo discussion.

Anita Hill’s comment a few paragraphs down really sums it up well, far better than my attempt. We have to put our efforts into fixing the system for everyone, not just white women.

Female Elected Officials Face Sexual Harassment

A long list of all the sexual harassment in state legislatures. When even female legislators are getting harassed, you know we need a huge influx of women to run for office and win.

EEOC Employees Face Sexual Harassment

Fresh Air talks about Anita Hill, and the NY Times Magazine talks to Anita Hill and six other women.

Anita Hill FTW:

Hill: Yes, there are small and large offenses; there are degrees. But I want to put it all in context too. In this room, we are relatively powerful, relatively privileged. And what may be a small thing to us may not be a small thing to a woman who is making minimum wage and working in a place where she has to be nice to harassing co-workers in order to just keep her job. It could be a job where there are 50 other applicants ready to take it, and the woman may have a family to support, so she can’t even risk saying anything. If she does say something, and then her bosses decide that the infraction wasn’t major and “O.K., let’s keep that guy on,” then she has to look at that person every day. So I think we have to understand that whatever rules may work for us may not have universal application. Some people are just entirely more vulnerable.

P.S. Joe Biden is not really sorry, and this faux apology makes it worse.

Actresses who Help Fund Movies Face Sexual Harassment

Selma Hayek pens a devastating op-ed about Harvey Weinstein trying to run a long con to rape her and when that didn’t work, a torrent of abuse lasting years. He moved the goal posts to impossible prerequisites in order to let her film her movie, threatened to kill her and caused her to have a nervous breakdown on set, and nearly assaulted one of her partners on the film.

Women Physicians Face Sexual Harassment

Female doctors are routinely disrespected and judged more harshly than male counterparts.

Women Clerking for a Federal Judge Face Sexual Harassment

And a federal judge has a 35 year history of disgusting behavior towards female law clerks and beyond.

His behavior hints at why women still have to deal with constant harassment:

But sexual misconduct by a federal judge is particularly troublesome, both because the American public pays the judge’s salary, and because trust in the judiciary depends on judges being seen as not simply independent, but above reproach. And then there are the very reasonable concerns about Judge Kozinski’s ability to hear a sexual-harassment or discrimination case; how could any plaintiff be confident the judge would give her a fair hearing?

Lady Cops Face Sexual Harassment

Female police officers face similar challenges. (Via NY Times)

There was a captain who got a woman promoted from Detective II to Detective III — a very coveted position. It was discovered through an internal-affairs investigation that she had performed sexual acts on him. That, to me, smells a lot like Hollywood: Hey, if you really want this part, you do certain things to me, and I can make it happen.

Female Journalists Face Sexual Harassment

And white women, FFS, please include women of color in the whisper network (from the same NYT article as above quote).

The list was F.T.B.T. — for them, by them — meaning, by white women about their experiences with the white men who made up a majority of the names on it. Despite my working in New York media for 10 years, it was my first “whisper” of any kind, a realization that felt almost as hurtful as reading the acts described on the list itself.

This is what we deal with constantly. No woman is safe from sexual harassment or assault no matter what you do to try to prevent it or avoid it.

What Do We Do?

More from the NYT seven women discussion, courtesy of Anita Hill.

Bazelon: Anita, when you came forward to testify in the Senate hearing, there were actually three other women who were prepared to testify that they experienced or could corroborate harassment or unwanted attention from Clarence Thomas. But they were never called as witnesses. Even last year’s TV movie about the confirmation hearings collapsed those characters into one woman, reducing the scope of the allegations once more. Your story, a foundational story for us about sexual harassment, has been passed down as a story about one woman, when actually there were these other women who were trying to stand with you. I wonder how you think about that.

Hill: Well, of course I think about it from a selfish point of view — that these were women I didn’t know who had experienced or were confided in by someone who had experienced the same kind of behavior with Clarence Thomas that I had and could have added credibility to my testimony. But there was also a bigger concern: Those other three women’s voices were being erased. They were being told their voices didn’t matter. These were three African-American women, and I do believe that race played a part in the decision not to call them. It also sent the message to anyone else who was out there, who knew, who could have stepped up, that she shouldn’t even bother.

What has allowed so many women to come forward recently is hearing other women coming forward. And they have a platform — social media — to do it. And unfortunately, we know that numbers matter. I just hope that we can get to the point where a woman can come forward on her own and one voice is valued.

Hill: For years, we’ve been talking about strategies for working around a creepy person. There are three ways you could approach the problem of sexual harassment. You can fix the women. You can fix the guys. Or you can change the culture. And I think that really, at this point, what we should be talking about is fixing the guys and changing the culture.

Hill: But why does a manager or a C.E.O. or any leader have to wait until something becomes a violation of the law before they act? The law really is just a floor. A company can have its own rules that say: You can’t talk about porn or view porn at work, or make jokes about a co-worker’s sex life or menstrual cycle, or continue to ask a colleague to date after she’s turned you down twice. And if you do, you will get written up; it will go in your file. And if it happens serially, then there are more serious repercussions. You can be fired.

Hill: Well, we’ve tried it the other way, with men in the positions of power, making all the decisions about hiring and firing and rules of the office. The stories from #metoo and from thousands of letters and emails I’ve received suggest that harassment is rampant. We also know that cultures that support harassment are likely to support other forms of discrimination. I’ve never heard of a harasser who is also an advocate for equal pay or equal hiring or equal promotions. So I think we have to move toward having more women in charge of workplaces, and let’s just see if it can be different.

Not only did Hill bring sexual harassment into public knowledge, she is still, nearly 30 years later, a leader and a wise observer of the reality of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Where would we be without her? We already know that this country owes her a huge debt of gratitude. But this exchange, memorialized in the Times, it’s clear that Thomas’ comment that Hill’s work was mediocre was baloney. Her analysis of the issue is remarkable given her experience during the Thomas hearing.

To close, something I found moving from Hill’s Wikipedia page:

Anita Hill … in the book Women and leadership: the state of play and strategies for change, wrote about women judges and why, in her opinion, they play such a large role in balancing the judicial system. She argues that since women and men have different life experiences, ways of thinking, and histories, both are needed for a balanced court system.

With the issue of women’s rights, especially in the workplace, it’s hard to know where to start if you want to push for progress. One place I recommend is this page on the UltraViolet website.


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