Workplace Sexual Harassment

There’s an excellent opinion piece in the Oct. 20 New York Times.  A link appears at the end of this post.

In 1981, my mother did clerical work in a community college department which counseled students on career choices.  The college offered job-training classes, including auto mechanics.  The classes were all co-ed.

There was a problem with male students harassing the one woman in the auto mechanics class.  The female student had reported the abuse to her instructor, and he responded with conventional “wisdom.”  He told her to get used to it or give up on the possibility of working in a male-dominated field.

When the student reported the teacher’s bad response to a career counselor, that counselor spoke to the teacher.  I don’t know what happened after that, but in 1981 there were people on that community college campus who took a stand against women being degraded.

I don’t remember what year I noticed that whistles and crude remarks had stopped coming from construction sites in San Francisco when women walked by.  Women’s advocates had finally gotten through to the owners of those companies that their workers’ insulting behavior was bad public relations.

Sadly, when a previously neglectful person in authority suddenly decides to stop tolerating sexual harassment of workers, students, tenants, et al, it’s usually because that person in authority is worried about consequences.  An instructor, clergyman, employer (the list is endless) who has a sense of empathy and a real concern for the difference between right and wrong doesn’t tolerate it in the first place.

Sexual harassment and bullying aren’t much different from each other.  They’re both attempts to elevate oneself by lowering others.

Don’t call the victims weak.  Some are vulnerable, for various reasons.  The perpetrators are weak.  If they have to make someone else suffer before they can feel comfortable with themselves, that’s just plain pathetic.

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