sek’-shoo-el her-ass’-ment

June 14th, 1998 at 2:23 pm by Mark
Tags: , , , , ,

     “Let me get this straight,” I argued with no pun intended. “You’re telling me that if I don’t go to this Sexual Harassment seminar of yours, then you’ll see to it that my employment here will be terminated?”
     “Absolutely!” she affirmed with righteous devotion.
     I sat there completely dumbfounded at the thought. It seemed completely illogical to force me to skip a day of work that desperately needed to be done so I could go to a seminar which has been proven to do nothing more than to decrease productivity because of increased tension between workmates of different sexes. I shook my head, closed my eyes, and out of my mouth came this noise which sounded remarkably like “Are you serious?”
     She keenly stared into my eyes, and with a condescending (translation: bitchy) tone of her own, said “Well, uhhh… Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
     “Look,” I started. I’m not going.” I continued on for a bit, explaining why I felt the way I did, and finally, I just came right out and said it. It was the mother-of-all comment about sexual harassment.

     The big one.

     It was a comment for which there could be no reply, one which guarantees an emotional response to one degree or another. It was the kind of comment that would assuredly evoke either hatred or laughter, depending on who one says it to. As I turned my attention back to my monitor, I knew precisely which response I had evoked from her.

     The silence was broken only by the sound of the hairs standing up on the back of her neck. I faced dead ahead, staring into my monitor, too afraid to turn back around.
     After a few minutes, I mustered enough courage to look back, deciding that it was a good time to go and get lunch. I was shocked to find that she was still standing there, her eyes narrowed to tiny slits, her face the darkest shade of crimson…

     “Oh, shit,” I thought to myself. “She is pissed off!

     For the next ten minutes, I sat there paralysed with fear, sure that any sudden movement or attempts to leave would incur her wrath. I read through the corporate newsletter. I checked my e-mail and Lotus Notes. I checked my voice mail. To make a long story short (too late), I wasted as much time as I could with the narrow hope that she would go away and I could leave.
     And then it happened… The moment I most dreaded.

     Someone’s hand laid heavy on my shoulder. “Oh, shit,” I thought. “Here it comes!

     I didn’t want to turn around, afraid that she might be pissed enough to whack me in the face with her clipboard. I tilted my head down, and noticed those finely manicured nails that had been painted the darkest maroon, attached to fingers and hands that could only belong to a woman…
     Cautiously, I swivelled about, wincing at the expected blow, all-the-while hoping that she would remain professional.

     But as I came full about, I was surprised to see my boss standing there quietly. I let out a heavy sigh of relief.

     “Ms. Grant says that you’re excused from Sexual Harassment class,” she mused. “How the Hell did you get out of that? What did you say to her?”
     “I, uhhh,” I stammered. “I thought she was still standing there.”
     “Why?” she asked. “Did you have words?”
     “Oh, well,” I stammered. “Nothing terrible, I’m sure. Why, what did she say?”
     “Just that she didn’t think you needed to be there,” she replied. “Looks like you’re the odd man out
     “Ahhh,” I sighed, relieved. “Lunch time, eh?”
     “Sure,” she smiled. “Where we going?”

     I’ve always had strong feelings about sexual harassment in the workplace. I’ve seen a lot of friends get hurt by it, and I’ve been made to feel quite uncomfortable a few times, myself.
     And then another time, in particular, I was framed for sexual harassment at another place I had been employed years before. A female coworker had insisted that her and I should have sex. After declining her offers on several occasions, she my told my boss (also a female) that I had been groping her in the office, constantly asking her for sex and threatening to get her fired.
     Her claims were found to be false, and not by any court decision, either. One day, as she came into my office to torment me as usual, she didn’t notice that someone was walking in right behind her. My boss, in fact, and saw the young woman walk up behind me and grab hold of my ass with both hands, and whisper “Why don’t you just do me right here in your office?”
     She was fired on the spot.

     But things are rarely that cut and dry.

     Sexual Harassment Seminars put on the workplace only further complicate the whole issue. They tell us that “staring, touching and saying anything so as to make a woman feel uncomfortable in the workplace is sexual harassment.”
     You see, those were the same things Anita Hill complained of Clarence Thomas. Women’s organisations all over the United States went bonkers when Thomas was exonerated.
     But then when President Bill Clinton did the same things, these same women’s groups stood by him, stating that it’s only sexual harassment if a woman’s job is on the line.
     Anita Hill was hero, and Paula Jones is a slut… One has to wonder why…

     These two specific issues illustrate that there are still a lot of grey areas about Sexual Harassment. Things seem to have been turned backwards and upside down since the problem first gained media attention in 1992, and all of this only goes to confused people even more.
     Before Anita Hill gave her testimony, no one really understood what sexual harassment was. Just when we thought we had a clue, the tables turned, the definition changed. At this point, according to the US legal precedent set in Jones v. Clinton, it’s perfectly legal for me to walk up to a female co-worker and say “Hey, hon, how about a hummer?”
     Terrible, isn’t it?

     When people don’t have to worry so much about what they say or do in the workplace, they can be more productive. In the corporations I’ve worked with that have had mandatory Sexual Harassment seminars, the number of complaints have increased sharply after the classes. Some say that this is because with education, people suddenly realise that they’re being harassed.
     While this may be true in a specific case or three, it’s definitely not the Absolute Truth as many would have you believe. It’s worth noting that two of my experiences were in female-dominated offices. No man would dare come into one of them with sex in mind, because he would most assuredly lose some vital portions of his anatomy. In these two places, the seminars did nothing but further somewhat antagonistic attitudes towards the few men in the office. Needless to say, it made doing our jobs a lot hard.. err.. more difficult.

     I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression here. I’m not altogether against Sexual Harassment seminars. On the contrary! I think they should made a part of Leadership Sensitivity Seminars instead of being separate entities. These seminars basically teach employees and management not to be Racist Homophobics and work together as a Team. I think they’re a good thing. Adding Sexual Harassment to that mix tells your employees not to be Racist Homophobic Perverts and work as team. That’s an even better thing.
     But by themselves? It’s hard to fill up an entire hour talking about Sexual Harassment without getting peoples’ backs up. And the fact remains that most of the people teaching these seminars seem to forget that women in the office can be just as bad, or even worse, than the raunchiest of men.

     For me, it all comes down to two things… If everyone were more interested in doing their job instead of standing around the office talking about “the chick with the big tits,” or “the new guy with the great butt,” or looking for new ways to be offended, things would be a whole lot different.

     And the second? Well, it’s like I told Ms. Grant…

     “Look, I realise there are men in this company who think ‘harass’ is two words. I’m not one of them.”


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