The New Book of Revelations — America After Weinstein
[U]sually occurs when an employer or supervisor offers to trade an employment benefit for some kind of sexual favor. A common example is promising to promote a worker in exchange for going on a date with the boss. This type of harassment might also take the form of punishing an employee who rebuffs the supervisor’s advances.The second, more subtle and more common type of sexual harassment is called a hostile work environment. There are two ways in which an employer can create this situation. The first is by engaging in or allowing behavior that creates what a reasonable person would consider an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. The second is by tolerating or encouraging conduct that unreasonably interferes with an employee’s ability to do his or her job.Conduct that may lead to a hostile work environment based on sexual harassment varies from case to case, but common examples include:
- Sexually charged comments, whether verbal or written;
- Unwelcome physical touching; or
- Intimidating physical situations, such as blocking or trapping.
Under the New York State Human Rights Law (HRL), the offensive conduct must be severe or pervasive. In other words, a hostile work environment usually does not arise from a single stray remark. However, it could be found after a single instance of extreme conduct, such as a sexual assault, or after a long series of minor actions.
To return to the current cases in point, cruising the mall in search of teenage girls to “date” is not rape. Offering to drive a 16-year-old girl home and then touching her breasts, locking the door to keep her inside and bruising her while trying to push her head toward his crotch and trying to pull her shirt off, is assault, but under Alabama law it is not rape. Assault it sure sounds like. But the distinctions are real and they matter.Liberals have been unnerved and upset about Al Franken’s conduct with women. However libertine was the general atmosphere on his 2006 USO tour, grabbing (or grabbing at) Leann Tweeden’s breasts and recording the moment was sexual aggression and reflected terrible judgment, for which he has apologized in a manner Tweeden accepted. Accusations of later butt-grabbing are also serious, but not conclusive. The demand that he resign presupposes guilt. Which is wrong. As Masha Gessen put it in The New Yorker, “Should Al Franken Resign is the Wrong Question.”Many of Franken’s supporters have lived through three earthquakes overlapping in time, and the confusions among them are evident in the ambivalence that many express — even reconsiderations. The first quake was Hugh Hefner’s, saying We’re guys so it’s cool to revel in access to women’s bodies. The second was the Pill, which made Hefnerism look easy. But lo and behold, the principle of control over sex had an astonishing reverberation: The women’s movement, which said to men, Hey, not so fast, and to women, We get to own our bodies.In the American Prospect, Adele M. Stan makes a necessary distinctionbetween hypocrisy and unrepentant abuses of power:
The sexism and misogyny found among Democrats is rightfully derided as hypocritical, since Democrats claim to stand for equality — of race, of sex, of sexual orientation and identity, of religion. But the sexism and misogyny (and racism and queerphobia) of Republicans these days is part of the brand, a rallying cry. There’s a self-described pussy-grabber in the White House. You’d have to conclude that a lot of the people who voted for him liked that about him, just as they liked the false crime statistics he tweeted about African-Americans, his description of Mexicans as rapists, and his smearing of all Muslims as potential terrorists. They like it all, because it’s all of a piece.Our choices being less than optimum, they are nonetheless stark. As for me, I’m sticking with the hypocrites.
I’m with her. Censure the hypocrites. Scold them proportionately. And without rushing to punishment, re-examine gray areas. See how the hypocrites behave when their hypocrisy is exposed. As for the criminals, charge them. When they seek election as the people’s representatives — representing all sexes — cover them with shame and defeat them. In the light of such clarity as we can muster, dissolve the obscuring gray.
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