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Essay/Term paper: Sexual harassment

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Sex

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Sexual Harassment

"Sexual harassment is not about sex, it is about power." -Gretchen

An unwanted sexual advance, an offensive touch, and suggestive comments
illustrate examples of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is defined by
Stephanie Riger as, "unwanted sexually oriented behavior in a work context."
However, sexual harassment does not only appear in an occupational environment,
and this form of harassment is not limited to a specific race, a specific gender,
or any certain lifestyle. Today, throughout the United States, men and women
are filing sexual harassment lawsuits as if sexual harassment were no great
matter. A line needs to be drawn to distinguish what is and is not sexual
harassment, but since sexual harassment is so subjective, a simple line becomes
harder to draw. Some people want punishment for hostile environment harassment,
but what constitutes a hostile environment? According to Morgenson a hostile
environment includes "hazing, joking, and sexually suggestive talk between men
and women who work alongside them." Lately, it seems that Americans are making
sexual harassment an excuse. People are crying sexual harassment like the
little boy who cried wolf.
Sexual harassment has become such an issue due to the large number of
cases presented. When Anita Hill, law professor at the University of Oklahoma,
brought allegations of sexual Zaccarello 2 harassment against Supreme Court
Justice Clarence Thomas, the whole world started listening. This case was "the
most celebrated sexual harassment case of our time," according to Martha
Chamallas, and "Hill's revelations prompted women to tell about their own
encounters with sexually harassing behavior-both in private and in public."
This case gave women a reason to report sexual harassment, and sexual harassment
would no longer be overlooked. Women would no longer have to "flatter" their
bosses, as Erica Jong had to.
Consequently, since Anita Hill came out and voiced her opinion, it seems
that the issue of sexual harassment has become a security blanket for men and
women, and filing lawsuits of sexual harassment have created a new money making
scheme. In 1996 my place of employment received two allegations of sexual
harassment. In the case I testified in court that I never saw any event of
sexual harassment that the lady in question described. The jury threw out her
sexual allegations against our employer, and she was sentenced for embezzlement.
In this case, sexual harassment was her security blanket against her employer.
When she heard that she was being charged with embezzlement, she decided that
she might be able to plea bargain if she proved that sexual harassment took
When allegations of sexual harassment hit home, it has become clear to
me that something needs to be done. Employers need to safeguard themselves by
understanding the definition of sexual harassment. Employers need to know their
employees and be Zaccarello 3 aware of their employees' values. Knowing that
sexual harassment is an issue of power and not sex, women need to prove to men
that they are not submissive objects. Jong states "just as men can use sexuality
for power, women can use anti-sexuality for political power," and I agree with
her. The issue that women should be lobbying for is equality. If women cannot
stand up to their bosses and show them that they too are powerful, then women
will never achieve equality.
Similar to my story, in the Supreme Court case of Meritor Savings Bank v.
Vinson, Sidney Taylor was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee,
Michelle Vinson. Michelle testified that in order to advance in her occupation
she had to have sex with her supervisor. Undoubtedly, she did have sexual
relations with her supervisor, but she never refused his advances, according to
her affidavit. In Taylor's testimony, he told the court that he never made
advances or even had sexual relations with her. Furthermore, Taylor testified
that Vinson's accusations were the result of an earlier dispute over business.
The court found that even if a sexual relationship had taken place, that
Michelle acted willingly, and that this relationship had nothing to do with her
employment to the bank. This is another example of how the issue of sexual
harassment has become grounds for a lawsuit and a money making scheme.
Not only are women making money out of sexual harassment cases, but
"peddlers of sex harassment advice have, of course, their own money making
agenda," according to Morgenson. "There Zaccarello 4 are a lot of bad
consultants taking advantage of the fact that sexual harassment is in vogue."
In fact, the government has granted aid to certain agencies whose job is to try
and combat sexual harassment. The irony is that in Morgenson's view, sexual
harassment is decreasing, while the number of sexual harassment consultants has
increased. Jennifer Coplon, a consultant, believes that the number of
consultants has increased because sexual harassment is overall employment issues,
the biggest concern among cooperations. If women would not use sexual
harassment as a cry for help, then maybe cooperations would not have to pay
consultants to educate businesses.
Prevention is the hardest phase of sexual harassment because it is
almost impossible to understand what one considers harassment. Morgenson
described it best when she pointed out that "Behavior that one woman may
consider harassment could be seen by another as a non-threatening gag." Riger
suggests that policy makers and employers need to "think like a woman" in order
to define sexual harassment. By understanding what might be offensive and
suggestive to a woman, employers can safeguard themselves against law suits.
Since feminists have forced the court to believe that sexual harassment is a
form of sexual discrimination, then equal opportunities for employment need to
be implemented. Also, prevention can be accomplished by installing
organizational mechanisms, such as hierarchies. If more women were in higher
levels of authority, then cries of sexual harassment will be reduced. The key
to prevention is Zaccarello 5 education, and as long as the employer knows his
employees, then the chance of sexual harassment is diminished.
Even though there are almost too many cases of sexual harassment
reported, one cannot afford to overlook one case as a false allegation. At the
University of Oklahoma, an international student who made accusations of sexual
harassment was recently expelled from school. Since the University failed to
act upon her allegations, she decided to take the matter into her own hands,
which ended her education at the University of Oklahoma. It will never be
known whether or not that her allegations were true.
Sexual harassment is an issue that cannot be overlooked. With proper
knowledge and education, prevention is necessary. Maybe, punishment for wrong
allegations should be drafted into legislation. I agree with Erica Jong when
she suggested that "sexual hot-button issues like harassment serve to distract
us from focusing, for instance, on the fact that women continue to be
underpaid." Until something is done to prevent sexual harassment, women and men
will use sexual harassment as their security blankets and money making schemes.
I want to emphasize to women that sexual harassment is not a money making game,
and by crying sexual harassment out loud, women lose their power. As Jong
demonstrates, "If we take our power and use it as badly as men have used theirs
throughout the centuries, we will not have brought about the world of equality
we seek."


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