If you had the displeasure of watching Fox’ Hannity show last night you would have heard something disgusting that goes to the heart of why sexual harassment exists.
Dick Morris, a former Clinton adviser who has since done everything in his power to dog his former boss, was commenting on the newest Herman Cain sexual harassment revelation involving Sharon Bialek, who used to work for the National Restaurant Association’s education foundation when Cain was there.
She now claims Cain, the head of the NRA at the time and presumably in a position of power over many other women, put his hand under her skirt and also pushed her head towards his genitals. She didn’t report him at the time of the event, which she alleges happened more than a decade ago, but has now come out to tell her story during the Cain firestorm.
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Morris isn’t buying any of her claims, which is his prerogative, but he joined the sleaze parade when he made this comment about Bialek: “I look forward to her spread in Playboy.”
I’m sure he does, and I’m also sure that this type of lecherous behavior, and the acceptance of it by men, and often women, is what keeps it coming.
Sexual harassment is a serious problem for many women and even men who have to endure it. It can undermine employees, lead to dismissal or demotions, create a hostile work environment, favoritism, and it can cause emotional distress.
I’m not talking about a guy who asks a gal on a date at work, or someone who has a sexy photo on their desk or computer. The behavior must rise above that, and calling everything sexual harassment undermines the severity of real harassment.
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination and it’s illegal.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“The law is the law, and no employee — regardless of their gender — should have to endure sexual harassment at work,” said Christine Nazer, a spokeswoman for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency that enforces this law. “Sexual harassment can occur in any work environment, from the fields to the factory floor to the boardroom. While most harassment of women is characterized by explicit sexual touching and remarks, harassment based on sex can also take the form of hostility toward the presence of women in the workplace.”
But the case of Cain and the four women who’ve accused him of sexual harassment shines light on what may be the biggest hurdle in derailing this behavior, alleged victims who take hush money instead of exposing harassers and those who don’t come forward immediately when something happens.
I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to do for women or men, but the ramifications of such actions are clear. If you remember the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas affair, and you believe that Thomas did the disgusting things she accused him of, then you’re probably not happy that the guy is sitting on the highest court in the land deciding on cases that impact women, and men, and employment.
Sexual harassers just don’t go away, because, “sexual harassment is, and always has been, about power more than it is about sex,” says Kathleen Neville, author of “Internal Affairs: The Abuse of Power, Sexual Harassment, and Hypocrisy in the Workplace.”
People don’t take sexual harassment seriously folks, and that contributes to the problem and a general feeling that it’s OK to be immoral. And even teenagers have to endure this type of sleazy behavior sometimes. Maybe adults should help the young kids out by standing up to sleaze, not just looking for some payola for our troubles.
Yes, I do think monetary damages via the court system or government agency actions are often needed in these cases to get companies and managers following the rules, but that comes with a public airing of problems so everyone can know what’s going on.
But even that is no guarantee behaviors will change.
Many people thought it was a big fat joke that a big star like David Letterman was banging young interns at his studio.
Too often we treat women as objects, and I don’t mean just men. A female commentator on NPR yesterday kept calling Bialek “pretty” when describing her, and it got me wondering why we’d need to know that for this case. There is no justification for sexual harassment, not attractiveness, not short skirts, not makeup.
So, what should you do if you’re being harassed?
Here are some tips:
Confront it head on. From the moment women feel any sexual harassment, even if it’s slight, they should be firm and very clear with the harasser that that kind of behavior is unacceptable, said Gabriela Cora, author of “Alpha Female: Leader of a Pack of Bitches — Winning Strategies to Become an Outstanding Leader.”. If you don’t confront it right away, she adds, the harassment could just escalate.
So, the first time that off-colored joke is told at a meeting or at lunch, she continues, you should convey a message right away, even in front of other colleagues, that “you don’t like to play this way.”
Women and men, she adds, need to show right away that the behavior is unwanted, that they’ve done nothing to deserve it and that they really mean business. “They can’t be wishy washy.”
Broaden your network now. “I suggest that a woman manager should already have developed good, solid relationships within HR managers, be a big supporter of company policies and initiatives, and maintain good professional relationships with those who surround her boss and who he or she reports into,” Neville advises.
Pick your battles. Not every joke in the office or at the plant is meant to undermine a female leader’s authority. As a manager, you should be able to deal with some of the cracks the good old boys’ network — still is the upper echelon of corporate America — is used to, especially if they don’t really make you feel uncomfortable.
“What I’ve seen is women who tend to say they’ve never been harassed carry themselves with a sure and secure personality and can brush off unwanted advances,” she says.
Know when enough is enough. If the harassment just does not subside, be extremely professional about reporting it and document everything, Neville advises. Despite how it might impact your career, she notes, HR departments tend to think charges made by managers are more likely to have merit.
If we want this behavior to stop we actually have to help make it stop not stand on the sidelines like victims waiting for someone else to handle it.