humiliation of officemate

Una Smith una at
Wed Feb 2 11:17:50 EST 1994

Tonya Frederic <frederic at> wrote:

>This letter is in response to Una Smith's attack.


I would characterise it as a justified response, entirely in keeping
with your own behavior in this forum.

>1)  Just to show you how little you know about either one of us...

I know only what you have written in this forum.  If something you
wrote was incorrect or misleading, then I appreciate your taking the
time to correct my understanding of what you meant.

>...I felt I didn't need to be particularly worried about looking for
>a certain program among his files. ... You must not have read either
>of my letters very carefully since you seem to think I went looking
>for 'evidence' AFTER stumbling upon the pornography he was displaying.   

I did not accuse you of LOOKING for evidence, I accused you (rightly)
of trying to USE, in this forum, the fact that Mike now protects his
files, as evidence that he has something to hide.

>  To imply that this person may have protected his directories in ignorance 
>  is ludicrous.  He is sort of the group expert when it comes to computer use.

Your previous articles left this unclear, in light of which, I merely
suggested, for the benefit of other readers (and you), various reasons
why Mike may have protected his files, that have nothing to do with his
looking at pornographic images.

>2)  I think writing the letter to this anonymous newsgroup and not revealing
>  the person's identity was one of the least humiliating things I could have
>  done.  I did not even make the issue known to the rest of the research
>  group.  If he wants to uphold some sort of reputation, then he should be
>  more careful about what he does in public.

In what way is this newsgroup "anonymous"?

I can think of quite a few less humiliating actions you could have taken,
and other posters have already suggested some of them.  Discussing it
with others in the research group would have been appropriate.  Instead,
you have defamed Mike in a large public forum.  Who are you to damage his
reputation in this way?

>3)  I don't think I had to politely request he not display such pictures.
>  ... Besides that, he had slandered another member of the group 
>  and even gone so far as to call that person PK ('porno king') behind 
>  his back.  I'll respect officemates who deserve it. 

And you called Mike a "hypocrite" in a public forum, where persumably he 
might read what you have written.  Does that make your deed better than
his?  No, you did not have to ask politely.  You could have done it rudely.
But you didn't give him a chance to correct the problem before you went
"public" with his sins in this public forum.

>4)  Call me vindictive, but I was thinking more of my humiliation than his.

That was obvious from you initial article.  Several posters did caution
you not to respond in a vindictive fashion.  You appear to have taken the
parts of the replies that you liked as being in "support" of your cause,
and ignored the rest.

>  I don't ... consider [display of pornography] in the workplace a minor
>  problem, as do you.

Compared to many other problems of concern to women, it is a minor problem.
But speak for yourself, please. 

It is rude, in a shared office setting, to do anything likely to offend
or upset the other people present.  That the offensive act was looking at
pornography seems irrelevant.

>  I don't wish to be made to feel like a sex object at any time, and
>  especially not in my office where I expect respect for myself and my
>  gender. 

Well, it seems to me the women in the pictures were the sex objects, not
you.  If looking at women in erotic images makes you feel like a sex
object, then I think you have a problem, in that you see yourself in them.
Mike showed disrespect for you, his officemate, by being so rude as to
look at the pictures there, but he didn't objectify you.  Or is there
something else he did to you that you aren't telling?

>  While Una Smith may think it's always better to ask nicely when someone
>  hurts or offends you, I am not against fighting back on occasion. 

Again, speak for yourself, please.  As I said before, and as a number of
other posters said, in this case you should probably have asked Mike to
stop looking at the pictures in the office.  You didn't "fight back",
you lashed out to hurt someone who may not have even been aware that he
had hurt you in any way.

>5)  My use of this newgroup as a forum was not entirely selfish. ...
>  ... this sort of thing is occurring at other universities. ...
>  I was especially angry about the whole episode because I don't
>  see it as simply a 'personal conflict'.

Oh please!  Spare me the rationales.  Your reasons appear to me to have
been almost exclusively selfish;  that pornographic graphics have been
found offensive elsewhere only supports your position against Mike.  You
have done nothing to further the discussion of what an *appropriate*
response might be, except perhaps by illustrating an *inappropriate* one.

It seems to me that most personal conflicts involve fairly universal
differences of opinion.  Just because men elsewhere have done what
Mike did in your office, and women elsewhere have objected, certainly
does NOT entitle you to suject Mike to your personal revenge, and then
imply that you did it on behalf of all women.

FYI, I was at a university (not Yale) where some students used erotic
images as backgrounds on workstations in a public cluster, and along
with others, male and female, I objected.  I also objected to the use
of images that were in violation of copyright (Maurice Sendak's drawings
were popular).  I did NOT try to humiliate the students involved in a
worldwide public forum, nor did I try to solicit statements in support
of my opinion from a public forum, in order to bludgeon the students.

But your situation isn't equivalent, in that your shared office is a
semi-private place, and there are other conventions for dealing with
conflicts among officemates.  Yours is a conflict among officemates
which, without attempting to resolve it in a customary manner, you
have tried to inflate into a crime against all women.  I am not about
to "lie back" and let you use me in this manner.

	Una Smith			smith-una at

Department of Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT  06520-8104  USA

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