What is the correct response?
shawes at astro.ocis.temple.edu
Tue Apr 13 18:37:48 EST 1999
With regards to the query of how to respond to sexual innuendos in a talk I
think either walking out or commenting later to the speaker (if it is
difficult to do so in a larger group) would both be appropriate actions.
Last week I attended a Sexual Harrassment course, which is mandatory at my
University. I was initially pleased to see these courses provided within
the Department. However, I was disapointed by the content of the course
which primarily made clear that they were set up so that the University
would be able to defend sexual harrassment cases in the future. It seems
that the courts make decisions in favour of institutions that have such
infrastructure and courses in place. However, it was clear from information
provided by the convenor that the incidence of sexual harrassment cases had
not decreased since the courses had been established.
Although sexual innuendos and overt sexism was discussed with the context
of a "hostile environment" it was done so in a way not to isolate the men
in the group. Therefore, the female convenor set up role-play situations
with the male attendees. I of course don't condone any form of sexism at
work or misuse of power whether by men or women, but the reality is that
for most cases it is women who are being harrassed and whose future careers
jeapordised by such attitudes. The MIT study makes clear that even if women
make Senior Faculty positions they were still discriminated against.
Therefore, I think it is important for women to expose sexist behaviour,
whether it involves sexist jokes in a talk or the lab or comments about
one's physical attributes. I agree with Susan Forsburg's comments that most
people don't seem to see why it is offensive. But, she is right when she
said : "it is insidious and reduces interactions
with women colleagues from an intellectual to a sexual basis"
As the Sexual Harrassment courses at my University, obviously don't work,
what then is the solution?
Dr Susan Hawes,
Fels Institute for
Cancer Research & Molecular Biology,
Temple University Medical School,
3307 Nth Broad St,
E-mail: shawes at astro.temple.edu
telephone: 001 215 707 8458
fax: 001 215 707 1454
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