So, what would be an example of someone creating a hostile environment in the workplace or educational setting?
An example of “frequent, non-trivial acts of a sexual nature” might be, oh, say repeatedly raping your lab assistant nearly 80 times. The rapist in this case was R. Igor Gamow, “a prominent inventor and chemical engineer who was fired by the [University of Colorado] in 2004 for ‘moral turpitude.’ ” The multiple rapes took place between 1995 and 1998. (See The Chronicle of Higher Education daily news, May 5, 2006.)
Or, as Kay Weber alleges in Weber v. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, having jock straps and condoms placed in your mailbox and having derogatory sexual comments including your name written on a public blackboard. Among other things.
Now, astute longtime Zuskateers will recall that when I first reported on Mr. Gamow’s crimes against his lab assistant (she had to submit to his rape or lose her job – and in fact she was fired, later rehired, during pursuit of her case against Mr. Slimow) I also referred to a report that had just been released around the same time, the Extraordinary Women Engineers report. My comment on the report:
I agree that there is a problem of perception. I just don’t agree that the [report] completely describes the problem. Or even a major portion of the problem.
A major, big, huge, hulking portion of the problem is the men who think that engineering is their profession. And who think that women are sexual objects. Not all of them are as virulent as our Colorado Chem E rapist above. But many men still think of women as some sort of walking, talking window dressing – something that pretties up an otherwise drab engineering lecture hall, or adds a little spice to the electronics lab. You know, like the cheesecake calendar on the wall of your office/lab, only without the boob jobs and wearing more clothes.
If there were even one-tenth the amount of talk about how to change the caustic culture of manly men and their sexism as there is about how to enlighten those clueless women as to the wonders that a life in engineering can bring, then I might agree that we were on track with outlining the perception problem.
And as I described in my post on the most recent AWIS Washington Wire, there is yet another report saying it’s the career-life balance problem keeping the women out of science.
I would like to quit reporting on any more fucking reports about what is wrong with the women that they don’t go into these fabulous science and engineering careers – we need better marketing, it’s a perception problem, it’s a career-life balance problem, it’s the two-body problem problem, it’s the biological clock problem. It’s NOT the women, dammit. It’s the goddam harassers and rapists. All the other stuff is stuff that has to be dealt with in any profession. But in how many professions do you still have to deal with jock straps and condoms in your mail box? Or being raped as a condition of your employment? I want to see some reports about what the men are going to do to clean up their dismal behavior and make the workplace a little less hostile.
Save your fingers and don’t bother typing your comments about how these must be extraordinary cases and it isn’t like that everywhere. It’s like that everywhere. You just aren’t hearing about it. Most of it never gets reported and what does, barely makes it into the news. How many of you know about the prominent California scientist convicted of sexually abusing a young girl for five years? Doesn’t ring a bell? What about the U. Penn Wharton economist arrested with DVD’s of himself having sex with young boys? Stay tuned. Meanwhile go pour yourself a nice big glass of Absinthe. If you haven’t had any Absinthe lately, you definitely aren’t qualified to tell me how it is everywhere.