There must be a gap in their focus now that the ACLU has decided that some constitutional rights are no longer to their liking, such as free speech when it involves people who should stay in Skokie. To fill that gap, they’ve come up with a new civil right, even if it can’t be found anywhere in your pocket Constitution.
If the recent wave of sexual harassment and sexual assault revelations has taught us anything, it’s that we have not done enough to end sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
The choice of the word “revelations” is a curious one. Accusations might be more accurate, but then there would be some difficulty connecting it to the second half of the sentence, where truth is assumed and something, therefore, must be done.
The fact that #MeToo has taken off as a viral hashtag is a stark reminder that gender-based violence and harassment persist despite years of public attention and law reform. This is true even in the workplace, where there is a body of decisions from cases brought over the last 30 years. It’s clear that we need to refocus our public dialogue and use of the law on how to actually stop gender-based violence and harassment, both in and out of the workplace.
We need a conversation, a discussion, now a dialogue. Somebody sure likes to talk a lot.
To that end, we need more meaningful measures of accountability, which include civil rights remedies that shift the focus from punishing the offender to providing redress for the victim while holding the offender accountable.
While the sentence, as a whole, is gibberish (so “punishing the offender” is completely different from “holding the offender accountable”?), notice the insertion of the words “civil rights remedies” into the mix? So assault may be an assault, and rape may be rape, but that’s not enough punishment, oops, holding the offender accountable.
But the ACLU isn’t so much into punitive measures, as palliative.
As commentators such as Judith Levine, who has written several books about sex and gender, Masha Gessen of the New Yorker, and Rebecca Traister of New York Magazine have pointed out, punitive approaches that rush to judgment and sanctioning those accused of sexual misconduct risk over-policing women’s virtue and casting women as victims who lack agency. These approaches also advance policies that prioritize incarceration over personal responsibility, while doing little to dismantle power disparities that leave marginalized groups vulnerable. Responses that reflexively pronounce success when those accused of abuse are fired or punished may compromise due process safeguards we all should value, particularly in these times when rights are under threat on multiple fronts.
So if you don’t want guys fired or imprisoned for being literally awful, what do you want?
Restorative justice — practices that provide opportunities for the victim to communicate to the offender the impact of the offense in a safe setting and to jointly come up with ways the offender can take responsibility — are being explored and hold promise for alternative approaches. These could include an apology, training, or engagement in community service and dialog.
So “holding an offender accountable” should mean he has to listen to a woman talk about her feelings? The Eighth Amendment no longer matters either? And on what basis does the ACLU propose to police the individual conduct of men who fail to share women’s sensibilities?
On the legal front, we need to fix loopholes in existing civil rights laws so that they more effectively compensate those harmed by sexual harassment and gender violence as well as do a better job of deterring it. Civil rights remedies, such as federal and state anti-discrimination laws, can be used against those who commit acts of gender-based violence and harassment.
These aren’t loopholes. The Constitution protects the rights of the people from the government, not people who don’t behave the way they want them to.
Most civil rights laws prohibit gender-based violence and harassment at work, in housing, and by state actors. In the workplace, they often only hold employers or managers accountable and may not reach the individuals who actually committed the abuse. There is no federal civil rights law that provides a remedy for gender-based violence or harassment committed by a private individual — which is the most common form.
This is the sort of absurdly misguided rhetoric one expects to find at Everyday Feminism, not the ACLU. The reason there are no laws dictating, upon pain of punishment, how individuals engage with each other is that there is no “civil right” for women to demand that men act the way women want them to, and for the government to enforce their desires through force of law.
Don’t be fooled by the words, “gender-based violence or harassment.” We already have criminal laws prohibiting violence, and they apply to everybody, women included. As for the devoutly vague word “harassment,” it’s becoming one of the most dangerous words around, as used without any cognizable meaning to reflect any behavior, any speech, that a woman doesn’t like.
The fact that there are some who would resort to this lunacy isn’t at all surprising. There are plenty of people, women included, who have shed any pretense of reason in this atmosphere of mob rule, where any sister’s feelings is good enough to do harm. But this isn’t some nutty, kooky third-wave radfem website calling for a federal civil rights law to enforce female feelings. This is the ACLU.
It’s almost as if they don’t care about the civil rights of men, but that might be an overstatement. Men are totally fine, provided they abide the wishes of every woman. Or else they will be sentenced to a dialogue about how they hurt their feelings. According to the ACLU, this should be the law.