About five years ago, a mind-numbingly moronic “response” was written to one of my posts about questioning the untethering of the word “rape” from any cognizable definition with the simplistic admonition that if one didn’t want to be accused of rape, “don’t rape.”
It was written by a young lawyer. Not a bright one, but a lawyer. The subtext was quite surprising to me, as it was hard for me to fathom any lawyer being so vacuous as to not be capable of grasping that not doing something required that something to be objectively defined. I was so naive back then.
I suppose there were plenty of lawyers who shared this depth of intellectual incapacity, but they were pressured by norms of intelligence to keep it to themselves and not reveal to the world they were, well, dumb. For the sake of law students, remember that they all passed the bar exam, which conclusively proves anyone can pass the bar exam and it’s not worth stressing over. It’s not hard.
With this in mind, a survey came across my radar confirming, yet again, the obvious and natural offshoot of the #MeToo hysteria.
Our latest research shows that men—particularly those in senior roles—are pulling back from interacting with women at work, depriving them of the formal and informal mentorship that can aid in networking, securing new opportunities, and promotions. To learn more, we asked over 5,000 people about how their employer addresses sexual harassment and how safe they feel at work.
Last year, we partnered with LeanIn.Org to research worker’s comfort interacting with other genders in the workplace and create a benchmark for future change. This year, we replicated the study to see how attitudes might have evolved. The short answer? Men are more hesitant to work one-on-one with women than ever.
That partner piece is interesting, as it reflects the non sequitur that prances on rainbows:
Mentoring women is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also sound business sense. More women in power will create better employee policies, better business results and less sexual harassment.
Of course it’s the right thing to do, but that’s no more useful than “don’t rape,” and that it comes from Sheryl Sandberg protege and Survey Monkey CEO Zander Lurie, I suspect it’s nothing more than empty virtue signalling, because it’s hard to imagine he’s that shallow. Then again, I’m naive, so I could be wrong.
But this survey didn’t involve rape, but “harassment,” which has become the ubiquitous word to refer to conduct a male should not do to a female. The only problem is that nowhere in the post about the survey is the word defined. As an aside, when the judiciary was writing up its new rules to soothe the fevered brow of the unduly passionate former law clerks, I kept looking for a footnote providing the definition of “harassment,” and found none.
Note that I keep putting the word in scare quotes. The reason is that the word is scary. It’s scary because it’s a really bad thing that can do enormous damage. It’s scary because no one can state what the hell it is.
Does this limit or inhibit job growth for women? Of course it does. And of course it’s wrong. Whether it rises to the level of employment discrimination is another matter, as no one is entitled to “interaction outside of work” with colleagues, although if it happens, but only for male employees, it may very well be a Title VII violation. If you don’t want to violate Title VII, or risk a violation, then the choice is plain: don’t engage with anyone, male or female, outside of work. It’s a bad solution for a manager, that does nothing to help others, but it’s the safe answer.
Accepting the premise that mentoring others is a good and important thing, and it is, to refuse to do so is counterproductive, selfish and defensive. But it still fails to provide any guidance to men or limits to women. Not long ago, a federal judge informed counsel during oral argument not to use the word “hysterical” because it was sexist, as the judge just learned from his law clerk. Before that, I was admonished never to call a woman “unhinged” because it was oppressive. It’s not that women can’t be unhinged, but that you can’t say so.
Was this the bar for harassment? If we never use the word “hysterical” and never call an unhinged woman “unhinged,” then there will be no reason to fear that some entirely not unhinged woman will accuse a guy of harassment? Or is it what Ken White says, all about the ficus?
It’s like all of a sudden I’m expected just to KNOW, LIKE MAGIC, whether it’s okay to whack off into a ficus during a performance review. Feminists have destroyed the American workplace.
In fairness, I have made the decision not to let any of this alter my course of mentoring young lawyers without regard to sex. It’s not because of my ability to resist the allure of the ficus, but that I have no concerns about anyone dropping a #MeToo dime, as I have no one to answer to save myself. Or to be blunt, I’ve been accused of everything under the sun already, and just don’t give a damn. But then again, I pick the lawyers with whom I work carefully, as I’m disinterested in squandering my time on fools.
To the extent there is any meaning in the word “harassment,” it’s don’t do anything that makes a woman feel uncomfortable. it’s impossible for people who work in an organization, where fear of accusations of harassment drive career decisions from above, to be certain that their best efforts and best intentions will not, for reasons they may never quite know or understand, make some woman feel offended or unsafe.
If the bar involves ficus trees, then we need only rid the workplace of flora (assuming, in an over-abundance of caution, that any tree will do). But maybe Ken was being overly optimistic, just as I tend to be overly naive in my belief that lawyers aren’t quite as dumb as to believe saying “don’t harass” solves the problem.