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Those Oversensitive, Lying Women

Ever since I suggested that event organizers adopt anti-harassment policies for their events, I’ve been seeing two sorts of deeply concerned comments on the idea. (Well, three really, but the complaint that I suggested a policy put together by feminists just makes me laugh.) The first is captured in this comment:

One can try to set some more solid standards but you immediately hit the issue that some people will consider it simply normal behaviour and some people will consider it out of place and harassment. This is why it’s generally better to place the standard on the “reasonable person” standard, which says that it is if a reasonable person under those circumstances ought to know that it will be unacceptable. “Wanna fuck?” might hit that in most cases, while “Go for coffee” might not.

The problem is that by that standard you will indeed, and MUST, have incidents be examined on the basis of whether or not it was obvious to a reasonable person. This can feel like victim-blaming, but not everything that a “victim” thinks is a problem reasonably is. If someone, for example, cried harassment because someone coming up behind them said “Excuse me” to get them to move aside, surely we’d all agree that that wouldn’t be reasonable. And groping and sexual insults are obvious to the reasonable person. It’s the things in-between where we’re seeing most of the problems, it seems to me.

You see, we have this huge problem that might make us hem and haw and hesitate in putting policies in place because what if–what if?!–two people had a different definition of harassment on that all so perfectly reasonable border cases! Whatever would we do?!!?

Oh, I don’t know, look at the proposed policy maybe? What kind of horrible events would result in this case?

A participant may be expelled by the decision of any of the above listed entities for whatever reasons they deem sufficient. However, here are some general guidelines for when a participant should be expelled:

  • A [first/second/third/seventeenth] offense resulting in a warning from staff
  • Continuing to harass after any “No” or “Stop” instruction
  • A pattern of harassing behavior, with or without warnings
  • A single serious offense (e.g., punching or groping someone)
  • A single obviously intentional offense (e.g., taking up-skirt photos)
  • [Your guideline here]

Huh. Looks to me like someone who did one thing that simply made one person uncomfortable enough to make a report would probably have a chat with staff. A solution that made the event comfortable for both parties might even be suggested. The tragedy. Darn those unreasonable feminists.

This is not a controversy. It is not a problem of anti-harassment policies like the ones proposed.

Then there are the comments that are mostly coming from people I already had in moderation.

Out of pure interest, is anyone going to EVER address any point about what you’ll do to guard against false accusations?

 Ah, yes. Ye olde false accusations.

You know, I’m always amused by the worry about false accusations–assuming that it really is worry and not a simple matter of poisoning the well. Given that the particular IP address that came from is most likely being used by someone who had substantiated accusations of harassment against him, I do have to wonder, of course.

Why does it amuse me? Because the guys who get the tiniest taste of what women dea with all the time end up being such whiny babies about it. Afraid you won’t be believed when it comes to harassment? Join the club.

Women live with that fear day in and day out, and for us, it’s a much more realistic fear than it is for any guy looking at the simple implementation of a harassment policy. It doesn’t matter for us that there are witnesses, not even multiple, well-respected witnesses. We still won’t be believed. We’ll face questions over whether the incident happened at all. If that can’t be questioned, we’ll have the details doubted or our interpretations of someone’s behavior or even whether, as with the first question presented here, we have any right to decide that we don’t like what’s being done to us. For those of you who’ve been paying attention in the skeptic or atheist blogosphere in the last year, you’ve seen all that happen.

This kind of questioning doesn’t just come from random strangers on the internet either. A friend was recently at a conference where her tattoo was considered consent enough for random people to touch her. When she objected, her friends, who were part of the crowd, told her that of course she didn’t really mind–because the name she uses online can be interpreted as flirty. Her friends, the people who were supposed to be on her side, told her this while strangers were poking at her.

So when some guy comes along and gets all panicky about the idea that they might not have every word of theirs treated as gospel, I have nothing to tell them except that this is what equality looks like. Guys lie about harassment all the time. Not all of them, but enough that we have the problem and have to deal with it. So maybe if these terribly, terribly concerned people spent their time getting other guys to stop lying, they wouldn’t have to worry about someone lying about them.

It would be a lot more productive than whining about these policies.

Comments

  1. says

    Yeah, the whole “but what if people don’t believe me?” aspect to the anti-policy crowd is just… galling. Isn’t that the whole point of this discussion? That probably 90% of women who are legitimately harassed don’t ever see any kind of justice? That the very rare folks that make false claims probably aren’t taken seriously anyway?

    Seriously, turnabout is fair play.

  2. says

    @Withinthismind:

    You would have ruined my night, except that I’ve read probably 150 comments on that “Miss Manners” nonsense, and so far the comments are universally objecting that that dehumanizing advice. Clearly the readership of EFFING MISS MANNERS is more progressive than the commentariat of most blogs we run across. There’s something a little sad about that, but I’m going to try to stay positive and drink a whole lot more beer without screaming at anyone.(I have a rather advanced drinking “conundrum”…)

  3. says

    I’m thinking most of those who are so concerned about “false” accusations to grumble and moan about it for days on end, pretty much creating their own self-contained atmosphere of accusations, are not exactly the best people to trust on advice or leadership for an event.

    The only people who have anything to fear from anti-harassment policies are those who are clearly not trustworthy. So the question is: what behaviors are making them so untrustworthy? Might they try doing something about that first before issuing endless complaints and stonewalling every discussion they can find on the issue?

  4. says

    Well, I’d say that others could have something to fear from an anti-harassment policy. Any policy can be abused. I hardly think, however, that they have anything like as much to fear as people in traditionally victimized classes do without a policy.

  5. says

    Well, I’d say that others could have something to fear from an anti-harassment policy. Any policy can be abused. I hardly think, however, that they have anything like as much to fear as people in traditionally victimized classes do without a policy.

    My only fear of an anti-harassment policy is that the people it is aimed at are likely to flood it with false allegations in order to crash the system, since the misogynistic trolls are more than willing to burn down the world rather than share it with other people.

  6. cyranothe2nd says

    You know, I study rape, and have taught 4 classes around rape/rape culture. Something that always comes up is false reports and how such an accusation can ruin a man’s life. However, stats show that only around 2-4% of rape accusations are proven false, the same percentage of false reporting as with any other crime.

    Will some people lie about harassment? Yes, maybe. Will it be a widespread problem? Prior reporting and investigation point to ‘no.’ As with rape, the “false report” worry seems to be more a red herring/attempt to maintain the status quo.

  7. gwen says

    I had a man who was sexually harassing me (my you look good in those pants..I can see how shapely you are etc), tell me, when I confronted him, that it was NOT sexual harassment unless HE thought it was. I told him NO! If I felt uncomfortable, it was harassment. I told him that I was giving him a warning in front of witnesses, and if he EVER spoke to me about any subject except work, I would report him and he would be fired. His co-worker (they worked in a different department) told him, “she is right, you will be fired if she ever reports what you just said to her”. End of problem. I worked in a zero tolerance sexual harassment company.

  8. Momo Elektra says

    @Withinthismind #1:

    “Remember, girls, if you don’t accept that you are property that can be claimed by any male who comes along, you are rude.”

    Recently a man I know said that when a woman refuses to have sex with him she hurts his dignity.

    Hurts his ego, ok. Hurts his feelings, ok. But dignity? That makes saying no to sex, for a woman at least, a questionable action, but of course that is what he wanted to say.

    (But prepare for outrage when you explain that to him)

  9. Emptyell says

    To say that we shouldn’t have anti harassment policies because some guy may be unfairly accused is like saying we shouldn’t have laws because innocent people could be wrongly arrested. Yes it might be lovely to live in a libertarian/socialist utopia where everyone is free to do as they please and it pleases everyone most to support and care for their fellow humans. In the meantime (ie forever) we need reasonable rules of behavior.

  10. Bjarte Foshaug says

    …some people will consider it simply normal behaviour and some people will consider it out of place and harassment.

    This is getting pathetic. It really isn’t that difficult to avoid inadvertently harassing another person. If you’re a heterosexual man, a good place to start is to ask yourself if you would behave a certain way towards another man. If the answer is no, you are not entitled to think it’s ok to behave that way towards a woman. If in doubt, it is generally better to err on the side of safety. I suspect that what a lot of these concern trolls really worry about is that protecting women from harassment will interfere with their attempts to get every woman they happen to find attractive in bed without bothering to get to know her first.

    Re. “normal behavior” that “some people will consider […] out of place”, I once had a very uncomfortable experience while living abroad. A middle-aged Russian man halted me on the street under the pretence of asking me for the time. He then started following me, talking as if we were now the best of friends and ignoring my (not very) subtle attempts to indicate that I only wanted to be left alone. During our whole encounter I was under the distinct impression that he was trying to get me away from the crowd, and I was not eager to find out why. After several attempts to lead me into a deserted back alley on some bogus excuse, he invited me to his home to show me, not exactly his etchings, but his Buddha statues! I finally had to tell him in the bluntest possible terms that I most definitely was not interested before turning my back and walking away.

    At no point during our encounter did he say or do anything that could not be defended by some as “normal behavior”, and I most certainly would not be able to make a case that would stand up in a court of law. But the truth of the matter is that I felt immediately threatened, and I have never once regretted passing up on the opportunity to confirm whether or not the Buddha statues were real. Even if that guy honestly just wanted to show me his Buddha statues, he had no right to expect me to assume that that’s all he wanted as long as his behavior was indistinguishable from that of a predator seeking to rape and kill me, and the same goes for anyone who corners a woman in an elevator at four in the morning, even if he honestly just wants to have a cup of coffee with her. As is so often the case, I think Sam Harris gets it just right:

    You should also learn to trust your feelings of apprehension about other people—revising them only slowly and with good reason. This may seem like a very depressing piece of advice. It is. Most of us don’t want to see the world this way, and we take great pains to avoid being rude or appearing racist, suspicious, etc. But violent predators invariably play upon this commitment to civility. The truth is that most of us are very good at detecting ulterior motives and malevolence in others. We must learn to trust these intuitions. To read the reports of rapes, murders, kidnappings and other violent crimes is to continually discover how easily good people can be manipulated by bad ones.

    You are under no obligation, for instance, to give a stranger who has rung your doorbell, or decided to stand unusually close to you on the street, the benefit of the doubt. If a man who makes you uncomfortable steps onto an elevator with you, step off. If a man approaches you while you are sitting in your car and something about him doesn’t seem right, you don’t need to roll down your window and have a conversation. Victims of crime often sense that something is wrong in the first moments of encountering their attackers but feel too socially inhibited to create the necessary distance and escape.

  11. carlie says

    I wonder if the people who are so upset and worried about false accusations apply the same standard of evidence to the existence of false accusations as they do to the claims of harassment.

    That is, if they completely discount personal anecdotes and summary statistics of overall rates, and require detailed analyses of exactly what kinds of false accusations occur, who makes them, what exactly happened to the accused and accuser in every case, and what the overall effects on group dynamics are.

    Somehow I don’t think they do.

  12. says

    Why are they so scared? Frankly, I think there’s a rather simple answer that everyone is pretending not to see.

    Remember the meet the predators study? Around 5-10% of men admit to being actual rapists, as long as the language used is sufficiently weaselly. I see no reason not to very roughly generalise that to men in the skeptic movement. And I see no reason why these 5% of men would not be posting whiny misogynist complaints about any proposals to interfere with their predatory tactics.

  13. julian says

    Remember the meet the predators study? Around 5-10% of men admit to being actual rapists, as long as the language used is sufficiently weaselly.

    Yeah that’s where my mind keeps jumping. Honestly, there is no reason to be so freaked about false accusations when the highest estimates put them at 10% and never any higher than other victim reported crimes. So why make such a fuss?

    I can think of one reason.

  14. chrisj says

    Alethea Dundee:

    I don’t think it’s a question of “pretending not to see”; I think it’s a question of “innocent until proven guilty”. A lot of people would rather think a particular person was stupid/misguided than evil (on the basis of a one-off written offence) – and while it seems likely that the two groups (self-admitted rapists and protestors about false claims) have a large overlap, at the least, asserting that any given person who talks about false claims must be a rapist is clearly problematic unless you have proof. Because they might just be someone terribly naive who believes what they’re told by the people society says are more important (that is, the rapists).

    To rephrase (since I’m not sure that was very clear):
    While it’s probably fair to say that most of the people asserting that “men need protecting from false claims” fall into the group you suggest, we feel bad about accusing the innocent few with the guilty many. They, on the other hand, are quite happy to accuse the innocent many with the guilty few.

  15. Riptide says

    I think an important response to the “reasonable person” standard, which Stephanie perhaps thought too obvious, is to attempt to define precisely what exactly a “reasonable person” is. Because from where I’m sitting, most people think a “reasonable person” is synonymous with a white middle-class man. In which case, an anti-harassment policy simply becomes another tool of oppression along those axes, which is something of the opposite of its intent.

  16. says

    Good point, Riptide. That plays right into the differences between having an anti-harassment policy or system, and actually implementing it in a fair, effective, and inclusive way.

  17. says

    Most of these policies say something like “at the discretion of the event coordinators.” That seems reasonable…unless DJ Grothe is involved.

  18. says

    chrisj, after all this time, the innocent few really ought to be furiously back-pedalling away out of that company.

    I’m not naming names. I’m not accusing anyone specifically. I’m not even suggesting that all of the verbal abusers are real-life abusers. I AM suggesting two things:

    1. That the population of internet verbal abusers and sexism deniers strongly overlaps with that of real-life abusers. Instead of the base 5% rapists, it may be 30% of them, or 60%. Membership of this group looks to me like a VERY strong indicator to stay the hell away from that person. The odds are way worse than for random strangers.

    2. That it’s disingenuous to ask “but why, oh why, do they oppose these perfectly reasonable measures?” as if it were some bizarrely mystifying puzzle. Women are harassed all the time, women are frequently raped. We have no problem with saying this when it’s phrased in the passive voice. But raped by whom? Elves? Mystery men with no internet access?

  19. Greg says

    rolleyes. Ever the insistence on trying to tilt the trough in your own direction at every opportunity. The false allegations and other concerns are legitimate, and yet you try to minimize them clearly beyond reason. Didn’t even finish reading this post.

  20. says

    Greg, I addressed the first concern with evidence. That’s not minimizing it. I put false accusations on the same plane as denying harassment, which I clearly take seriously. How is that minimizing? Or didn’t you get that far before you decided you knew what I was saying without bothering to read it?

  21. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    It really isn’t that difficult to avoid inadvertently harassing another person. If you’re a heterosexual man, a good place to start is to ask yourself if you would behave a certain way towards another man. If the answer is no, you are not entitled to think it’s ok to behave that way towards a woman.

    Good starting point indeed. I’ve never known a heterosexual guy who routinely grabs other guy’s asses, comments on their protruberant body parts and comments on how hot they are …

  22. says

    False accusations are really just a form of harassment, when you think about it. If me standing up saying “X is a sexual harasser” is untrue, I am making the conference hostile towards that person. Seems the same applies.

    Anyway, Stephanie is right. Yes, false accusations happen, and they can be very devastating to the falsely accused. But real sexual assault is statistically more likely by a massive magnitude, and you want to talk about devastation? It seems foolish in every single way to object to a policy because of the false accusation thought. There is nothing stopping a single person now from standing up, pointing to person X, and accusing them of sexual harassment. Absolutely nothing. It is, actually, easier.

    The other thing that really bothers me about this is how protected some men are by society. That privilege word again, eh? How…entrenched men are to being immune to their action. Let’s be 100% honest here – this harassment policy protects everyone. Just because the current discussion is about women being harassed by men does not mean the inverse doesn’t happen. Everyone regardless of gender, sex, and sexuality should have a reporting process that takes every claim seriously.

    Overall, these policies are in place by pretty much every workplace I’ve ever seen. Sexual harassment guidelines are common-place in the working world, and they just make sense to have from a legal standpoint.

  23. scenario says

    Why should the possibility of a false accusation mean we shouldn’t have any rules? This logic rules out any laws.

    False accusations are rare. Under the rules listed above most accused would get a warning, the first time. If you’re innocent keep out of her way and they’ll leave you alone. It sucks if you’re innocent but no system is perfect.

    Someone accusing a complete stranger of harassment is a sign of a poorly socialized or unwell mind, same as someone who makes a pass at a complete stranger and refuses to take no for an answer. I’d expect either of these people to repeat their behavior over and over again. If one woman complains that 5 different men have harassed her in 5 different incidents in a short period of time, it raises a red flag, same as if 5 women who don’t know each other complain about the same man.

  24. scenario says

    Bad proofreading on the last paragraph. Should read, someone falsely accusing a total stranger. I left out the word falsely.

  25. says

    I think there’s an overlap between the “reasonable person” crowd and the “afraid of false harassment” crowd and they are people who honestly think that if person A says they were harassed and person B is not aware of their wrongdoing that this is a false accusation.
    It’s not.
    If I say “I’m feeling harassed by your behaviour” there’s clearly only one person who can judge that and that’s me.
    Now you can say that it was not your intention and just go away. After all, the goal is to make you stop the behaviour that makes me feel harassed. You might be seriously shocked at my accusation because you didn’t expect me to react like that, you didn’t think you were doing anything wrong.
    It’s your opportunity to learn.
    Don’t be a crybaby. Don’t whine about those evil feminazis who want to ban sex. Acknowledge what has just happened, acknowledge that you might not have thought about how this might feel for a strange person who doesn’t know you. Or that you possibly just met somebody who has issues and who should be better left alone.

    Here’s the thing:
    If 5 people complain about you, you can be sure that the problem is you.
    If the other person complains about 5 other people, there’s a good chance the problem is that person.

  26. says

    Pretty sure that the false report issue is less about people incorrectly assessing their own harassing nature, so much as people clouding the issue with talk of “vindictive bitches” lying about the good and innocent menz.

  27. says

    Jason
    I agree.
    But I have my charitable moment and assume that there are at least some people who genuinly confuse those things because they’ve genuinly never thought about this, who have no clue about how commonplace harassment is and who can only put themsleves into the shoes of the “falsly accused”.
    And I suppose that they might easily be taken in by the “lying prude feminazis” crowd.

  28. says

    The most generous reading of the “false report” issue being pushed out of proportion to its actual prevalence is that some people fundamentally distrust women when they are saying something negative about men. That’s the best and nicest reading, and it plummets into a deep hole of sexism and misogyny from there.

  29. Deepak Shetty says

    Its curious – many organizations make their employees go through a sexual harassment course – I’ve never come across males who raise objections of the form “What if I’m falsely accused?” or “What if I actually mean lets go for coffee , instead of sex”.

    It looks like these objections are only made on the internet.

  30. scenario says

    I don’t necessarily agree that if a person says its harassment it is harassment. However, if someone asks you to stop doing something that is in your power to stop doing and your response is screw her I’m doing it anyway, it can quickly become harassment.

    I once asked a women that I worked with and had never spoken to before where she bought her earrings. I told her they were pretty and I’d like to buy a pair for my wife. She said I was harassing her. I apologized and never talked to her again. I never thought this was a typical harassment case. This was an obvious outlier on the curve. When I talked to the people near her, every one said she was crazy. I kind of felt sorry for her because if she was really harassed no one would believe her because she had accused half the men and a quarter of the women in the building of harassment already.

    The vast majority of the cases are clear cut, either they’re harassment or they’re not. The rare borderline cases can frequently be fixed with an apology. One unfair ejection every 10 years or so doesn’t justify allowing thousands of harassment
    cases to be ignored.

  31. says

    scenario
    Thank you for making my point. I’m not being sarcastic, I think your story illustrates perfectly what I was talking about.
    You think that you were subject to a false harassment accusation.
    Let’s look at it a bit in detail.
    You asked a woman you’ve never talked to before a pretty intimate question.
    You might be wondering why your question is intimate.
    Look at three possible (and likely, except perhaps the last) answers:
    -they were a present from my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend.
    -I inherited them from my grandma
    -I bought them at Tiffany’s
    Each one of those answers gives you some very intimate information about that woman, information, if asked for directly would clearly be way out of line.
    But societal conventions and privilege have it that once you’ve asked this question that sneakily crosses several borders, she’s between a rock and a hard place:
    -She can answer your question and thereby give you information that she doesn’t want to share with you and doesn’t want you to know. But that’s the response she’s been trained to give. Being polite to you is much more important than her boundaries.
    -She can tell you to fuck off because it’s none of your business. This will immediately earn her the title of “bitch”.
    -She can tell you you’re harassing her, earning the label “crazy”.

    Can you see how she loses in each and every version of this story?

  32. says

    Giliell, I’m having a very difficult time understanding how asking where someone got their earrings is an “intimate” question. I can’t see how simply asking someone where they were acquired an interesting adornment rises to the level of harassment.

    …asked this question that sneakily crosses several borders…

    I’m even more at a loss how this statement is even remotely true. I can see how commenting on a woman’s blouse could be a sneak comment on her breasts, or commenting on her pants, but her earrings? Really? People of all genders are approached all the time with questions about where they acquired an interesting item. It’s called making small-talk. There may be some underlying story to the earrings that make it uncomfortable for her to talk about, but calling scenario‘s question about where they were acquired sexual harassment seems incredibly off-base.

    All that being said, I am a cis, hetero, white male, so I may very well be overlooking something. If so, please educate me. And that wasn’t meant snarkily. I’m well aware that I can be wrong on things.

  33. eric says

    Holy cow, have any of these objectors ever heard of testing? The conference organization (CO) implements the policy at the next conference, with only the lowest-level responses by COs, like a verbal discussion with those involved. The COs collect data on what happens – number of incidents, severity of accusations, responses to their questions by the accused, etc. The COs then fine tune their response guidelines based on the amount and content of typical reports they receive, and go to full implementation at the next conference.

    Nobody is hurt by potential ‘false accusations’ because no severe penalties are used in the trial run. And the COs get some practical data of what rules will work in the future based on what would’ve worked on the trial. A test period also serves to give people even more notice that the rules are changing, which IMO is a good thing because for some people, the fliers and click-I-agree-requirements on a web registration isn’t going to be enough – they’re going to have to see the changes before they’ll believe them.

    The point is, if the current system isn’t working, try a low regret solution. Refine as you go. Ms. Zvan and the others are trying to do that. I am not sure what alternate solution their objectors are proposing. Use a different template? Do nothing? Do nothing until a perfect solution can be dreamed up? I hate to accuse anyone of implying the latter, but that seems to me to be what’s going on – making good the enemy of perfect.

    ****

    I am also surprised about Giliell’s response. So I hope, Giliell, you will respond to cyberlizard. Or maybe someone who agrees with Giliell can add to his/her explanation.

  34. says

    FTR, I completely agree 100% w/Stephanie et al. I know I haven’t commented much so I didn’t want anyone to think I was trying to derail or make excuses by my comment questioning Giliell’s comment. :-)

  35. scenario says

    @32 Giliell

    Is any comment of any kind between a man and a woman harassment? Any question of any kind can be upsetting in the wrong circumstances.

    If she didn’t want to answer she could say I don’t remember or I got them as a gift, she could have ignored the question or said I’m busy. No need for any details. If I insisted on an answer, then it could be considered harassment.

    My concept of harassment is someone says or does something that’s clearly out of line or pushes an issue when someone clearly says stop. Similar to the rules listed above.

    A [first/second/third/seventeenth] offense resulting in a warning from staff
    Continuing to harass after any “No” or “Stop” instruction
    A pattern of harassing behavior, with or without warnings
    A single serious offense (e.g., punching or groping someone)
    A single obviously intentional offense (e.g., taking up-skirt photos)

    I realize that sometimes what is said isn’t the whole story. How its said is also important. A guy stares at a woman’s breasts and then says “I like that … shirt” could easily be considered inappropriate.

    Inappropriate is the first step towards harassment. Repeated inappropriate is harassment.

  36. says

    Cyber Lizard

    I can’t see how simply asking someone where they were acquired an interesting adornment rises to the level of harassment.

    Stop, you’re missing one crucial detail:
    This was the very first social interaction between those people.
    The very first thing scenario said to that woman was to inquire about her earrings (and many people consider their jewlery to be a pretty intimate thing).
    I’ve stated my reasons why this question as the very first social interaction puts her between a rock and a hard place.

    I’m even more at a loss how this statement is even remotely true.

    I did not say it was scenario’s intent, but intent isn’t magic. Obviously neither he nor you thought about this any further.
    You don’t have to agree with me, but I hope it explains my position.

    scenario

    Is any comment of any kind between a man and a woman harassment? Any question of any kind can be upsetting in the wrong circumstances.

    Exactly. That’s why I think the fact that this was the first interacion with you is important.
    Clearly, you know more about that situation than me.
    If the first thing somebody at work ever said to me was something about my looks/clothes/jewlery I would consider that extremely out of line. Does not matter if it’s positive or negative. And especially if it were coming from a man.
    This is probably hard for you to understand. You live in a somewhat different world. I live in a world where my appearance is under scruitiny whenever leave the house, where anybody feels entitled to comment on all aspects of my appearance, to judge me by that.
    It’s also a world where people feel entitled to my time and my information about myself.
    That’s why for you such a question as the first interactio ever may be completely innocent, yet for me it wouldn’t be and would probably create a hostile work environment.
    Obviously I can’t look into the head of that woman either, so I’ll just try to explain possibilities to you.
    If she felt like I would, how could she have communicated this to you without paying a price?

  37. scenario says

    @38 Giliell

    I can see where your coming from. It depends on the circumstance. Non verbal clues are important. How the question was asked is important. If this was her first day, I could see it. If the two people had never met before, I could see it. If it was in an elevator late at night in a foreign country, it would be really creepy. It could be taken as harassment in some instances but in general, I would consider this a pretty innocuous question.

    In this case we worked together. We said good morning to each other regularly and had other minor interactions but never talked before. How the question is asked is important. As I recall, I said something like “I’m trying to buy my wife a birthday present and I noticed your earrings. They’re very pretty. I think she would like a pair just like them. Do you mind if I ask you where you bought them?”

    I’ve seen women in a store who appear to be strangers ask these type of questions to each other all the time when I shop with my wife.

    One of the points I was making is that there were close to 400 people working there and she accused over a hundred people of harassment (not all of the cases were formal complaints.) No other person filed more than one or two complaints. As a male, I might not have noticed harassment but with 200 women there, I doubt that she would be the only one harassed. In the very rare case of a false accusation of harassment, I’d expect this to be a common pattern. Multiple complaints over very minor incidents. I’d expect the problem to be very rare and in many cases easy to identify. Using something as rare as this as an excuse to have no policy against harassment is stupid.

    The point of the thread was that people are worried that overly sensitive women would cause trouble. This is the only case I’ve ever seen where I thought a woman was seriously overly sensitive. Most of the time women put up with bullshit that they shouldn’t have to because they’re afraid of looking like a bitch.

  38. says

    Thanks for clarifying this further, scenario.
    From your first posts I really thought this was the first time you had ever spoken to her.
    Well, what can I say? You don’t know what somebody’s triggers are. I don’t know that woman and cannot say why she behaved that way. But just as food for thought, I’ll say that there are people who had incredibly horribly things happen to them, who are broken, and who were left without adequate support (or for that matter, anybody to believe them in the first place).
    Think of a dog who’ll bite you for trying to pet it because all it ever knew from human hands was pain.

  39. Pteryxx says

    Thanks, scenario and Giliell. I’d add, it’s also entirely possible for someone to just be a jerk, even a woman. Since this was one individual out of 400 in the company, though, it’s not common enough to be a go-to assumption; and it would be less harmful in the long run to just let this annoying individual go on happily complaining in the established pattern than to restrict or remove protections from everyone else.

  40. scenario says

    @40 Giliell

    I know what you mean. If I try to put every detail in every post I end up with 10 pages but its easy to leave out important details.

    My rule of thumb to harassment is how likely am I to insult someone when I don’t mean to.

    I figure people can be very upset, mildly upset, neutral, mildly pleased or very pleased in any interaction.

    My guess on what a woman’s reaction would be if I told her that earring were pretty (assuming that my body language etc, wasn’t saying something different) would fall primarily in the neutral to mildly pleased with a few in the mildly upset and a lesser number in the very insulted or very pleased category.

    On the other hand if someone grabbed a stranger inappropriately the reaction would almost certainly be in the very upset group.

    Even something as simple as saying good morning could be very upsetting to a few people. (They were the victim of a horrible crime and the criminal only said Good Morning over and over again.)

    Social interactions that are inherently very skewed towards the very upset side of the line are clearly harassment. Interactions which are mixed are not harassment until the offended party lets the offender know that they are offended and then the offender repeats the behavior.

    One thing that FTB has taught me is that there are a lot of things that have traditionally been considered as neutral that really are on the offensive part of the line to many people.

    People aren’t mind readers and stopping all social interactions that might offend somebody, somewhere would stop all social interactions. But that doesn’t mean there should be no rules.

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