Skip to main content

Equality works both ways

I don't know if it's because of the Jimmy Savile case, but I've heard several pieces on the radio recently about sexual harassment at work. (I know what Savile is alleged to have done is far worse than harassment, but it seems to have triggered the discussion.) I think it's important we recognize that sexual harassment exists and needs dealing with, and also that it exists in both directions.

I had to deal with three cases that could be classed as sexual harassment when I was a manager. One was by a male - a very simple one. This was in the early days of being able to display a photo on a Windows background and an employee had chosen a picture of a topless woman. It was inappropriate, caused offence and he was asked to remove it. The other two incidents were by females. One was a classic case - standing too close, inappropriate touching and suggestions - and was dealt with firmly. The other was more subtle. The offender was either very knowing or naive. Early on I had to suggest to her that a body stocking with a jacket over the top was not appropriate workwear. And later I had to point out that it wasn't ideal for her to speak to a male colleague while sitting on her desk, wearing a skirt, with her legs wide open pointing in his direction.

The reason I bring this up is that I think we do tend to treat harassment of men by women differently from the other way round. We are rightly shocked and offended when a man harasses a woman, but if a woman harasses a man it tends to be laughed off. 'What kind of a man is he?' I heard commented when someone once complained.

An extreme example of this asymmetry came up in an interview with a film star that was on the TV the other day. It turned out said (male) star lost his virginity age 15 to a woman in her forties. The response of the audience and the interviewer was not shock (for the victim) and disgust (for the predator) but rather big smiles, nudge-nudge, wink-wink - who's a lucky boy, then? Yet this is an exact parallel of the sort of thing Savile is being accused of (if on a smaller scale).

I don't think we will take any kind of sexual harassment and predation seriously enough - from the small scale comments to assault - until there is no sexual discrimination in the way such behaviour is treated. Perhaps this attitude has changed now. It's a while since I worked in an office. But I suspect it hasn't.


Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope