Sunday, September 9, 2007

"Nice Shoes" is not sexual harassment

When people think of the topic of sexual harassment, they usually think in extremes, because "extremes" are newsworthy. We hear about workers who suffered prolonged humiliation, loss of dignity, and sabotaged careers under the oppression of a manager with carnal motives. On the flip side, we've heard of the frivolous lawsuits because an individual felt that "Your Shoes Look Nice" was some sort of secret code for "Let's go back to my place and play naked twister".

Lets be honest, try as we might, guys have a different view on sexual harassment. The odds are extremely low that it will ever happen to us. In fact, in the movie "Disclosure" where Demi Moore is throwing herself at a married Michael Douglas, and he stops her in mid-foreplay. Every guy is like "DUDE, NOOOOO!!!!". Yeah, most guys are really like that.

With my computer programmer physique, I have never been a candidate as a potential sexual harassment victim. However, one of my female associates shared her experience with me. Ill be honest, I didn't think this kind of stuff went on anymore. After she shared her story, I realized that my experience with mandatory "sensitivity training" had actually desensitized me to how powerful and destructive sexual harassment can be.

"During my tenure with a mid-sized professional services firm, I used to be given 'advice' from the CEO's secretary on what to wear to certain meetings. Depending on the location, purpose, and the number of existing or potential clients, some meetings required a little more exposed skin than others. One of my female colleagues, who used to travel with the big bosses, was asked to join the CEO, President, and a prospective client in a hot tub in her bikini. When I asked about what transpired beyond the hot tub and champagne the only feedback I received was "we landed the deal". Later I accompanied the CEO on a business trip to South Beach. Even though I was married, with a small child, the CEO kept flirting with me and repeatedly requested that I show him my underwear. I felt so disgusted that it permanently affected how I felt about the company, my job, and myself.

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