And now, a product that could only have come on the market in a society as hyper-litigious about sexual harassment as our own: electronic sexual harassment software to train employees in the do’s and don’t of proper office behavior. Why the demand for sexy software? Mainly to protect employers from liability in sexual harassment suits, which continue to exact considerable financial costs on American businesses. According to the New York Times, although the number of sexual harassment complaints filed with the E.E.O.C. has leveled off in recent years (and nearly half of those filed eventually are dismissed as unreasonable claims) the amount of money employers pay for harassment claims has almost doubled in the past five years, up to $54.6 million last year.
A New Bullying Threat?
While talking heads focus considerable attention on the supposed scourge of bullies in our nation’s schools, they evidently overlooked a new breed of boor thriving ’round the office watercooler: the female executive. No shrinking violets these — according to a story in the business section of last Friday’s New York Times, some of these women are so viperish that they have enrolled in a course called “Bully Broads” to learn how to mend their ways. “I was sent here two years ago because of my intolerance for incompetence,” one woman confessed. Another admitted to hollering at subordinates. The gals (sitting in an inclusive circle, of course) are coached to “hold your tongue, stammer and couch what you say. Don’t choke back tears if you start to cry at a meeting.” Cry at a meeting? If Bully Broads’ goal is to encourage emotional outbursts in the workplace, then we would do better to heed the heretical musings of one unreconstructed Bully Broad graduate, who told the Times that she likes the fact that women executives speak their minds — even if they don’t do it nicely. “Do I feel bad that I yelled?” she said. “Well, yeah. But, hell, maybe we can’t be reformed after all.”
Girls in the Gym
In addition to their weight-lifting, perhaps a bit of assertiveness training is in order for some female members of Congress. Last week the Washington Post reported the whinings of Republicans Anne Northrup and Judy Biggert, as well as Democrats Loretta Sanchez and Anna Eshoo, all of whom claim they lack equal access to the House gym and are occasionally subjected to frightening glimpses of their male colleagues in the men’s locker room. To add insult to injury, the women have to walk down “a public corridor” in their exercise clothes since there is no women’s locker room directly attached to the gym. Of course, women representatives should have equal access to the facilities (and Democrat Carolyn Maloney finds her fellow femmes complaints unjustified, having never had trouble herself). But more importantly — can’t they fix these problems without mewling about them to the Post?
To all those hand-wringing commentators worried about the supposedly dwindling amount of time parents are spending with their children: a new study by two researchers at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan reveals that, contrary to popular perceptions, children are spending more time with mom and dad than they used to — ten hours more per week than they did in 1981, in fact.
Signs of the Times
Hoping to learn something new about globalization, I thumbed through the women’s studies journal Signs — whose summer issue is devoted to the theme of “globalization and gender.” Alas, readers can put away their passports; they will find no penetrating insights into the quandaries of globalization. Instead, they can scan articles about “viable multicultural feminist practice” and assess arguments about the way globalization shapes “gay and lesbian sexualities” through “international tourism.” The issue also identifies a favorite villain — capitalism — which, the lead editorial argues, “depend[s] on sexism in order to be global.”
Ms.-takes in Academia
And a magazine that never fails to disappoint — if one is looking for a dose of victim politics, that is — the August/September issue of Ms. offers up “the latest course on college rosters: Backlash 101.” As reported (and the term should be used loosely) by Ms. contributor Gretchen Sidhu, college campuses nationwide evidently are plagued by “a persistent backlash against feminist scholars,” who are being denied tenure and subjected to other uncorroborated indignities. Sidhu highlights the case of Carolyn Byerly, who pronounced herself “stunned” after she failed to gain tenure at Ithaca College in New York. “I had been a feminist leader in politics for many years, and I wanted to bring my activism into my academic life,” the baffled Byerly said. Evidently she succeeded: student evaluations of Byerly consistently complained of her overly-activist agenda in the classroom. A representative from the National Women’s Studies Association concurs, arguing that academia today “is not a merit parkway — it’s more like a big male gang grope.” At a time when a majority of college graduates are women; when political correctness has a vise-like grip on college campuses nationwide; when nearly every campus has a Women’s Center, women’s studies courses, and an annual production of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” claims of a backlash are more than a little bizarre — as is the comment of a representative of the American Association of University Women’s Legal Advocacy Fund, who says that “the day hasn’t come where one is safe being an outspoken feminist on campus.”