Angela Lansbury: Sexual harassment and rape is a woman's fault when she's too attractive

Can you name even one man, ever, who was fired simply for looking at women?

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When we had our last sexual harassment prevention seminar at work, it was specifically told to the men in the audience that they could not not harass women. When asked what we (men) could do to avoid the appearance of harassment, we were told to avoid any casual interaction with women. To quote her “If you greet a woman who does not wish to be greeted she may feel harassed. If you fail to greet a woman who wishes to be greeted, she may feel harassed. If she feels harassed, she has been harassed. Your actions and intentions have no bearing on the situation. You should maintain a formal, strictly professional attitude at all times and never interact in a casual fashion.”

This is not about being fired. Believe it or not, there are still men out there (or out here) who very much want to not cause women to feel uncomfortable. In an era where “social norms” aren’t, I do feel that intent should count for something.

This isn’t a thread about men being judged for looking at women. It’s a thread about Lansbury’s highly insensitive claim that women who dress too attractively share the blame for their own harassment and assault.

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Which is why I said I would only very slightly defend her, as there is no “she was too pretty” defense for rape, harassment or assault.

So, stick to work, easy enough, right?

This is a really stupid way of wording a basic premise. Women are humans with faces and body language and voices. Look at them and gauge their reactions in the same way you would men.

If you’re in a meeting and you consistently say hello to all the men, but not the two women, you’re excluding them. If you insist on wresting a hello from someone who is clearly ignoring you, by avoiding eye contact, turning away or who is just busy, you’re not respecting their wish to not interact with you.

It doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly. It means that you shoudn’t be trying to score a date or commenting on someone’s legs. Basically the same way you would interact with a male co-worker. Pretty basic.

I want to share this article written by a man about workplace harassment. Maybe share it if you’re sincere about your desire to not make women uncomfortable.

"Because the powers that be in these industries tend to look the other way or downplay the severity of the actions of creeps and predators, women share names amongst themselves: who’s safe, who’s ok unless they’ve been drinking, who they should never be alone in a room with.

Men, on the other hand, had a different reaction. Many men worried about “witch hunts”. Others posited a world where men might get hit with lawsuits for winking. From commenting on the unfairness of anonymous accusations without the ability to defend themselves to just being afraid of ending up on the list through innocent mistakes, many men seemed to take issue with the existence of the list itself.

The issue isn’t about people misunderstanding innocent flirtations or good guys getting caught up by oversensitive women. It’s about a culture of predation and harassment that’s endemic in multiple industries. However, there are lots of men – good, well-intentioned men – who are worried about tripping over the line. And there are others who worry that they themselves may end up on a similar list or having their name bandied about simply because they’re shy or awkward.

And so for them, I want to talk about what it means to not be The Creep at work, at the conference or in class

Whenever the topic of shitty and predatory behavior from men comes up, there are inevitably people who will chime in with “I avoid this by never interacting with women… ever.” Sometimes it’s sarcastic and other times it’s extremely serious. In fact, in some circles this is held up as “The Pence Rule” – after Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to be alone with any woman who isn’t his wife.

First of all, when guys say this about flirting with or socializing with women, they’re saying “I’m aware that I don’t know how to find the line and I can’t be bothered to learn.” Which, let’s be real, isn’t a good look on you, my dude.

But the other issue is how this puts the blame on harassment and assault squarely on women. Because hey… men are fuckin’ animals amirite? It’s part and parcel of the same toxic masculinity tropes that says men are barely more than chimpanzees. In this outlook, men’s sexual self-control held in check by only the thinnest of margins. If a man and a woman are alone together for any reason then sex will inevitably come up. If sex comes up, then it’s a matter of time until the monster’s loose. And since men can’t control themselves, it’s on women to make sure that they’re never in a position to tempt a good man into slipping his leash.

You would do far better to be the mentor or sponsor to women at your job than to avoid them entirely. Being the advocate and ally at work is one of the best ways to support your female coworkers. All avoiding contact does is ensure the massive power differential between professional men and women never changes. That, in turn, helps empower the men who live to exploit that power differential.

Trying to, say, insist that creepiness has to be intentional just puts the onus on the victim. It’s telling someone that they need to justify their right to feel a certain way. If they can’t “prove” intent, then really they shouldn’t be complaining being creeped out.

But while it may be well-intentioned, this belief does far more harm than good. It becomes yet another cudgel used to silence people complaining about bad behavior, especially behavior that straddles the line of plausible ambiguity. Sure he fucked up but are you sure it was intentional? Are you absolutely sure that you’re not overreacting?

Does the fact that the touchy-feely “you need a massage!” guy doesn’t grok boundaries make your skin crawl less?
Here’s the thing: awkwardly brushing up against someone’s boundaries can be disturbing… but most awkward people live in fear of doing just that. Once they realize they’ve made a mistake, they feel awful. They almost always want to make it better, and dread making it worse by doing so. Awkward people want to learn and do better.

Creepers, on the other hand don’t care. They’ll deflect blame and duck responsibility. They’re the first to argue that maybe those boundaries shouldn’t be there. It’s not their fault. Really can’t you take a joke? Can’t you tell he’s not serious? It’s just ironic, man. Stop being so uptight.

If you want to be a good man, then you want to make a clear distinction between your professional self and your personal self. If you’re there to work, then you are there to work. Even if there is a flirty vibe and you’re sure they’re into you, it can wait until after the job is done. And even then, you’ll want to make absolutely damn sure that it’s there and that this is a good time to act on it. Your boner isn’t a mandate. Not every attraction needs to be pursued. You can let opportunities pass. It’s better to wait for ones that are less potentially problematic than to leap on the wrong one.

It doesn’t mean you have to be a robot. It doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly. But it does mean that you’re not there to flirt, get a date or otherwise pursue things that don’t relate immediately to work. One of the more obnoxious things you can do is to agree to a meet-up and then try to upgrade it into something more personal.

You don’t make any suggestive comments. You don’t offer to “be a little bad” by getting in an extra drink or two. No lingering casual touches. No turning the topic to sexual or romantic matters. If you’re at a professional or platonic get-together and feel like there’s a connection, wait until after it’s over and then ask “Hey, now that we’re done, would you like go out and get a drink with me?” You will draw a firm and visible line so that people know exactly where they stand with you and what they can expect from you.

It’s understandable that men may feel anxious as more and more women are standing up and pushing back against creepy and predatory behavior in society. But being a good man isn’t that hard. There isn’t an Inquisition looking to root out male sexuality. There is no “witch hunt”. Not being a creeper is very easy if you pay attention. Understanding why women get creeped out isn’t that hard. Keep things clear and aboveboard and you’ll be fine.

Part of being someone trustworthy and safe at work – whether you’re a playboy or not – is listening to women. Be the person who’s willing to hear them out and believe them. Be their support and their advocate. In an ocean of creeps and predators, be the guy who treats them with respect and as equals. That’s going to be far more important in the long run than worrying about someone overreacting to innocent flirting.

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So what are you saying it is a defense for?

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The problem with that is that each person has their own boundaries. So while you might be okay with one thing, the fact that another person isn’t doesn’t make them wrong for calling you out in a workplace that has to be comfortable for everyone who is there.

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You do not know me and you are wrong to question my authenticity. This is exactly what I am talking about in those who cannot hear a different viewpoint without going postal (or condescending in this case.) We need to get to a place where we can treat each other as humans first. If I am required to treat female colleagues differently from male colleagues on the basis of their plumbing, we have a problem. It is not a normal human interaction to be formal, cold and professional at all times with people that you are around more than your family. If I am to avoid casual interactions with females, it follows that I must also avoid casual interactions with men. Before you ask, I have never been accused or questioned about harassment, to the best of my knowledge, I have never harassed anyone. I know some who have, and they were known to be creeps and were called out by others (including men) in my workplace. While “witch hunt” is the wrong term, conflating a Weinstein rapist/harasser with the guy who smiles a little to broadly is a path to lost credibility. You seem to think I am defending creeps and lechers. I am not. I choose to treat males and female colleagues the same. I think we should all strive to do so.

Treating women the same as men is exactly what we are asking for, except in cases where dirty jokes and sexual talk are seen as casual social bonding or where hazing is normalized. In those cases work should get a little more formal for everyone. Those environments are also uncomfortable for many men.

Avoiding women is sexist and creates a hostile work place. This is not what is advocated by anyone serious about equality. If anyone is telling you that in harassment training be then they are wrong and are not expressing typical accepted views on harassment.

Treating women differently is not the current push so your arguments are being treated as straw men. You seem to be projecting your views of what these people have supposedly told you on to people here saying something very different.

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Can you point out where I’ve done that?

I’ve not condescended or gone postal. My response to what I believed were sincere questions was polite.

You on the other hand, are really butthurt about something. Much of what you’ve written tells me that either you didn’t read my post, or you have an axe to grind. Maybe both.

My entire post implored you to treat women in the same way as men.

I never said it was.

Good thing I never did that!

Nope, never thought or said that.

If you believe that collegues should be treated the same regardless of sex, if you’ve never been a harasser, you should be cool with this policy. If you are more afraid of being mistaken for a harasser than you are on board with stopping actual harassment, then maybe marinate on that for a minute and find out why.

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I dunno, I was rather surprised by it because of the quality. South Africa sort of seems it would cater more to gritty and utilitarian to me. I’d expected this to be more top hatty English, “By her majesty’s command” and was surprised when I click on the “about me”.

It is old school craftsmanship with the custom metal work you can get done on the cane handles. I saw one that had the Zelda symbol (on Link’s shield).

And what if the woman is in a position (say, due to the job they do), which does not allow that? Or what if they don’t want to? Are we supposed to suffer just so we don’t get raped, harassed, or cat called? Again, this is going back to it being all our fault for just fucking existing, as if WE’RE the cause of a misogynistic culture! You know better than that.

It’s also blatant sexist discrimination to ask us to wear what someone else deem appropriate for self-defense in a world that doesn’t respect us.

No one argued that women shouldn’t wear such things, or carry guns, or take martial arts, or whatever. But MEN have the choice to do those things or not. We have much less of a choice, in your scenario, because we are more likely to have to deal with these problems.

And we’re not talking about the attacker jumping out from behind the bushes scenario, but about going about our daily lives, and getting harassed, propositioned, held back in our jobs, being held to different standards, and sometimes even assaulted by men that we work with, not some surprise attacker that we can just fight off. If we do all the things that you suggest, and then punch a dude at work for making a pass, a rude comment, or for not giving us a promotion, because we won’t fuck him, do you honestly think that punching the dudes lights out with the judo we took is going to not cause us to be arrested for assault?

You know I like and respect you, man, but I don’t think you’re thinking this all the way through. Yes, part of the problem is the rapist in the bushes scenario… but sexual harassment in the work place ain’t that. It’s the part of the problem that is much less hard to deal with and negotiate, because it often comes down to he said-she said, and that often means we don’t get believed.

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Check this one out, then… I had my students read the 3rd chapter (about Rosa Parks) and they really dug it:

https://www.amazon.com/At-Dark-End-Street-Resistance/dp/0307389243

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Well, maybe there are some men that need to do that, and instead of arguing with women about it, you should maybe talk to men you know and get them to start treating women like people instead of warm holes to stick their dicks in.

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If you’d offered that comment in a thread on protective clothing, or practical workwear, or idiosyncratic fashion choices, you wouldn’t be drawing any flak.

But you didn’t; you said it in a discussion that is specifically focused on sexual assault and victim-blaming.

At best, it looks clueless. At worst, victim-blaming. In between, derailment.

Despite our political differences, I actually think that you’re a decent bloke. So, I’m going with option #1.

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This is so important. Also it’s prudent and I hope it meets with the approval of those here who don’t think women take enough initiative in protecting themselves.

For a long time I worked at a well-respected law firm that did plaintiff’s employment litigation, including sexual harassment actions (IANAL). Men in these threads (I’m pretty sure they are all men) keep crying for due process blah blah blah. There is a sadly erroneous idea that sexual harassment claims are easy for a woman to bring and win. This is just bunkum.

Why do women have to do this? Why do they have to operate a shadow intelligence service about males in their vicinity? Because in the past they haven’t had access to due process. Because women know if they used the hr resources supposedly there for their benefit, they could expect brutal bureaucratic retaliation up to and including firing and the smearing of their names in whatever field they work. They know they will generally not be believed. They know if they make it to the EEOC and the courts, they’ve just entered even lower levels of hell. Assuming a fighting woman wins, she finishes exhausted and hurt.

I hope there has been a turn.

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I will, thank you.
This sounds right up my alley.

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0_o

Um… it’s the internet, dude; no one “knows” anyone else, that’s exactly why a person should question the “authenticity” of any claim presented.

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Should I eschew my lifelong interest in fashion because some man will think it’s analogous to asking to be assaulted?
If our culture is approving of that, we should probably try to educate the men instead of trying to eliminate fashion.

If I’m going out into the woods, I wear my Docs with long heavy pants tucked into them, not a fluttering silk dress. But since it pleases me to wear fluttering silk dresses, I’ll wear them on the street. If someone likes the dress, or finds me attractive in it, I don’t mind a look, a smile, a civil comment; why shouldn’t I wear what pleases me, and be happy that other people might be pleased? It’s really unfortunate that I can’t wear what pleases me anywhere and any time, because it seems I’ll either be “asking for it” because I’m wearing something attractive, or being faulted because I’m not wearing body armor or a burka.

Men generally can wear whatever they please, with little blowback. Unless it’s a dress; then they get the kind of treatment women in a dress get. Double standards need to disappear, not fashion.

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