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Sexual harassment a cry for help or a money making scheme

Zaccarello 1

"Sexual harassment is not about sex, it is about

power." -Gretchen Morgenson

An unwanted sexual advance, an offensive touch,

and suggestive comments illustrate examples of sexual

harassment. Sexual harassment is defined by Stephanie

Riger as, "unwanted sexually oriented behavior in a work

context." However, sexual harassment does not only

appear in an occupational environment, and this form of

harassment is not limited to a specific race, a specific

gender, or any certain lifestyle. Today, throughout the

United States, men and women are filing sexual

harassment lawsuits as if sexual harassment were no

great matter. A line needs to be drawn to distinguish

what is and is not sexual harassment, but since sexual

harassment is so subjective, a simple line becomes

harder to draw. Some people want punishment for hostile

environment harassment, but what constitutes a hostile

environment? According to Morgenson a hostile

environment includes "hazing, joking, and sexually

suggestive talk between men and women who work alongside

them." Lately, it seems that Americans are making sexual

harassment an excuse. People are crying sexual

harassment like the little boy who cried wolf.

Sexual harassment has become such an issue due

to the large number of cases presented. When Anita

Hill, law professor at the University of Oklahoma,

brought allegations of sexual

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harassment against Supreme Court Justice Clarence

Thomas, the whole world started listening. This case

was "the most celebrated sexual harassment case of our

time," according to Martha Chamallas, and "Hill's

revelations prompted women to tell about their own

encounters with sexually harassing behavior-both in

private and in public." This case gave women a reason

to report sexual harassment, and sexual harassment would

no longer be overlooked. Women would no longer have to

"flatter" their bosses, as Erica Jong had to.

Consequently, since Anita Hill came out and

voiced her opinion, it seems that the issue of sexual

harassment has become a security blanket for men and

women, and filing lawsuits of sexual harassment have

created a new money making scheme. In 1996 my place of

employment received two allegations of sexual

harassment. In the case I testified in court that I

never saw any event of sexual harassment that the lady

in question described. The jury threw out her sexual

allegations against our employer, and she was sentenced

for embezzlement. In this case, sexual harassment was

her security blanket against her employer. When she

heard that she was being charged with embezzlement, she

decided that she might be able to plea bargain if she

proved that sexual harassment took place.

When allegations of sexual harassment hit home,

it has become clear to me that something needs to be

done. Employers need to safeguard themselves by

understanding the definition of sexual harassment.

Employers need to know their employees and be

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aware of their employees' values. Knowing that sexual

harassment is an issue of power and not sex, women need

to prove to men that they are not submissive objects.

Jong states "just as men can use sexuality for power,

women can use anti-sexuality for political power," and I

agree with her. The issue that women should be lobbying

for is equality. If women cannot stand up to their

bosses and show them that they too are powerful, then

women will never achieve equality.

Similar to my story, in the Supreme Court case

of Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, Sidney Taylor was

accused of sexual harassment by a former employee,

Michelle Vinson. Michelle testified that in order to

advance in her occupation she had to have sex with her

supervisor. Undoubtedly, she did have sexual relations

with her supervisor, but she never refused his advances,

according to her affidavit. In Taylor's testimony, he

told the court that he never made advances or even had

sexual relations with her. Furthermore, Taylor

testified that Vinson's accusations were the result of

an earlier dispute over business. The court found that

even if a sexual relationship had taken place, that

Michelle acted willingly, and that this relationship had

nothing to do with her employment to the bank. This is

another example of how the issue of sexual harassment

has become grounds for a lawsuit and a money making


Not only are women making money out of sexual

harassment cases, but "peddlers of sex harassment advice

have, of course, their own money making agenda,"

according to Morgenson. "There

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are a lot of bad consultants taking advantage of the

fact that sexual harassment is in vogue." In fact, the

government has granted aid to certain agencies whose job

is to try and combat sexual harassment. The irony is

that in Morgenson's view, sexual harassment is

decreasing, while the number of sexual harassment

consultants has increased. Jennifer Coplon, a

consultant, believes that the number of consultants has

increased because sexual harassment is overall

employment issues, the biggest concern among

cooperations. If women would not use sexual harassment

as a cry for help, then maybe cooperations would not

have to pay consultants to educate businesses.

Prevention is the hardest phase of sexual

harassment because it is almost impossible to understand

what one considers harassment. Morgenson described it

best when she pointed out that "Behavior that one woman

may consider harassment could be seen by another as a

non-threatening gag." Riger suggests that policy makers

and employers need to "think like a woman" in order to

define sexual harassment. By understanding what might

be offensive and suggestive to a woman, employers can

safeguard themselves against law suits. Since feminists

have forced the court to believe that sexual harassment

is a form of sexual discrimination, then equal

opportunities for employment need to be implemented.

Also, prevention can be accomplished by installing

organizational mechanisms, such as hierarchies. If more

women were in higher levels of authority, then cries of

sexual harassment will be reduced. The key to

prevention is

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education, and as long as the employer knows his

employees, then the chance of sexual harassment is


Even though there are almost too many cases of

sexual harassment reported, one cannot afford to

overlook one case as a false allegation. At the

University of Oklahoma, an international student who

made accusations of sexual harassment was recently

expelled from school. Since the University failed to

act upon her allegations, she decided to take the matter

into her own hands, which ended her education at the

University of Oklahoma. It will never be known whether

or not that her allegations were true.

Sexual harassment is an issue that cannot be

overlooked. With proper knowledge and education,

prevention is necessary. Maybe, punishment for wrong

allegations should be drafted into legislation. I agree

with Erica Jong when she suggested that "sexual hot-

button issues like harassment serve to distract us from

focusing, for instance, on the fact that women continue

to be underpaid." Until something is done to prevent

sexual harassment, women and men will use sexual

harassment as their security blankets and money making

schemes. I want to emphasize to women that sexual

harassment is not a money making game, and by crying

sexual harassment out loud, women lose their power. As

Jong demonstrates, "If we take our power and use it as

badly as men have used theirs throughout the centuries,

we will not have brought about the world of equality we


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