Women, Sex and Work: Part II
We recently wrote a post about sexual harassment and the importance of line drawing. We are humbled by the courage of the women who have spoken, and we are thrilled that attitudes are hopefully changing. But not everything that makes women uncomfortable should result in the loss of a job.
So, although we are left-leaning Democrats, we were completely taken aback--and frankly pretty pissed off--that the women in Congress would use a “no tolerance” ax to achieve Al Franken’s resignation.
First, as we have seen so vividly in the last few months, the bad acts that constitute sexual harassment fall along a pretty wide spectrum. On one end are child molesting and rape, or acts that threaten either. These actions are criminal, and zero tolerance is indeed appropriate. On the other end of the spectrum are things Iike leering, and sexual innuendo, and misdirected flirting. These acts make people uncomfortable, and should have consequences, even severe ones depending on the circumstances. But they are not the same as rape. So what should be the punishment for an act that falls somewhere on the spectrum away from the rape end?
Which brings us to Al Franken and "enough is enough.” Some of our elected representatives apparently concluded that taking a “zero tolerance” stand regarding the utterly stupid behaviour of which Franken is accused--nasty, boorish and juvenile--was the only way they could differentiate themselves from the Republicans who are supporting the election of an accused child molestor, having already achieved the election of a confessed groper. For them, after all of the revelations of 2017, Franken’s behaviour was what broke the camel’s back. Really?
We have seen the invocation of “zero tolerance” before, and it never ends well where targeted behavior is nuanced. Using such a battering ram to force Franken to resign, depriving his constituents of their representative, especially while an ethics process was underway, seems a suspension of judgment and smacks of mob rule over due process.
We want sexual harassers to be called to account. But invoking “zero tolerance” to justify the ultimate punishment of any obnoxious act is wrong and dangerous, and will have negative consequences for women.