Tuesday, May 06, 2008

gap studies

I've written previously about the gap between my scholarship on work/family conflict, and my own likely approach to handle that conflict: by outsourcing childcare and housecare, using institutional resources and strategic family planning (don't have one till you can afford the resources), and working within the system of rather than outright challenging it (although I probably will ask to stop the tenure clock if I have a baby pre-tenure, I will put in all those hours both at the office and at home/weekends). Yeah, way to dismantle the master's house using the master's tools, Belle.

But my other work is on sexual harassment law, and that's just as much of a gap in scholarship/experience, and just as uncomfortable. In reading these cases, I am utterly appalled by the type of behavior that goes on before it reaches the level of complaint, much less legal action. I'm horrified that courts reject claims in which women are physically assaulted and harassed as not being "severe or pervasive" enough. If the woman seems to be "capable enough" to handle the transgressions, she has no case. If the woman seemed "brazen," she invited the behavior. I really, really hate the lower courts sometimes. I don't blame the women, at all, and in fact I admire them for making formal complaints, initiating legal proceedings, and trying to keep their jobs. I often think that were I in the same position, I'd just quit my job. What a coward, I am, right? I know plenty of women who did, rather than put up a fight or go into protracted litigation of he said/she said. It's severely psychologically draining and devaluing, and I hate to admit it, but I am not that much of a fighter. I will fight better on others' behalf than I do for myself, and I just don't know why that is, other than that I grew up with a rather defeatist world view--but an attendant protectionist streak, so I'm a better defender of other's rights than I am in my own struggles.

The last time I encountered anything vaguely resembling sexual harassment, it was thankfully not at my own institution, and I was able to keep the advances at bay and "preserve" a professional relationship with a former mentor. It still felt like a cop-out though. But I was struck by how weak and anemic were my attempts to deal with the situation. At first, I couldn't believe that it was happening. Surely this was just off-color phrasing, right? It couldn't have that intention. He thinks of me as a daughter/colleague, surely. Then, as it progressed and escalated, I thought that maybe it was my fault, and maybe there has to be a way to preserve this professional relationship while still articulating boundaries of some sort. Finally, I gave up, and resolved to cease personal contact, and limit the professional contact to "only if necessary," and so far, it's not necessary. I do scholarship in this area, and while I know what to do (formally, as in who to talk to and what to document) if I am ever sexually harassed in my own institutions of work/learning, I have no idea how I'd respond emotionally. I'd probably have the same type of disbelief/devastation.

All depressing. I don't know what to do about it, or what more I can say about it, other than the double bind that exists for women professionals really, really sucks.


Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home