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Are Some Women Just Too Delicate For the Workplace?

Ladies, your employer is not responsible for making sure your commute is free from evil construction workers who whistle at you. HR.BLR is using Holly Kearl's, book Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women, to argue for employers to be the big protector of their female employees. An HR.BLR review of her book states:

Public transportation vehicles (buses, trains, and subway cars), platforms, and stations are prime places for street harassment to take place, especially because of the scheduled nature of encounters between women and harassers. Being harassed on the way to work, or even walking from a station or parking lot to the building, creates stress and anger in women that can affect the quality of their work.

Targets of street harassment may take to wearing running shoes, hats, and sunglasses. Harassed employees may go far out of their way in commuting, take different buses or trains, or walk different routes, to avoid harassers. They may refuse to work overtime. Kearl says that some employees have even quit their jobs because they could not tolerate the trips to and from the workplace.

BLR then asks what employers should do and suggests training, changing work hours, and arranging car pools. Oh cry me a river. If you are so delicate that you can't handle riding public transportation, then it's certainly not your employer's problem. I'm all for flexible schedules, but the schedules should only be as flexible as the business needs them to be. If you have a problem getting to work, take it up with the bus authority or call the police to report a problem. If there is a construction worker who whistles at you and you can't ignore it as most women do, call up the construction company. Unless the construction is being done by or for your company, it is not the problem of the employer.

I'm not saying that there aren't scary things out there in the streets. I'm saying if women can't figure out solutions to their own problems, then maybe they are just too delicate. HR is not responsible for life training.

Ms. Kearl's book isn't the only example of this type of "delicate" behavior as of late. Caitlin Flanagan argued in the Wall Street Journal that Fraternities should be closed for "young women's good." Why? Because one woman was gang raped, some fraternity pledges at Yale shouted sexist statements and Ms. Flanagan herself was frightened by the fraternity buildings. I'm not joking. She writes:

My fourth night at school, I went with some friends to Rugby Road, where the fraternity houses are located. They are built of the same Jeffersonian architecture as the rest of the campus. At once august and moldering, they seemed sinister, to stand for male power at its most malevolent and institutionally condoned. I remember standing there thinking I'd made a terrible mistake. It wasn't worth it, I decided. The next day I withdrew from the university.
Yes, she was frightened by the appearance of male power. Seriously, if you're too frightened by buildings you probably should stay home. Yes, bad things have happened and will happen in the future in fraternities. Bad things have happened in grocery stores, movie theaters and churches as well. We need to stop confusing the location with bad people.

I work in a field that is largely female, but I can hold my own in conversation and negotiation with men (and women) who have real power, not just architecturally. You know, those corporate executive types with high six figure salaries. If I couldn't, I wouldn't have been successful.

Law Professor Ann Althouse posed this question regarding the Yale frat pledges:

Why don't women use their immense power of being able to laugh at men? Give them the finger? Wasn't the idea of the chant to humiliate the pledges by making them say things that would make them look bad to women? Why don't women claim the power they have instead of running to Daddy (i.e., the government)?

The Yale complaint is a pathetic step backward for feminism. It is not empowerment.

Women have to stop looking to those in power (the government or the employer) to "empower" them. You don't gain power by having other people grant it to you. You earn it. You stand up for yourself. You solve problems yourself. You seek solutions. If you can't or won't do that, perhaps you should stay out of the big scary world.

Now, I'm prepared for the comments that say, "Oh, you don't understand! Life is really scary." I know life is scary. For heaven's sake, I used to live on Long Island, where construction workers have raised crudity to an art form. I had an apartment that we nicknamed "The Crack House" because we were pretty sure that was what was going on in the neighboring apartments. I've asked coworkers to walk me to my car late at night because it was scary out. I've gotten off public transportation at a stop other than my own because a fellow rider was making me uncomfortable. I'm not saying that there aren't dangers out there. I'm not saying that women don't need to be careful. I am saying that we need to be responsible for ourselves, not dependent on others.

Yes, employers are responsible for providing a safe, harassment free environment at work, not for the world at large. If they want to organize car pools, that's great, just the same as on site day care is great. A nice perk, but not required of businesses.

Some women (definitely not all) act as if the world owes them safety and protection. I say, wouldn't that be great? I would love to live in a world where I never had to worry about who was walking behind me, or lock my doors. But, if it's anyone who needs to worry, it's men. They are the victims of violence far more often than women are.

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Photo by OhDarling, Flickr cc 2.0
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