Another day, another instance of the universe strongly implying that women are responsible for the behavior and thoughts of men.
Employee education and training service Jhana Education (utilized by tech companies including Groupon, Google, Eventbrite, and Ask.com) included in its most recent issue of their weekly digest an article entitled “What if a male colleague gets the wrong idea?” While the article has since been taken down due to the inevitable and justified outrage of us angry, irrational womenfolk, you can still sneak a peek via Jezebel’s screencaps.
Now, the question itself has some merit. Sometimes male coworkers can get the wrong idea, and sometimes they can hit on you in the workplace and it’s super awkward and uncomfortable when it happens. So helpful tips for creating firm workplace boundaries and letting your male colleagues know that such advances are neither appropriate nor welcome would be useful.
But no. This employee education program chose to take a different approach. Instead of instructing female employees on all the many ways to put the kibosh on their male colleagues’ unwanted attention and just say “I’m not interested, Bob, so cut it out,” they decided that the best way to solve the problem is through the tried and true method of slut-shaming.
Because as we all know, telling those stupid ho-bags to cover up and quit flirting is the most direct way to change the actions and behavior of men. If only workplace skanks would stop leading good and decent men into temptation, distracting them from their work with their plunging necklines and hair-flipping, pencil-twirling, voice-lilting ways!
Take a gander at this choice quote from the article:
“In a perfect world, women would feel free to dress however they want without being stigmatized for it. But know that revealing clothing and certain verbal tics, such as ending statements with an upward inflection in your voice or struggling to accept a compliment, can affect others’ ability to take you seriously.”
Indeed, ladies. Don’t make the grave error of affecting another’s “ability to take you seriously” (and to fantasize about the way your ass looks when you load a fresh ream of paper into the copier) by wantonly speaking and dressing in a manner unbefitting a Benedictine nun. Men’s purity and ability to concentrate rests in your hands.
Then there’s this little tidbit of advice:
“Don’t say or do anything you wouldn’t say or do in the presence of your grandmother. If you sense that you could start unconsciously flirting (you’re human, and sometimes it happens), imagine that your grandmother is in the room. If you’d feel embarrassed saying or doing whatever you’re about to say or do in front of Grandma, don’t go there.”
As Jezebel so eloquently puts it: “the key to acting ‘proper’ in a workplace is to imagine that you’re being watched by a judgmental female octogenarian.”
Unfortunately for this slut-shamey employee manual, my grandmother is a certifiable BAMF. Something tells me that after growing up under a fascist dictatorship, she wouldn’t be fazed by much I could possibly do in a professional work environment. But I digress.
This isn’t Mad Men. Women aren’t in such a marginalized position in society that we can’t take decisive action to stop sexual harassment and unwanted romantic advances in the workplace without risking social and economic ruin.
Advice to cover up and—let’s call a spade a spade—stop leading men on is neither useful nor effective. It’s disrespectful, demeaning, and it perpetuates the culture that says if a woman is receiving unwanted and inappropriate attention from a man, she must have done something to provoke him. It places the responsibility for stopping sexual harassment squarely on the shoulders of the victim of that harassment, while simultaneously reminding her that she can’t do anything too drastic or assertive, lest she risk the delicate ego of her harasser.
Let’s drop the slut shaming and Mad Men-era workplace interactions. In the office, you are responsible for no one’s actions but your own. No matter how tight your skirt.