Sunday, January 13, 2013

No Cenk, Men can be Harassed

Usually I love The Young Turks, and their analysis of politics in the US is usually spot on and very insightful. I also have greatly enjoyed some of Cenk Uygur's speeches in the past including his acceptance of the humanist of the year award.

But I could barely even finish watching this clip.

The news story was how the Department of Homeland Security is facing lawsuits because some men are alleging that their female superiors are creating a hostile work environment.
The issue received broader attention this week when reports emerged about two separate suits filed by federal agents alleging that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has created a hostile work environment for men. The two suits complete with colorful details about a “frat house” workplace where female supervisors played “sexually charged games” “intended to humiliate and intimidate male employees,” shaming them and passing them over for promotions—came amid a spike in sexual-harassment claims under Napolitano’s leadership.-Link
This is an unusual case not because it's women creating a hostile work environment; it's unusual because men are actually reporting it. Usually when things like this happen men are pressured to keep it to themselves that they feel uncomfortable or risk appearing weak. While women historically have taken the brunt of the disparity, gender inequality and double standards do affect males in these more subtle ways. Workplace harassment is a serious problem no matter the culprit's genitalia.

Cenk takes a much less charitable approach.
"Let's keep it real. Is it unacceptable? Of course you shouldn't do it, right? And you know, if a guy complains about it he's got all the right in the world to complain about it, etc. But as a guy, I think like if I had a really hot boss who kept wearing, like, kinda tight clothing and kept coming on to me when I was single, and made me being uncomfortable by cornering me in the office it might not be so bad. Right?"-Cenk
Wrong. No Cenk, you're not answering as a guy. You are answering for YOURSELF and no one else. You don't get to decide what level of sexual interaction other people are comfortable with. You can say they should be as comfortable as you clearly are, but each person needs to be able to draw their own line. That's what matters in cases of harassment.

But that's not the objection he anticipates:
"Now, of course not all the bosses are hot, I know I know I know."-Cenk
It makes no difference! What are you saying, that if the boss is ugly and hits on you that's harassment but if she's hot, hey, win win? He goes on to clarify his position.
"Seriously it's not about actually coming on to you, cause that's way crossing the line as it is anyway. But if you're kidding around about sex and it creates a 'hostile work environment' <shrug> bad Cenk is gonna have his double standard. What you couldn't take a joke about sex? And you're a dude?"-Cenk
 "And you're a dude?" The implication being that guys should be able to joke about sex anywhere. I realize that at TYT you talk about sex all the time and "watch porn at work for research" as Anna points out later, but not every work environment is like that. Some businesses try to maintain an atmosphere of professionalism, where it's not appropriate to talk about personal issues, joke about sexuality, or similar activities. Stop taking your preferences and your environment and applying that experience across the board.

Anna fortunately called him out on this a bit later (not hard enough in my opinion but still).

"I don't think you're putting yourself in their shoes. Let's say for instance that you're not an employer you're an employee and you are a lower level employee and you're looking to get promoted. And the place is run by women...and you hear them openly talking about like 'ah did you see Chris?...So much better looking than Cenk right?...We're going to give Chris Mathews the promotion. They don't say it explicitly but they imply it."-Anna
"Look if they're using it as a form of promotion etc and they discriminate against you because of that, Ya of course that sucks right? But if they're playing like ass slap football and then saying 'ah ya I was having sex with that guy' or whatever and I happen to hear it I'd be like 'So what, have at it'"-Cenk
 Again, YOU would but not everyone is you and not every work environment is TYT. Cenk seems completely oblivious to the existence or acceptibility of any other attitude towards sexuality in the workplace. The next exchange doesn't improve my assessment.
"What if it's an everyday thing and it's distracting"-Anna
"Oh come on, how distracting could it be?"-Cenk
"That's not distracting? I can't think of anything that's more distracting than that."-Anna
"...If that's your boss and she wants to tell you about it...I mean it could be weird and a little creepy but it's not something I would take to management saying I'm really uncomfortable. Now if you do, I get it. You know, of course I'll apply the same standards to men and women. I'm not going to hate on you for it. I'm just going to go <incredulous shrug> reeally? That's all. I'm allowed to say that aren't I?"-Cenk
If it's creepy and weird, that is something you should be telling management. It's the definition of what you should bring to management. Imagine the opposite scenario where a male boss comes up to a female employee and wants to tell her about who he's had sex with and in what position, that would be instant grounds for dismisal. I fail to see how this kind of double standard fits into the mind of someone so progressive on equality issues.

Anna again comes to the rescue explaining exactly my point about the TYT sex bubble, and Cenk doubles down on his inability to understand how anyone's preferences could be different from his own.
"I mean I think we might live in a bubble here at TYT. There's sex talk all the time <slap wink thumbs up from Cenk>, we watch porn for research every day <slap wink thumbs up from Cenk>. But at a different workplace like you're doing're crunching those numbers."-Anna
"Look I know, last thing on this. You're crunching the numbers? Are you kidding me? The sex talk is going to be a million times better. Do you have any idea how bored you are crunching numbers? 'Oh wait, you're talking about orgies? Sorry, I'm busy crunching numbers.' That sentence has never been said. If one of the guys walked up and said to me 'I felt really uncomfortable about that' I would say 'dude, man up.'"-Cenk 
First of all, as an engineer most of my job is crunching numbers and I'm excited to go to work and do it. In fact if someone was talking about orgies while I was working on a robot, I would probably keep working on the robot. Secondly, the "dude, man up" mentality is a huge part of the problem we're trying to address here.

This idea that "manliness" requires that you shouldn't feel uncomfortable talking about sex in a professional setting or should always be flattered or welcoming when someone makes sexual advances on you is complete and total bullshit. Think of how ridiculous that argument sounds flipped around. Try telling the uncomfortable woman who was told by her boss that she had a great ass and perky tits that she should just take it as a compliment and feel good about it.

But the end of the video finally got to why Cenk feels justified in the double standard. Women get raped, men don't.
 "If a woman compliments your appearance, says something like 'Cenk's ass looks good in those tight jeans' is that allowed?"-Anna 
<Cenk Nods and guys backstage whoop and say yup>
"Keep it real. Women have a rightful concern when someone says you got a tight ass. Issues of sexual assault blah blah blah. All those things are absolutely real. If a woman says to a guy, you got a tight ass 99.5% of the time the guy's going to be like YESS! I've never had a woman complement my looks in a way that made me uncomfortable. It's the most comfortable I've ever felt."-Cenk
True, women are at more risk of physical assault which is why they get the short end of the stick (so to speak) in cases like this. But that is no justification for ignoring the concerns of men or their emotional well being, comfort level at work, ability to focus, or desires to avoid unwanted attention. Cenk is displaying the exact same attitude that Dawkins did with his infamous "Dear Muslima" comment.

I would never say the two situations are exactly the same, because there is a more serious danger to the women involved. But that is never sufficient justification for ignoring the concerns of men.

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