Friday, May 6, 2016

When Sexual Harassment Training Fails

The alarms are going off at Mind Control Central. As the news hits their screens the little mind controllers are scurrying around, plaintively asking each other: Oh, woe is us? What can we do? What can we do?

They are, as always, at a loss.

But they cannot escape the news. They have taken solemn vows, they have sworn on the latest book by Anita Hill, to end sexual harassment in the workplace. Like good little mind controllers they know, better than you do, that the way to do it is through sensitivity training. Teach men not to rape… tell them that rape is bad… there, that will do it.

Because the problem with sexual harassment is that men do not know it is wrong and that they do not know how much damage a woman can do if she accuses them of having committed such a grave sin.

After all, their colleagues in Scandinavian countries, having subjected their young women to an increased threat of rape, are now proposing to teach the young Muslims they have allowed into their country—the better to prove how tolerant they are—that rape is not a good thing to do. How is that one working out?

In America’s Mind Control Central, the news on the screens has set off alarms. It is not good. It’s not as though sensitivity training does not work… in the sense that it does not diminish sexual harassment. The most alarming news, the news that has set off the buzzers on their desktops, is that sensitivity training makes sexual harassment worse.

Who would have imagined such a thing? Too much sensitization tends to desensitize people. The more you make something appear to be happening everywhere the more people think that it’s the norm. Besides, when you talk up all the different ways you can sexually harass someone, you inevitably give people ideas. And if you have a choice between submission to the mini-mind controllers and defiance... which would you choose?

The Guardian has the story:

One Journal of Applied Behavioral Science study that evaluated a sexual harassment program for university employees found that men who participated in the training were “significantly less likely” to consider coercive behaviors toward a subordinate or student as sexual harassment compared with a control group of men who hadn’t done the training.

Men who completed the 30-minute training – during which officials discussed actions that constitute harassment, the harms of harassment, the importance of reporting and possible discipline – were also significantly less likely to report harassment.

The men’s surprising responses may have been an “effort at self-preservation intended to defend and protect against a perceived attack on them”, the authors wrote.

In other words, the training appears to make some men feel threatened and afraid that they will be subject to false accusations, said Shereen Bingham, co-author of the study and professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha school of communication. As a result, they may respond in a defensive manner.

“We were surprised … it certainly appears to be irrational,” said Bingham. “The only explanation can be psychological or emotional.”

The little mind controllers are beside themselves. Who would have thought that when men are informed about the difference between the sexes they are more likely to be more aware of the difference between the sexes?

To be fair, sexual harassment sensitivity training is not just about the difference between the sexes. It’s about imposing a narrative in which men are predators and women are victims. Over at Mind Control Central, no one can imagine why men might push back at this designation.

The Guardian continues with the bad news:

Other studies have shown that when workplaces actively inform men of sexual harassment policies, it can also have unintended negative effects. A study published in the Social Psychology Quarterly found that after men learned about harassment rules, it triggered implicit gender biases, effectively making it more likely for them to stereotype women.

“The purpose of sexual harassment policy is to make men and women more equal in the workplace,” said Justine Tinkler, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Georgia and co-author of the study. “If the policies are sort of activating gender stereotypes rather than challenging them, they may not be promoting that broader goal.”

Tinkler has also studied how sexual harassment trainings can provoke backlash and how people who say they support harassment laws are resistant to the enforcement of those policies. Trainings can also reinforce men’s feelings that women are “emotional and duplicitous in the way that they both want sexual attention, but don’t want sexual harassment”, she explained.

How would you like to be named: Tinkler?

But, I digress.

The mini-minds at Mind Control Central are puzzled. How can this be happening? Having the best intentions they are producing the worst results. Filled with righteous fury at sexual harassment and at how badly it is inhibiting women from achieving their full potential, these mini-minds do not get how their best laid plans are producing just the result that they do not want to produce.

Naturally, we can conjure up a series of possible explanations. Anything to edify the mini-minds at Mind Control Central.

Consider this: young men today have been subjected to moral harassment from the minute they started attending school. They have been demeaned and diminished, taught that their masculine tendencies are criminal, downgraded and silenced in class, and told that women are better than they are at everything that matters.

If you imagined that there would never be any blowback you should apply for a job at Mind Control Central.

This might well provoke male solidarity: members of an oppressed class band together to defend themselves. This means that they will be less likely to report instances of sexual harassment, no matter how clear. After all, who wants to be a snitch? Who wants to suck up to the matriarchy? Any man who does so will immediately lose his man card and become a male feminist. The indignity would be unbearable.

Next, consider the fact that the victim-based narrative imposed by the sexual harassment training squad sees women as perfectly innocent creatures that would never send out any signals of sexual attraction or interest. Since most young women in business are unmarried, they are available. And they tend, consciously or unconsciously, to signal their availability. Since many of them will happily date men whom they work with, how’s a young man to know whether the signals he is receiving are or are not for real.

At times, women do not even know that they are flirting or are spraying pheromones around the office. Hint, the longer a woman’s hair the more pheromones she will be spraying. Given that young men are generally doltish when it comes to reading such signals, no one should be surprised to find that they misunderstand.

We all know that in some cases sexual harassment does exist. We all know that in some cases women are entirely clear about their disinterest and suffer abusive behavior from men. But, that is not what the studies are testing, so we will leave that issue to the side and to the lawyers.

To confuse matters more, women insist that they want to be treated just like the boys. Some of them can curse like drunken sailors; some swagger around like linebackers. Yet, when someone uses foul language in their presence their knickers get into a twist. What’s a guy to do?

And finally, we raise two points rarely noted by those who are trying to wrap their mini-minds around this issue.

Most men understand that as a business or a profession has more women in it, it, and they, will lose status and prestige, to say nothing of income. Once a business or profession becomes identified as a woman’s, the men who are in it will suffer and new men will avoid it. The reason, of course, is that when a job loses status and prestige women will not want to marry the men who have it.

And, at last, alas, if men and women compete in the workplace, if they compete for titles, for promotions, for responsibilities, for salary and for bonuses… are you really surprised that men, and even women engage in some subtle and not-so-subtle forms of psychological warfare?


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Question: Does sexual harassment training ever work?

The truth is that sexually harassment training is explicitly a gender bias, meant to counter a gender bias.

Intentions and results are two totally different things. We need to move beyond the feelings of the former and focus on the reality of the latter.

Leo G said...

I think I read here a while back that so called anti-bullying courses actually helped bullies become more subtle and successful.

These people who try to tinker with our humanness, need to take a holiday in Syria to realize what reality is.

priss rules said...

I think the problem is as follows.

Once people are made paranoid of this 'sexual harassment', they tend to see it everywhere. It's like 'micro-aggressions'. Those in the grievance industry will keep looking for smaller infractions.

So, even when sexual harassment is no longer really happening on any scale to be a real issue, the hyper-sensitive will call just about anything as 'sexual harassment'.

It's like that movie Oleanna by Mamet.

It's like there's more 'racism' than ever because EVERYTHING is called 'racist'.

I like to think of myself as the 'only true race-ist' as long as all things are racist.

Ares Olympus said...

Sexual harrassment does contain all the same seeds as microaggressions, the idea that the smallest innocent thing you might say or do wrong will offend someone, and you're responsible even if the person "her"self doesn't know where "her" own boundaries lie until they are crossed.

And clearly part of the problem of fear is where one small incident between two people, that could cleared up immediately in 2 minutes suddenly gets expanded into an HR tattle-fest of he-said, she-said and a company wide sensitivity training intervention.

And so the better problem might be to ask how do we empower people/women who can assert their own needs, in person, without needing a support team to defend them, and punish offenders?

And I accept there is threat of some cross-gender "psychological warfare" where an ambitious woman might use false or exaggerated accusations against a male coworker if she believed it would help her, although its still hard to believe ambition is aided by demanding others defend her.
In sum, microaggression catalogs are a form of social control in which the aggrieved collect and publicize accounts of intercollective offenses, making the case that relatively minor slights are part of a larger pattern of injustice and that those who suffer them are socially marginalized and deserving of sympathy.

[The social conditions that give rise to this form of social control] include a social setting with cultural diversity and relatively high levels of equality, though with the presence of strongly superior third parties such as legal officials and organizational administrators… Under these conditions, individuals are likely to express grievances about oppression, and aggrieved individuals are likely to depend on the aid of third parties, to cast a wide net in their attempt to find supporters, and to campaign for support by emphasizing their own need against a bullying adversary.

p.s. I remember this video from a few years ago by Karen Straughan on "Female hypoagency" that seems worthy of consideration, something I never thought about before. the tyranny of female hypoagency

Anonymous said...

As a group, based on 30+ years military experience and my humble opinion ... the most ruthless, least ethical, most blatantly vulgar, most cynically manipulative people ... were female junior officers.

Seductive smiles when they wanted something from me. Shunning scorn when they didn't. Naturally, they plagiarized me to a fare-thee-well. But Flag Officers did too.

Rumsfeld (Nixon's "ruthless little bastard") had a baleful influence that continues.

As CEO of 2 pharma companies, he celebrated Xmas by making lists of people to fire after New Year.

He was a Main Macher in the Afghan & Iraq debacles. He chose every Flag promotion during his 6-year tenure, terrifying them into toadies.

It got so bad, even "What Me Worry?" Bush had to dump him. A real pip of a guy.

Give him credit tho. "Rumsfeld's Rules" has some damn good insights. -- Rich Lara

Dennis said...

Nothing to worry about here so move on. My what a surprise that men might get excited about false accusations of sexual harassment. Can you imagine that?

Rich Lara,

I have found that throughout my 40 plus years of dealing with the DoD I have noted the same thing. I have as of lately ascribed this to the "mean girl" attribute many women exhibit and/or deal with growing up. An old adage is that "One cannot spend a lot of time around a mud hole without getting mud on them" applies here. It becomes difficult to not exhibited the actions of your peers.

Congratulation to all women who would seek and be mothers. As Cardinal Mermillod stated, "A mother is she who can take the place of all others, but whose place no one else can take." Motherhood is central to life.

priss rules said...

Our culture:

'Hey kids, remember that sexual harassment is wrong, and oh, don't forget to watch the latest Nicki Minaj video.'

Anonymous said...

The thicker a woman's hair, the more pheromones she produces. Length of hair has nothing to do with it.