Batty Bloke Blows Job
Following a strange report of sexual harassment, RACHEL CUNLIFFE explores the murky world of gender inequality.
The story: Man shows article entitled ‘Fellatio by fruit bats prolongs copulation time’ to a female colleague. Woman (we must suppose) complains of sexual harassment. Man is disciplined for said harassment, and forced to endure ‘special training’, presumably to prevent this situation from occurring again.
Now, I’m not exactly one of those hardcore feminists who thinks that ‘women’ should be re-spelled ‘womyn’ and who shouts abuse at any man daring to look approvingly at a girl in a skimpy top (mainly because such looks rarely come my way). I am, however, fairly certain about where I stand when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. Namely, I do not approve of it.
So, why does this article fill me with both rage and humiliation for the sake of my sex? Well, let’s face it: however much we women may spout out phrases like ‘inappropriate behaviour’ and ‘the right to feel safe at work’, I don’t think any of us would be irreversibly scarred by the article in question. Admittedly, the image of fruit bats engaging in oral sex is not one that turns me on (though if that’s your kink, go for it), but I can live with it. Even if I were completely incapable of seeing the funny side (for the record, I find it hilarious), I would still be able to accept that this incident is, at the very worst, slightly immature.
In fact, both people involved in this situation are scientists, and the guy claims that ‘it was part of a continuing debate about non-human sexual activity and what that tells us about our own behaviour’. To me, for a female scientist to get offended by being shown such an article is the equivalent of a GCSE student complaining that the diagrams of the human reproductive system are gross. It’s immature, and in her case, unprofessional.
Now, let’s assume this woman is not stupid (she’s a scientist at a university – not conclusive evidence, but strong nonetheless), and is actually not quite as over-sensitive as the scenario implies. What on earth could have possessed her to make such a fuss about nothing? Could she genuinely have believed that she was being harassed in some way by her colleague forcing her to contemplate copulating fruit bats?
Actually, maybe. Sexual harassment does not have to be physical – we can all imagine new and exciting ways of making someone’s life at work hell without actually assaulting them. If your sleazy boss leers at you every morning and comments on how nice your thighs look in that skirt, the fact that he hasn’t actually touched you is not an excuse. I know men (and women too) who can turn ‘good morning’ into a blatant innuendo. And if a woman is being harassed on a daily basis by sordid ‘good morning’s, it’s only right that she should have the means to protest.
And so what we end up with is the Fruit Bat Scenario. If you’ll excuse the inevitable touch of feminism (see, all you womyn out there; I really am on your side!), despite gender equality laws, women are still hugely under-represented in many fields, especially science. We are viewed as weaker and less competent, discriminated against when it comes to promotions, and judged by our appearance far more harshly than any man. Faced with these obstacles, I am saddened but unsurprised that some make use of the few advantages we do have. Bringing sexual harassment charges seems infinitely preferable to the classic sleeping-with-your-boss technique, and perhaps that’s exactly what our female scientist was doing. If your gender prevents you from getting ahead the standard way, threatening a lawsuit against your employers could seem 'harmlessly' to redress the situation.
Nice work, Miss I-Faint-At-The Thought-Of-Animals-Giving-Head. You’ve gone and put gender equality back a hundred years. Wake up and realise that the image of the weak, excessively delicate young lady who cannot deal with being exposed to distasteful concepts is exactly what we’ve been trying to eradicate! If women really are considered too fragile to be treated like men, we lose any chance of proving we can do the same jobs as men. Bye-bye women in positions of authority, you couldn’t handle it.
Can we please just accept that women like sex as much as men, and while we may be more subtle about it, we are just as amused at the image of fruit bats sucking each other off? If we want to make it in life, we have to stop expecting people to treat us like china figurines. So bring on the lesbian tendencies of hyenas, or the incredible duration of a pig’s orgasm. We’re big girls, we can take it. Honest.