The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What Goes Around, Comes Around... I suppose

Just in case you have begun to think that philosophers are all old fuddie-duddies who speak in riddles and subtleties so obscure as to be incomprehensible, I offer the story of former Professor Colin McGinn and the accusation of sexual harassment that drove him to resign his tenured position at the University of Miami.

In the story, it is revealed that two open letters to the philosopher ("signed by more 100 philosophers") were published which criticized some of his blog (Philospot) posts as "retaliation" against the student who filed the complaint. The professor's defense against the complaint? That it was "consensual" and joking around, such as often happens between colleagues. In this case, he claimed he was mentoring the female student.

"Any behavior the victim exhibits —no matter how apparently “consensual” it is— can always be interpreted as an effort to disguise her underlying fear and disgust. And even if the victim views the interaction as friendly, consensual, non-sexual and non-harassing, this is irrelevant. The power dynamic in these sorts of situations makes the victim unable to grasp the true nature of the relationship. Only people who enjoy the objectivity and epistemic distance provided by the internet can be in that position. For the same kind of reason, it is also irrelevant if — as some allege— the victim participated in the ongoing dickjokery. Given the power dynamic, the victim’s participation is purely involuntary."
We, the undersigned...

The professor's response:

"People tell me this is satire; I don't see it. Enjoy!"

It brought me back to an earlier time, to my initial experiences at Pacific Telephone where I encountered a supervisor who was dealing with the recent surge in female workers to a previously male-dominated job (that of "Frameman" (later changed to "Frameworker", I believe). "Doc" would ask a new female member of the crew to come to his office where he would cuss up a storm that would cause an old sailor to blush. He did this, he told me (and them), to "prepare" them for the language and attitudes they would experience while working on the frame.

I always thought that was a rationalization for something he certainly seemed to enjoy. None ever filed sexual harassment charges against him. Of course, that was at a time (1972) when such charges were uncommon. I am fairly sure the women thought it would hurt them more than him. They were probably right.

Many of them might have felt he was giving them license to swear like sailors since that is exactly what more than a few habitually did. In fact, it was the rather loud swearing by one female worker which caused the building of what we called "the Great Wall of Radio" to muffle the sound from the frame area and soothe the ruffled feathers of a female clerk who worked in that area just a few feet from the frame area.

Sexual harassment was not unknown in telephone offices of the day. But it was almost never acknowledged unless it involved actual contact (i.e., sexual assault). This changed, evolved, over time... as it did elsewhere.

But it seems that it evolved into a fear of women in the workplace by men as women once feared men.

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