The Problem Isn’t Sex, It’s Work


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A giant cause why the Me Too marketing campaign has captured our consideration is as a result of it seems, on the floor, to be about intercourse. That’s not ultimate, however for now, it’s OK. We prefer to examine intercourse. It’s salacious, voyeuristic, gross, and generally humorous. America could also be a rustic of puritans, however there’s nothing new to pathologize right here.

However let’s not confuse the superficial lure of those scandals with the rationale why they exist within the first place. The issue with office sexual harassment is much less about intercourse than it’s about work. It’s about energy, not want. And it stems from deep financial, skilled, and social inequalities and anxieties — not seduction, nor prudishness, nor deep-seated sexual repression.

If ladies held simply as a lot energy as males and have been equally represented in any respect ranges of administration, it’d make extra sense to pin trash male habits on their sexual impulses. However in that state of affairs — if ladies have been working issues — these gratuitous shows of male genitalia would have been curbed many years in the past, and those who endured could be considered a nuisance, not an influence play.

The truth is that girls don’t have equal pay, and we undoubtedly don’t have equal energy, so this sleazy habits has gone unchecked. As many victims have stated, this has lower their careers quick, killed their ambitions, and discouraged them from incomes and reaching. It’s this anxiousness over our careers, our livelihoods, and our ambitions that’s driving this dialog, and we have to acknowledge it.

Most of us spend most of our time working. It’s how we put a roof over our heads, and within the absence of an honest social security internet, it’s how we keep alive. Given the tumultuous financial situations of the previous decade, mixed with fears of what’s nonetheless to come back, work has change into an more and more fraught place the place our collective anxieties concerning the future boil over.

We’re extra snug than ever speaking about intercourse and the darkish facet of male sexual impulses. However work? That’s extra difficult.

America’s labor market, we’re repeatedly knowledgeable, is bouncing again. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 17 years, and the financial system is now rising quick sufficient that the Federal Reserve has begun elevating rates of interest, which have remained close to zero for the reason that monetary disaster. Surveys of shoppers and companies present broad confidence that issues are getting higher.

On the similar time, actual wages for many staff have barely grown for many years. The price of schooling and well being care — issues thought-about nonnegotiable human rights in most developed nations — have risen quick, and folks’s entry to medical insurance coverage and better schooling might be endangered with the flick of a presidential pen. Labor unions, whose job it’s to guard each female and male staff, are dying, or being actively killed by their enemies. The catastrophic tax invoice making its option to the president’s desk has graduate college students, folks in high-tax states, freelancers, and plenty of others questioning what, precisely, their funds will seem like come subsequent April.

Staff are nonetheless experiencing widespread post-recessionary trauma. This raises the stakes of what occurs within the workplace: The mixture of worry, frustration, and financial insecurity compounds the dissatisfaction ladies already really feel about how we’re handled by their supervisors and friends. So when the lid lastly blows off of many years of mistreatment, exploitation, and injustice, you may look forward to finding much more the place this all got here from.

And it’s no coincidence that, whereas they exist all over the place, these tales are popping out of precarious industries like media, TV, and movie, the place the very notion of a “meritocracy” has change into laughable. Ladies in media aren’t offended merely due to tales of undesirable penis sightings. We’re offended as a result of, in the identical interval that Matt Lauer reportedly earned in extra of $100 million for being a TV dad, we watched our pals and colleagues get laid off en masse after doing nice work. We’re offended as a result of we really feel like we don’t get an opportunity, and it might be a lot simpler to take care of the perverts amongst us if we additionally referred to as the photographs.

It’s additionally not a coincidence that social media is pouring gas on the harassment dumpster fireplace. What’s social media if not an outlet for underemployed, overqualified, pissed off younger folks — a lot of them working in media — to specific their anger?

A comment I’ve heard over and over is that the Me Too marketing campaign will flip innocent office flirtation and even mere friendliness right into a fireable offense. There’s a pervasive worry amongst conservatives and libertines alike that this second is creating an ethical intercourse panic, encouraging ladies to take a praise as a perverted energy transfer. “In wake of Weinstein, males surprise if hugging ladies nonetheless OK” reads a current headline.

This misses the purpose, and comically so: Ladies have been coping with this shit for years, and most of us have gotten fairly good at telling the distinction between being requested out on a date and being deterred from doing good work as a result of we’re being molested by a man twice our dimension.

So are ladies utilizing intercourse to make their case for a giant, radical rethink of who’s in energy? You can put it that manner. However possibly it’s as a result of after we talked about work this complete time, nobody took us critically.

Atossa Araxia Abrahamian is a journalist and creator of The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the World Citizen.

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