WTF is sexual harassment | TechCrunch


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It pains me to have to write down this, however write it I have to because the previous week’s occasions have proven there are surprisingly many individuals in Silicon Valley who wouldn’t know what sexual harassment was if it slapped them on the behind with out permission.

There are lots of circumstances that might be helpful as a launching level; let’s begin with the latest and prolonged rebuttal of so-called tech evangelist Robert Scoble, following a number of allegations that he has sexually harassed and assaulted a quantity ladies within the trade the place Scoble has made his identify.

As Scoble wrote in his personal protection, on his private weblog this week, “If I have been responsible of all of the issues mentioned about me, I might nonetheless not be ready to have sexually harassed anybody. I don’t have workers, I don’t lower checks for funding. Not one of the ladies who got here ahead have been ever ready the place I might make or break their careers. Sexual harassment requires that I’ve such energy.”

Scores of supporters got here to Scoble’s protection within the aftermath of the allegations. Scott Jordan, CEO of Scottevest, was one of the outspoken, writing on Scoble’s unique apology submit (now made non-public) that as a result of Scoble was inappropriately sensitive with him up to now —  in a means that made him really feel uncomfortable however didn’t emotionally scar him — it was not harassment.

That’s an alarming revelation by itself, clearly. But it surely’s additionally a false assumption, based on the U.S. Equal Employment Alternative Fee (EEOC), which defines harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and different verbal or bodily harassment of a sexual nature.”

Put one other means, you additionally don’t should be straight accountable for somebody or lower their verify to harass them. States the EEOC, “The harasser could be the sufferer’s supervisor, a supervisor in one other space, a co-worker, or somebody who shouldn’t be an worker of the employer, reminiscent of a consumer or buyer.”

But there are different wrong-headed assumptions — lots of them.

Take the concept that if a perpetrator was consuming on the similar time that she or he was harassing one other individual and thus impaired by alcohol, that individual shouldn’t be held accountable for his or her actions. This one pertains to Scoble, too, who posted about going sober in 2015 and who has routinely talked about that his poor habits could be traced to a time when he’d been consuming, as if that excuses something.

It doesn’t, together with from a authorized standpoint. “Voluntary intoxication shouldn’t be a protection to sexual harassment or assault,” says Chris Baker of Silicon Valley sexual harassment regulation agency Baker Curtis & Schwartz. “The regulation doesn’t suppose a lot of the argument that individuals are free to interrupt the regulation as long as they’re drunk after they do it.”

How in regards to the protection that’s most continuously used to normalize harassment — that it’s only a man being a person? This argument was utilized by JunoWallet exec Chris Sweis, who penned a Medium submit in July, titled “I simply watched the general public neutering of a superb man Dave McClure and can’t hold my mouth shut about it.” In his ode to McClure, Sweis writes, “That’s what MEN do…We pursue ladies and ladies costume to be pursued, put on fragrance to be pursued, and in Silicon Valley there are MANY WOMEN who costume to be pursued.” In different phrases, boys will probably be boys, and in addition to, the ladies have been asking for it.

Sweis, rightly, took quite a lot of flack for that submit. Nonetheless, the concept that these are good guys simply being males continues to pervade the tech panorama. We see it within the attitudes of lots of Scoble’s Fb commenters. It’s on Medium and Twitter. It’s there, in print, within the feedback part of my TechCrunch submit about Scoble allegedly carrying on after going sober.

To defenders of this model of considering, calling out dangerous habits is akin to a “witch hunt” (an odd label, contemplating the historic context of witch hunts). These ladies’s tales of being groped and propositioned aren’t unnerving a lot as they’re “lame examples of harassment.”

In equity, shades of grey do often exist, and nobody ought to be judged prematurely.

DFJ cofounder Steve Jurvetson’s is being investigated for misconduct, however for what exactly isn’t but clear. One founder wrote on her Fb web page that there’s rampant “predatory habits” on the agency, but this individual has additionally mentioned the 2 had a private, not skilled, relationship.

In the meantime a number of ladies conversant in the internal workings at DFJ insist that it’s merely not true that the agency treats ladies poorly, and two of them have come to Jurvetson’s protection particularly.

There are lots of issues that ladies would possibly want have been in opposition to the regulation however will not be, too.  I take into account it harassment once I’m whistled at, instructed to smile, or supplied sexually suggestive feedback whereas strolling down the road. Every makes me really feel unsafe. Legally, nonetheless, I’ve no protection.

Equally, when Scoble allegedly touched the knee of Michelle Greer, who labored with him at Rackspace for 2 years, she felt harassed and he or she says that feeling affected her work efficiency.

But what Scoble did isn’t essentially in opposition to the regulation, based on Baker, who means that “quid professional quo” harassment is a step past what transpired between the 2. Particularly, says Baker, it’s when “somebody situations an employment or industrial profit on placing up with, or accepting, sexual advances or conduct,” he says.

“‘Hostile work atmosphere’ harassment is rather like it sounds,” he provides. It’s “when the work atmosphere is so sexually charged that it turns into hostile to an inexpensive man or girl.”

After all, to victims of harassment, whether or not the harassment is technically authorized or not  isn’t actually the purpose. “Anybody who defends abusive and harassing habits by claiming it doesn’t violate the regulation ought to take into account why their bar is so low,” says Paradigm founder and CEO Joelle Emerson. “Harassing habits, whether or not it suits inside a context anticipated by employment regulation or not, is extremely dangerous. It threatens bodily and psychological well being. It depletes cognitive vitality. It stalls profession progress. It reinforces stereotypes, and perpetuates social inequality. Anybody that wishes to argue, ‘However hey, it’s technically authorized!’ ought to know what it’s they’re defending.”

So why the obvious confusion within the trade over what, precisely, constitutes sexual harassment? Emerson has a concept or three. “I believe usually individuals who defend harassing habits achieve this as a result of they’ve engaged in such habits themselves. Or they defend people accused of this habits as a result of they consider them to be typically ‘good individuals.’ Or, as a rule, they simply don’t consider ladies.”

Definitely, as we’re seeing — be it claims about Scoble or McClure or Donald Trump or Harvey Weinstein —  not solely are some individuals keen to defend the actions of the accused, however they’ll additionally query the ladies who come ahead, even when there are scores of them.

Some have a monetary incentive to query the individuals who come ahead with tales about their harassment. Scoble, for instance, sits on the advisory board for Scottevest. Others look to Scoble’s affect in tech, with the hope that he’ll plug their product. For others nonetheless, it might be as Emerson suggests — that, as a rule, they simply don’t consider ladies, miserable although that prospect could also be.

The one vivid spot right here is that after many years of repression, ladies — and even some males —  are coming ahead in droves to out their perpetrators. They’ve suffered underneath the load of this kind of abuse, they usually’re lastly capable of have their day.

Others are beginning to get up, to take motion to guard these of us who want for a safer, much less hostile atmosphere.

Sadly, it appears like we nonetheless must spell out what constitutes a nasty actor to some who both don’t know or don’t want to know that somebody who they admired won’t be the “good man” they thought all alongside.

Featured Picture: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

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