Male-to-Male Harassment and the Congressman

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow has a thoughtful piece in this morning’s paper about the fall from grace of former Congressman Eric Massa and the larger context of male-to-male workplace harassment.  Here’s an excerpt: 

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the percentage of its sexual harassment filings that are made by men has doubled over the last two decades. And, although the agency does not compile data on the gender of those being accused, anecdotal evidence suggests that most of those filings are for male-to-male harassment.

While it is heartening to realize that more men seem to be comfortable speaking up, the Massa case illustrates to what degree their attempts at disclosure can be squeezed between two seemingly oppositional pillars of American masculinity: homoerotic ritualizing and homophobic trivializing.

Blow’s conclusion:

If brotherly bonds must be forged in mostly male work
environments (and it is not at all clear to me that they must), then
everyone involved must recognize and respect limits far short of where
they currently stand. And when someone claims that the lines have been
crossed, we as a society, must take those claims more seriously. It’s
all fun and games until someone gets tickled.


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