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January 24, 2006

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The Gonzman

Or, to spin it another way, women are less likely to stand up for themselves, and thus let the bully win. You can't have it both ways - first I'm told that "women can indeed withstand the stress and rigors of (fill in the blank) because they are as strong as men," and then in the next breath I'm told they are poor and delicate little flowers that require special handling and protection, and special laws because it's just so hard for them.

Harassment is harassment - either it's wrong, or not. Advocating that the crime is worse because of the "impact" and based on a difference which is claimed not to exist is like punishing a rapist less if he gives his victim an orgasm in the process because she "obviously got something out of it."

Sorry if that seems harsh, Hugo, but this is really some special pleading here. Are you actually saying that because I can turn around and break my harasser's neck that it is somehowless wrong to do it to me? I mean, if you're giving me some kind of license to do so, you might be able to make a case for that, but it sure as bird sounds like another double standard to me.

Mr. Bad

You mean you actually believe what the AAUW puts out? Come on Hugo, even you can't be that naive. They've been churning out copious amounts of horse manure for decades now.

When I get the chance I'm going to look at that 'study,' so stay tuned. This could be another spanking along the lines I delivered to Barry/ampersand a month or so ago.

AB

Oh man, this just made me remember being harassed by this group of 3 or 4 guys in college. Looking back, I remember how hard it was to describe the effect it had on me--and so I just never ended up saying anything to almost anyone.

This group of guys was pissed off (I assume) at me for not "hooking up" with a friend of theirs who liked me, after I had the audacity to dance with him at a party. For the next three years, every time I saw the three of them walk together and I was alone, they'd start calling out his name in a low voice, not speeding up, not doing anything else, just walking past and calling out his name and staring me down. It was oddly threatening--man, I can't even say why, perhaps because it never happened except when I was alone and they were together in a relatively deserted place, and I never knew how to react--so I just starting avoiding going out alone at night (on a very very small residential campus).

It's such a hard problem to get your hands around and solve, because I think many times the line that separates harassment from someone just being stupid is the intent behind the act--if they had just been calling out his name and laughing for a couple of months, it wouldn't have felt the same. It was clear that they knew they were intimidating me, but how do you report that? How do you not sound stupid?

Anyway, been a while since I thought of that. I think it just illustrates how hard it is to measure harassment, because if it involves an action as well as an intent to intimidate, how do you word the question? If you word it broadly (ie, "Has anyone repeatedly made comments to you that you found offensive?") you'll probably find very very high levels of "harassment," and it becomes something of an empty concept. Which is really too bad.

Mr. Bad

Ok, I just took a quick look at this "study," and here's what I found so far.

First of all, this wouldn't pass peer-review in any way. The references are weak and few, as is IMO the level of academic rigor.

I have to look at the methodology a lot more closely, but here's an obvious flaw: We have no idea whether or not the self-reporting survey instrument was validated, either for this population or others, so at best all we can say is that the AAUW measured what college students report on surveys when they are free to answer in any way that they want. In other words, this "study" doesn't actually measure SH, it measures self-reporting of SH. The authors make little effort to make that clear.

As for the results, assuming that they're trustworthy (a leap of faith to be sure), it's interesting that the most - and perhaps only - signficant differences between men and women is in reporting: Men are approximately half as likely to report SH than women are, thus, the numbers for men are likely very much on the low side; either that or the numbers for women are high. Again, we don't know if the investigators made any attempt to validate the survey instrument, so we don't really know which way the error lies. In all other areas, men and women seem to be about equal, especially if you take into account their underreporting.

As for the "severity of impact" of SH, again, the AAUW measured reporting, so all we really know is that women say they're affected more. But as Gonz points out, this doesn't - or at least shouldn't - matter. This is just another way of trying to spin this to favor women's interests when it should be looked at in terms of human interests.

More on this as I get the time to peruse the methodolgy, survey instrument, etc.

Mr. Bad

More findings...

Hugo said: ”'m very concerned by the tone of the CNN report, and worried that other media outlets will simply broadcast a message of false equivalency: "both men and women are harassed." But will they also report that the overwhelming majority of harassers (of both men and women) are men?”

Why should they report this? It’s not correct.

While, predictably, the AAUW spins the text in favor of SH of women, they do provide useful numbers:

Among students who have been harassed, both male students (37 percent) and female (58 percent) students have been harassed by a man.

Thus, 63% of SH the men experience is perped by women, and 42% of SH of women is perped by other women.

Continuing, the AAUW reports:
More than half of male college students (51 percent) admit that they have sexually harassed someone in college, and more than one-fifth (22 percent) admit to harassing someone often or occasionally. One-fifth of male students (20 percent) say that they have physically harassed someone.

Although men are more likely to be cited as harassers and to admit to harassing behaviors, the problem of campus sexual harassment does not rest solely with college men. Of the students who have been harassed, one-fifth (20 percent) have been harassed by a female. Almost one-third of female students (31 percent) admit to committing some type of harassment. These findings remind us that not all men are sexual aggressors and not all women are passive victims. Both male and female students can and do behave in ways that are viewed by others as overly sexually aggressive.


Thus, it appears that using the defninitions and criteria that the AAUW use for "sexual harassment, along with the problems associated with the way the AAUW fluidly moves back and forth between comparing sex-stratified and pooled data, a slight or modest majority of harassers may be men, if (BIG if) we can trust the AAUW numbers.

evil_fizz

I'm not looking at the whole report, but I think you're misreading this:
Among students who have been harassed, both male students (37 percent) and female (58 percent) students have been harassed by a man.

It's not that "63% of SH the men experience is perped by women, and 42% of SH of women is perped by other women" but rather, it's that 37% of male students and 58% of female students have been harassed by other men. If one compares those numbers with the 62% of students who've been harassed overall, then the overwhelming majority of women are harassed by men and men are harassed by other men more than half the time.

I don't want to speak definitively, since I'm not looking at the numbers in context, but that would be my take.

Mr. Bad

evil fizz, I don't know what you're getting at - what do you mean by "other men." Are you saying that the males are harassing themselves? That the women and men are being harassed by the same men? The first case is preposterous, and the second is impossible to tell from the data. If they followed standard Institutional Review Board protocols, all data were anonymous, so the respondents couldn't tell who other respondents were referring to, and the investigators would not be able to attribute SH to any given individual. Therefore, there would be no way to know which individual perped any given report of SH.

However, the raises a good point, that being multiple offenders. I believe that in most cases people have the impression that each case of SH (or rape, etc.) are perped by a unique and different individual, while of course this is not true. I don't know if the AAUW controlled for the 'multiple offender' effect, but from what I've seen I doubt it.

NancyP

Part of women's fear of sexual harassment is that most women know someone who has been stalked in a scary way, or has been raped or beaten. And it seems glib to expect that a 100# woman is going to just not worry about a creepy 220# man who stalks her. Unless she's packing heat, or she's a black belt and the man is all fat, limps, and has a heart condition, it's not unreasonable to be scared of physical injury. And even were the weights and fitness similar, some guys will tamper with cars, etc. The serious crime stats of male assault of female far outweigh similar stats for the reverse. Women mostly slap; men frequently break bone or worse.

evil_fizz

evil fizz, I don't know what you're getting at - what do you mean by "other men." Are you saying that the males are harassing themselves?

Um, no. I'm saying that men get harassed by men. When I say "other men" I mean they're *not* harassing themselves.

Noumena

Gonzman, I don't understand why you consider the consequences of harassment irrelevant to evaluating the severity of the harassment. For example, attempted murder isn't punished as harshly as murder, while a rapist or mugger that kills their victim in the process of assaulting them is liable to be punished more severely than one who does not.

Mr Bad, what method would you propose for gathering this kind of data besides having a pool of potential harassers and victims filling out surveys about their experience? Or perhaps I'm missing the point of your criticism in your first substantial post. Similarly, I'm not quite sure why you have a problem with the short list of references, unless you would have preferred the researchers compare their results with those of similar studies, which does seem a fair criticism of the quality of the paper, but not the quality of the data gathered here in and of itself.

You point out that most harassment is heterosexual -- male victims are mostly harassed by women, female victims mostly by men -- but seem to draw the irrelevant conclusion that at most 'a modest majority' of harassers are male, contra the clear statement by the researchers that 80% of harassers are male that you quote. Or perhaps I'm just not following your reasoning here? What does the breakdown of the gender of harassers by gender of the victim tell us about the gender of harassers overall in the absence of information about the gender of victims overall (which you do not quote for us)?

I think evil fizz' reading of the line in question is mistaken -- it misses the qualification that this only looks at victims, not the entire sample -- but I think your point in response, on multiple harassers, while an interesting theoretical question, isn't terribly relevant from a policy perspective. As per the last paragraph, 80% of incidents of harassment are committed by men, so it makes sense, for example, to develop educational programs that are directed at men and boys, even if the overwhelming majority of boys are never going to harass.

evil_fizz

Ah, okay. That makes more sense. The sentence originally quoted looked out of context to me, but I wasn't sure what the percentages related to (total sample versus victims) Thanks for clearing that up. (Adobe is being obnoxious, so I wasn't able to look at the report.)

Arwen

Victim impact is often considered in Canada, even for things like B&Es. My partner (male) had to do one after a B&E. It's not just female victims, here.

I agree that harrassment is serious for both men and women, but think fear is a valid measurement in the matrix of evaluating crime. Some crimes - like terrorism - do the most damage emotionally. I'd bet that if *physical* intimidation of a non-sexual nature were also studied, there'd be more male respondants - oh, the hazing of first years - and their fear also needs to be taken into consideration. Guys bullying other guys is also extremely problematic.

I'm going to be more effective intimidating someone with a Magnum than with a water pistol: my bouncer friend who weighs 300 lbs, is 6'4", and has a black belt is hired because he's intimidating. He's aware of it and people unfairly judge him on it: I'm not saying that life's a cakewalk, either. However, he's going to reap more fear by being threatening than is your average 140 pound person, male or female.

That's not predjudicial regarding male experience of harrassment in cases where men are deeply afraid, which certainly does happen.

Arwen

It does mean that my friend can't be a jerkwad and get laughed off, though. I was looking at the victims as a whole, not the abusers as a whole.
Is this the problem? That there are some people who want to be criminals, but because they're bigger, they'll get harsher penalties than smaller criminals?

The Gonzman

Gonzman, I don't understand why you consider the consequences of harassment irrelevant to evaluating the severity of the harassment. For example, attempted murder isn't punished as harshly as murder, while a rapist or mugger that kills their victim in the process of assaulting them is liable to be punished more severely than one who does not.

And that's bogus as well - if I hunt you down and shoot you, I've done the exact same crime, with the exact same malice and forethought - but I get a lesser sentence because I'm a bad shot in one instance? That's brilliant. That means in a few years I get out to try again.

No. Doesn't pass the sniff test.

The Gonzman

It does mean that my friend can't be a jerkwad and get laughed off, though. I was looking at the victims as a whole, not the abusers as a whole.
Is this the problem? That there are some people who want to be criminals, but because they're bigger, they'll get harsher penalties than smaller criminals?

Well, Arwen, it means just that.

I do not, and never have, made an unprovoked attack on anyone, and even the provoked ones have involved significant violence directed at me before I respond. So - I have no record of even arrest, much less conviction, for violence. I do not deny the capacity to do violence, but that is another case.

Six years ago, I went into a Steak and Shake, sat down, and waited to be served. I waited half an hour. My order was taken in a rude manner. I waited another 20 minutes. My food came up. It sat on the pass through for 15 minutes. Despite my attempts to signal the waitress, I was ignored.

So, I went over to her, stood in the way, and said, "Do you mind getting me my food? It's already gone from hot to room temperature, and I'd like to eat it before it grows mold."

She said something back - I didn't listen - and I just said, "Well, I guess it must be nice to not need tips." I went back to my seat. She slammed the plate of food down in front on me, and it went into my lap.

So, I went to the manager, and told him I'd like a new waitress, and new food, and he needed to seriously consider making the meal on the house if he wanted to avoid a discussion with the district manager on it.

I sit down, and next thing I know, I have the police there asking me to leave. Why? Did I say something harsh? Did I make a threat, make an assault, act in any way outside of peace and the law? No, no, no, and no.

It's becawse I was SOOO big, and they fewt Sooo "Thweatened" by my size. Not what I did - but what I am.

So yeah - there is that. And it's morally the same as being threatened because someone is black. But, what the hey. It's an acceptable prejudice.

Mr. Bad

evil fizz said: "Um, no. I'm saying that men get harassed by men. When I say "other men" I mean they're *not* harassing themselves."

So what? Why does it matter to you what the sex of the harasser is? Are you saying that same-sex harassment isn't as serious? If so, that's a really weak argument.

It's like saying female genital mutilation is no big deal because it's women doing it other women, however, we don't hear that kind of talk from feminists, do we?

Noumena

Mr Bad, evil fizz was responding to your point about the gender of harassers. You're the one who brought it up. At least, that's my reading of her/his point.

Gonzman, if you reject any consideration of consequences in the law, then you've moved to a much, much more fundamental area than how the law is to address sexual harassment. This doesn't invalidate your position, of course, but it does make it an extremely radical one. I'll need to think about your response to Arwen more, but my initial reaction is that judging a large, powerfully-built man as being potentially violent because he's large and powerfully-built is very, very different from judging a black man as being potentially violent because he's black, because one is tied into the capacity to commit violence fairly directly, while the other is only tied into a tendency to be violent by virtue of racist assumptions. But, like I said, this is only an initial, uncritical reaction.

evil_fizz

Are you trying to be obtuse? My point was that it appeared that your quote (about the gender of perps) was taken out of context and speculated as to what the context might be. It was attempt at a factual correction, even though Nouemena points out that I'm also mistaken.

Not that it doesn't matter, not that same-sex harassment isn't serious, or anything like that. Let's not get carried away based on one sentence.

Mr. Bad

Noumena wrote: "Mr Bad, what method would you propose for gathering this kind of data besides having a pool of potential harassers and victims filling out surveys about their experience? Or perhaps I'm missing the point of your criticism in your first substantial post."

These types of studies usually use self-reported surveys, however, the good ones also make strong efforts to validate the data with objective measures such as criminal convictions, physical exams, medical records, etc. That the AAUW didn't bother to do this is not surprising to me. Therefore, because they didn't validate the results of their self-reported instrument, they should have made it very, very clear that what they were measuring and describing is reporting of SH, not actual SH. This is a very big and important distinction, and the fact that the AAUW seemed to go out of their way to misrepresent their results as actual SH is telling.

"Similarly, I'm not quite sure why you have a problem with the short list of references, unless you would have preferred the researchers compare their results with those of similar studies, which does seem a fair criticism of the quality of the paper, but not the quality of the data gathered here in and of itself."

Well, for starters they only cite 3 peer-reviewed publications. Most of their citations are for non peer-reviewed web pages and publications from women's advocacy orgs (including themselves!), along with court cases. It is standard practice that prior to any credible research being performed the investigators have a thorough knowledge of the valid, peer-reviewed literature. The AAUW demonstrate no such knowledge.

And you're correct, the AAUW should have used similar studies for comparison, especially in their discussions of the various issues, which is also standard practice. However, it appears that the standard practice for the AAUW is to entered into 'research' with their conclusions already decided and then proceed with a fishing expedition to gather evidence to support them. And that's what this report looks like to me.

"You point out that most harassment is heterosexual -- male victims are mostly harassed by women, female victims mostly by men -- but seem to draw the irrelevant conclusion that at most 'a modest majority' of harassers are male, contra the clear statement by the researchers that 80% of harassers are male that you quote."

I don't see the "80%" number that you refer to above. Can you point that out for me?

"Or perhaps I'm just not following your reasoning here? What does the breakdown of the gender of harassers by gender of the victim tell us about the gender of harassers overall in the absence of information about the gender of victims overall (which you do not quote for us)?"

The sex of the victim and harasser is - or at least should be - a non-issue. It shouldn't matter whether a male victim is harassed by another man any more than if a female victim is harassed by a man, but apparently for feminists is does matter. However, since my point was to demonstrate that Hugo's assertions that "the overwhelming majority of harassers are male" is false (indeed, a modest majority of harassers are male, which is not surprising), that's all I was interested in so that's the data I presented. And tellingly, I presented the only data that the AAUW gave us, so I agree that much more clarity is needed from them on this issue.

However, all this aside, since the AAUW don't report all their data and results and have a history of covering up 'incovenient' data, relying on their work for getting the true picture is not advisable.

Mr. Bad

evil fizz, no I was not trying to be obtuse - your questions made no sense to me.

Noumena wrote: "I think evil fizz' reading of the line in question is mistaken -- it misses the qualification that this only looks at victims, not the entire sample."

Right, which is why a credible report would have provided us with the sample size, breakdown by the numbers of men and women, people who endured SH vs. those who didn't, etc. Using normalized data (e.g., percentages) is a standard statistical trick sometimes used by unscrupulous authors to spin results; other times using normalized data is helpful, but in such cases it's mandatory that the raw data also be provided for context.

"but I think your point in response, on multiple harassers, while an interesting theoretical question, isn't terribly relevant from a policy perspective."

Ah, but in fact it is very relevant from a policy perspective. If we only have a handful of men perping SH, then devoting mass resources targetting an infinitesimal number of perps is inappropriate. On the other hand, if there truly is an 'epidemic' of harassers, then it might be arguable that significant resources be devoted to finding out why people are harassing, who they are, and addressing their issues.

"As per the last paragraph, 80% of incidents of harassment are committed by men, so it makes sense, for example, to develop educational programs that are directed at men and boys, even if the overwhelming majority of boys are never going to harass."

I'm not so sure - there's no way we can know if men are the majority of the actual number of individual harassers, or even if women are. The AAUW didn't collect data that allows us to determine the rate of repeat offending.

Arwen

Gonz: Man, I've seen tiny itty bitty people thrown out of restaurants for less. She said something back and you didn't listen? You physically blocked her? You threatened to report to the district manager and demanded a free meal?

In the long and short of it, Gonz, you were being hard to cope with. Restaurants have the right to refuse service, and if they felt you were sufficiently belligerent, you probably weren't going to leave easily. So they called the cops. I've done that with female customers at a coffee shop I spent several years working at: most notably the yelling woman who liked to grump loudly and constantly about everyone and everything. Not particularly threatening, but just plain annoying and disruptive. She wasn't much bigger than me, but $8.00 an hour ain't worth getting punched over.

Of course, my bouncer friend may not have been intimidated by you, but he may very have thrown you out if the establishment asked. So there's that option. I don't think you're "hard done by" simply because the cops were called. Not if you weren't convicted or roughed over in the parking lot. They were helping protect someone's private property because that person no longer wanted you around.

bmmg39

"Sexual harassment is affecting both male and female students. More than half of college students who’ve experienced harassment—both male and female—say they were upset by their experience. Yet the impact of sexual harassment is markedly differently for young women. Female students are more likely than their male peers to have negative behavioral and emotional responses to sexual harassment. Female students are more likely to take measures to avoid their harasser (48% versus 26%), to stay away from particular buildings or places on campus (27% versus 11%), to find it hard to study or pay attention in class (16% versus 8%), to have trouble sleeping (16% versus 6%) and to find someone to protect them (16% versus 4%)."

Again, we have a case in which the data say we have approximately an equal number of male and female victims, and the explaining away of it all on the ground that it's "just worse" for women. Just as with another issue that will remain unnamed, how many of those men felt they couldn't go to anyone for help with their problem for fear of being laughed at? "What...there's a woman putting the moves on you, dude? Well, what are you waiting for? Tap that!"

There's always this great steering of the focus back onto women, no matter what the issue, like Hillary Clinton making the claim that women and children are the REAL victims of war, because after the father gets shot through the heart, they'll have to go on without him.

I'm right-handed. I'm pretty sure that there are more right-handed than left-handed victims of sexual harassment, but if someone claimed otherwise I'd simply disagree and stress that NO ONE should SH another person. There would be no moral indignation that someone suggested equal numbers of victims with regard to handedness.

"Gonzman, I don't understand why you consider the consequences of harassment irrelevant to evaluating the severity of the harassment. For example, attempted murder isn't punished as harshly as murder..."

Shouldn't it be, though? A stand-up comedian wisely pointed out, "You meant to kill that guy. You just MISSED. It's like the court is saying, 'Come back when you hit something.'"

And, speaking of Gonz, I'm the biggest advocate in the world for clerks who have to put up with rude customers -- I was a sales clerk for 13 years -- but clearly Gonzman's anger was justified after fifty-plus minutes of being treated rudely and ignored.

The Happy Feminist

I'd like to respond to the Gonzman's fist point:

"Or, to spin it another way, women are less likely to stand up for themselves, and thus let the bully win. You can't have it both ways - first I'm told that "women can indeed withstand the stress and rigors of (fill in the blank) because they are as strong as men," and then in the next breath I'm told they are poor and delicate little flowers that require special handling and protection, and special laws because it's just so hard for them."

I think it's interesting that women have reported suffering more severe consequences to campus harassment, but I think it's a leap to conclude that it's because we inherently delicate little flowers. There are three possible reasons that come to mind for these more severe reactions women have reported:

(1) The harassment to which women are subjected is more severe. I haven't read the study so I don't know if they tried to compare degrees of harassment. (It may also be difficult to compare different kinds of harassment in a widespread survey because harassment comes in so many different forms.)

(2) Women ARE more sensitive to sexual harassment because of cultural norms by which women are viewed, and view themselves, in terms primarily of their sexuality. As a feminist, I may be able to laugh it off if someone calls me a "slut," but many young woman out there remain emotionally vulnerable to being judged by their sexuality. Feminists are working to change that. In other words, to the extent we are delicate little flowers, it's not inherent, it's because cultural norms have made us that way and we need to change that.

(3) Men are vulnerable to cultural norms that prevent them from admitting having been harmed. Men may be less likely to report having suffered severe emotional consequences from harassment. We need to work on that too, to encourage men to seek help when they need it.

I don't see feminists arguing for women to get "special handling or protection" or "special laws." All the sexual harassment and sex discrimination laws of which I am aware are gender-neutral. On the other hand, I think Hugo's point is fair too -- if the women are on the receiving end of the vast majority of severe or threatening instances of harassment (and this study SUGGESTS that to be the case), that is where we need to focus the majority of our rescources.

The Happy Feminist

Right! Interestingly enough, I am actually working on a case right now in which a disabled woman was removed from a store by police. The store manager called the cops because she was rude and wouldn't leave when asked.

The Gonzman

You know, Arwen, it's curious: The prescription I followed in dealing with the ruse waitress - and what I didn't mention was the racist element that went along too - was the one fore dealing with rudeness and being ignored in any professional setting: Give no credence to excuses. Do not allow yourself to be ignored. State your expectations. And state the course of action to be taken if they are ignored further.

I wonder how you would have spun that, for instance, if a woman had described dealing with a sexist man as not listening to his excuses, standing in his path and talking to him so he couldn't dismiss her, going over his head and complaining, and warning of a lawsuit?

Check your biases, Arwen. Sexism or "Size-ism?"

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