3.28.2006

so i lied

OK, so I announce I'm taking a break from blogging, then three hours later, I post. Hello, my name is Laura, and I'm addicted to blogging.

We just watched the movie "North Country," a powerful, if somewhat predictable, story of one person standing up for her rights, who ends up changing the law, and changing the world. It's a loose dramatization of the story behind Jenson vs. Eveleth Mines, the landmark sexual harassment case that introduced the concept of "hostile climate" to the US workplace.

I vividly recall this 1998 ruling, mostly for the shock and revulsion people felt upon reading the details of what women workers endured in the all-male environment of mining.

So here's why I quickly interrupted my time off. I want to ask you all a question.

Why do many men act this way? Why are many men so offended, so disgusted, so threatened, by the presence of women in a previously all-male environment? What's going on, underneath?

Just to say "it threatens their masculinity" isn't enough. To that, I have to ask, Why?

There's no simple answer to this question. Let's give it a go.

Here's a timeline of the Jenson case.

42 comments:

Kyahgirl said...

I will try to wait quietly in the wings until some of your male readers have a chance to speak. I'm very interested in the responses.
I've worked in a predominantly male industry for a long time and not had any trouble. However, I clearly remember the angst another chemist friend of mine suffered when she went to work for a big railroad company. The good ol' boys made her life miserable for years. Her defense was to learn to be a ball buster. Not always the best approach but she was desperate to cope.

Granny said...

You popped up on bloglines so I knew you were still around.

I'm waiting too. It's late, we had a tornado, and I'm tired.

(No damage except to a barn and no injuries).

Andrea said...

no just busy
cant imagine not blogging, wouldnt know what to do with myself hehehe

James said...

Why do many men act this way? Why are many men so offended, so disgusted, so threatened, by the presence of women in a previously all-male environment? What's going on, underneath?

Speaking as a man, all I can say is, I have absolutely no idea. It's inane, and drives me nuts -- and drives Lori nutser, since she's in one of those "previously" (and still mostly) all-male environments -- computer software and networking engineering.

One of her professors once dismissed the (very few) females in his class as "only there to find a husband". In her first technical job, she'd often receive packages addressed to "Mr. Lori ...". At a conference she attended with her (then-)husband, she found that when she asked a question of a sales rep at a booth, he'd answer her husband as if he had asked the questions. Eventually, her husband had to say, "I have no idea what you're talking about. She asked you, not me."

The only guess I have is "several thousand years of reinforced stupidity".

Of course, if I were to reveal certain details of my personal life to some of these guys, I could find myself crucified on a fence somewhere, so I have my own problems with their attitudes.

James said...

Just to say "it threatens their masculinity" isn't enough. To that, I have to ask, Why?

Don't dismiss this as a major component, though. A lot of men put a lot of store in being manly men -- bigger, tougher, stronger than the others. They dismiss those who are smaller, frailer, and weaker as "girly men" and "pussies" -- they consider being compared to a woman a serious insult. Some men will and have killed over such an insult.

So, naturally, when they're doing their manly, big, tough, strong job (blowing stuff up, cutting stuff down, etc) and suddenly a woman shows up and demonstrates that she -- the epitomy of small/frail/week -- can do the job just as well as they can, well, that wuold mean they must be girly men and pussies, eh?

Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney even tried using that as a defense for their murder of Matthew Sheppard. They claimed Sheppard made a pass at them -- which meant that he thought they were girly pussy men like him, so beating him, tying him to a fence, and leaving him to die of exposure was completely understandable.

The famous Jenny Jones murder, when Jonathan Schmitz killed Scott Amedure after Amedure admitted to being attracted to Schmitz on the Jenny Jones show was another example.

Amateur said...

I'm also addicted. Maybe we should start a twelve-step program.

It would take quite a while to come up with a coherent set of thoughts on this issue but I will throw a few things out there.

We just watched North Country on the weekend. I left in the middle of the movie to go play hockey, and watched the ending when I got back at 1:30 in the morning (I was that hooked). It deserves of all the awards it has received.

We also watched Jarhead last night, which -- like most movies about soldiers -- gives another view into an all-male culture and its attitudes toward women.

And I have been involved in organized sports my whole life, which means that I have been in a lot of locker rooms, and I think that is another of the last bastions of men acting like pigs.

I think, first of all, it would be a mistake to try to apply anything like logic to this question. Groups of men -- groups of humans -- don't sit down and reason out why they hate. The reasons are usually not conscious, and that is why they are so powerful. Any justifications that come out of peoples mouths ("there aren't enough jobs at the mine") are only echos of something deep in the subconscious.

Here's how this scenario plays out, in my opinion:
(1) a group of people has a dominant position in some sphere of life, e.g. the best jobs, the front seat on the bus, whatever.
(2) they believe that they hold that position because of their merits. This has nothing to do with logic -- but it makes them feel OK -- in fact, it makes them feel righteous -- about their position of dominance. "I have a good job at the mine because I am a better miner than any woman."
(3) some outside force (courts, liberals, activists) tells them that said belief is not true; women can work as miners as well as men, african americans deserve to go to the best schools, etc.
(4) severe dissonance ensues. Dominant group cannot accept #3 without abandoning a very important belief that they "deserve" their position.


The choice comes down to: hate myself or hate "them."

Now, up to this point I have not really said anything that especially applies to the men-versus-women issue, and really I think that this is the same hate that surfaces against races, religions or sexual orientations. The behaviour depicted in North Country is particularly aimed at women but no more or less brutal than what those same Minnesotans could have invented to punish gays or african americans.

However, I have to admit that I struggle to think of a situation where a dominant group of women perpetrated this kind of hatred on a subordinate group of men.

L-girl said...

Just to say "it threatens their masculinity" isn't enough. To that, I have to ask, Why?

Don't dismiss this as a major component, though.


Far from dismissing it, I'm saying it's a central component, maybe the central component. I'm trying to decipher what's behind that, what causes it, why it's perceived as a threat - which you take a good stab at answering.

I DETEST (!!!!) the use of the words girl, pussy, etc. being used as insults! Drives me insane. But the fact that those words are insults says so much.

I'm at work, must run, I will read and comment more later.

M@ said...

I joined the army reserves just after the military first allowed women into the combat arms. So in my first summer there, the instructors were just learning how to deal with female recruits; there had simply never been any female gunners in the artillery before. (Same for infantry and so on, too.)

There weren't any women in my platoon that summer, though there were a handful in the 100 or so recruits on the basic training courses. From what I remember, there was no animosity among the male recruits; it came from the trainers.

Female recruits meant some annoyances for the instructors; women needed separate showers and tents, for example (and that meant half the number of showers for the men, and an entire shower bivouac for fewer than 10 women). The logistics of keeping the section or platoon together was also more difficult when one member is halfway across the camp.

And don't forget that part of the training experience, for good or ill, is someone coming into your tent at 5 am and booting everyone out of bed, or bursting in for a snap inspection just before lights-out. The women were excluded from that. (And there were of course very few women instructors, simply because women had not been in the combat arms long enough to become instructors!)

Then there's the physical side of it. The artillery work includes manhandling 40-pound shells, pulling great big howitzers around, that kind of thing. Of course there were men who were unable to keep up with the physical side of the work, but that typical side of prejudice was there: it was assumed men could do the task unless they proved otherwise; it was assumed women _couldn't_ do the task until they proved otherwise. However, it probably led to women being perceived as privileged, because they were perceived as less able to do the work. (Plus, adding a woman to a gun crew would make the men on the crew feel that they had to do more work, to make up for what the woman couldn't do.)

It was also a very locker room environment, too, and I doubt you could call it anything but a hostile environment. Skin mags were passed around, sexual references were constant, and there was, you can imagine, plenty of speculation about the women, who was doing whom, that sort of thing.

So there's a very sexist environment, with a very rigid power structure, and those at all but the lowest levels of the power structure are working to keep women from rising. Meanwhile the women are perceived as privileged, because they didn't have to do as much work, and an annoyance, because they needed things that the army wasn't well-prepared for, and because they were perceived as unable to do equal work but deriving equal benefit.

Phew. Long "comment" here. Yep, let pappy tell you some ol' war stories... go get me some bourbon...

James said...

I DETEST (!!!!) the use of the words girl, pussy, etc. being used as insults! Drives me insane. But the fact that those words are insults says so much.

Exactly. What's even worse is when women do it, as Ann Coulter did recently at a Republican fundraiser.

Basically, I think the problem boils down to an ingrained belief that women are the lowest of the low where it matters about manly men things -- so if a woman is better than you at those things (or even as good as you), then you can't possbily be a manly man.

As Amateur said, it's related to all sorts of other prejudice -- like the belief that "those immigrants" are only fit for cleaning toilets, so if one of them has been promoted over you, that means you're not as fit as someone who's only fit for cleaning toilets. The logic's sound, but the premise is inane.

Kyahgirl said...

l-girl, in case you see some new faces here, I asked my Cyberpoler pals to drop by and comment if they could.

Wrye said...

I strongly suspect that the level of sexism in a workplace/industry partially correlates with how dangerous and dehumanizing the work is. If the work itself corrodes your humanity to begin with...

Of course, this doesn't mean the problem in any given workplace is unsolvable, as has been demonstrated many times; but like gangrene, it will only fester if it's allowed to.

Kyahgirl said...

you know Wrye, I think that's a great observation. It seems like a lot of the really harsh treatment (physically threatening people, jacking off into a female colleagues locker contents, etc) happens in industries like mining, railroading, etc.

Also, there is a lot to be said for the culture a company will allow to develop. If the leaders in a company have deeply ingrained prejudices against a particular gender, race, religion, its going to be hard to make a lasting change.

Its not just men. Women can be real pigs too. Someone mentioned earlier about the 'lockeroom attitudes'. I've seen women talk about men as sex objects and speak as a group in a way they'd never behave one-on-one . I think, sometimes the behaviour stems from a basic human weakness..we haven't evolved as far as we think we have. The 'lowest mind rules the mob' is demonstrated over and over again in everyday life.

L-girl said...

Its not just men. Women can be real pigs too. Someone mentioned earlier about the 'lockeroom attitudes'. I've seen women talk about men as sex objects and speak as a group in a way they'd never behave one-on-one.

You're being overly generous, I think. We're not talking about how men or women speak of the other gender. It seems all humans (hetero or gay, male or female) can speak of the other person in purely objective terms. But that's not harassment at work.

In female-dominated industries or jobs, is the male minority abused on anywhere near the level women endured in the mines? Male nurses? Male secretaries?

I'm not saying they are never subject to stereotypes and prejudices, I'm sure they sometimes are. But daily humiliation, abuse and violence? No.

L-girl said...

I think, first of all, it would be a mistake to try to apply anything like logic to this question. Groups of men -- groups of humans -- don't sit down and reason out why they hate. The reasons are usually not conscious, and that is why they are so powerful. Any justifications that come out of peoples mouths ("there aren't enough jobs at the mine") are only echos of something deep in the subconscious.

I agree with this, totally. I guess I'm trying to take a peek into the subconscious, to the extent that we ever can. I'm just reading the comments now, with great interest. Let's see if my boss stays away long enough...

L-girl said...

So there's a very sexist environment, with a very rigid power structure, and those at all but the lowest levels of the power structure are working to keep women from rising. Meanwhile the women are perceived as privileged,

This is a good summary of a big piece of the issue. Great insight from a different perspective!

L-girl said...

Basically, I think the problem boils down to an ingrained belief that women are the lowest of the low where it matters about manly men things -- so if a woman is better than you at those things (or even as good as you), then you can't possbily be a manly man.

As Amateur said, it's related to all sorts of other prejudice -- like the belief that "those immigrants" are only fit for cleaning toilets, so if one of them has been promoted over you, that means you're not as fit as someone who's only fit for cleaning toilets. The logic's sound, but the premise is inane.


Yes yes yes, this is very well said.

L-girl said...

Also, there is a lot to be said for the culture a company will allow to develop.

That's exactly why the class-action suit and "hostile climate" definition was needed, because it was a culture that was allowed to thrive.

Using the mine in the movie as an example, obviously the company could have put an end to all of it had they wanted to. But no one, from the mine owner on down, wanted women there, they wanted to make their lives as uncomfortable as possible.

Any man who might have wanted to come to the women's defense would have suffered too, at the very least through ostracism -- and if he wasn't a veteran, well known to all, much worse. That's how mob intimidation works.

James said...

I strongly suspect that the level of sexism in a workplace/industry partially correlates with how dangerous and dehumanizing the work is. If the work itself corrodes your humanity to begin with...

Not entirely, though. Computer engineering has never been a dangerous or dehumanizing job, but it was very hard for women to break into it 'way back when. It's much better now, though, and probably was never as bad as mining, but the correlation isn't as direct or strict as it might appear at first.

Its not just men. Women can be real pigs too. Someone mentioned earlier about the 'lockeroom attitudes'. I've seen women talk about men as sex objects and speak as a group in a way they'd never behave one-on-one.

Yeah, but go to many men and say, "I only want you for your body", and they'll be thrilled at the compliment. ;)

In female-dominated industries or jobs, is the male minority abused on anywhere near the level women endured in the mines? Male nurses? Male secretaries?

They'd be most likely to get abused by other men than by female colleagues. "Male nurse" and "male secretary" still sound odd and incorrect to some people, though they've been around halfway to forever.

L-girl said...

They'd be most likely to get abused by other men than by female colleagues.

Based on my own experiences, this is definitely true. They are also not routinely abused (based on gender) by females in positions of power above them. I'm not saying it never happens, I'm sure it does, but it's an exception.

James said...

BTW, another classic examle:

Recently there was a news story about a move to drop contraceptives from public health programs in one of the US states (can't remember which one). The governor's position was that "giving out contraceptives to single women promotes the idea that sex outside of marriage is somehow OK, and people should not be forced to pay for someone else doing something they consider immoral" (or words to that effect).

You rarely hear about movements to have Viagra pulled from public health plans, though.

L-girl said...

You rarely hear about movements to have Viagra pulled from public health plans, though.

In fact, oral contraceptives have been covered by most private insurance plans only since the advent of Viagra and similar drugs. Birth control pills were almost never covered - then Viagra came out and was covered right away! There was a huge outcry about discrimination, legislators took it up, and insurers were forced to either retreat on Viagra (and give up profits!) or cover oral contraceptives.

Personally I don't think the two are comparable. Birth control is much more important!

Norwegianity said...

I was a union steward back in the '70s when a lot of women were getting hired by the Firestone factory I worked in. I represented a lot of them and the men who harrassed them fell into two groups: young guys who just didn't know shit, and older guys who were married.

This is a flip analysis, but we used to joke that the worst offenders were either ignorant or married, and in most cases the harrassment represented anger with the wife.

Not an excuse, but that's how it seemed to work out.

impudent strumpet said...

This is such an interesting discussion!

I have a question for anyone who might have insight:

If I may take the liberty of summarizing, the main reason given seems to come down to the men thinking they are "higher" than women because they can do The Job, and then when women who can also do The Job come along, that somehow "lowers" the men to the women's level.

But why is the reaction "She can do the same thing as me! That means that I must be down at her level!" rather than "She can do the same thing as me! That means that she must be up at my level!" In other words, why is the subconscious reaction to think that equality automatically devalues the men instead of adding value to the women?

L-girl said...

Good question, Impudent Strumpet.

And welcome to wmtc, by the way. I see you also rail against the wrongfully used apostrophe. Good on ya!

James said...

In other words, why is the subconscious reaction to think that equality automatically devalues the men instead of adding value to the women?

Because the assumption that women are "low" is more fundamental to the mindset than the assumption that the men themselves are "high". How can they be good if they don't have anyone to be better than?

redsock said...

Not much to add to this, except:

Reading the timeline and some of the other stuff at L's link, I was shocked at the level and extent of the abuse. What was shown or hinted at in the movie was only a fraction of what actually went on. Really, if they had shown some of the worst stuff, it would have seemed too over the top. And it went on for nine years before the women filed suit.

Also, this looked like a pretty small town. The main character's father also worked in the mine. He must have known to some extent how much his daughter was being terrorized. And while he didn't want her working there, he did nothing (presumably) for almost a decade!

The abuse would make "more sense" if no one interacted outside of the job site. Yet there must have been other daughters, spouses and female relatives of some of the men working there (since it was a huge employer in the area) and they saw each other out in the town (bars, shopping, etc.) on a regular basis and the abuse continued and continued and continued.

How do you keep up that level of hate? Wouldn't it lessen in intensity even a little bit after three or four or seven years?

L-girl said...

Yet there must have been other daughters, spouses and female relatives of some of the men working there (since it was a huge employer in the area) and they saw each other out in the town (bars, shopping, etc.) on a regular basis and the abuse continued and continued and continued.

I think many decent people who might have spoken up in a different atmosphere were intimidated into allowing it to happen. Not that I'm making excuses. Brutality often depends on the silence of those who know.

I was so disgusted at how women in the town defended the abusive men, believing instead that the women were "whores". Or, in the case of the other female mineworkers, believing the best way to handle it was to keep their head down and say nothing - out of (legitimate) fear of losing their jobs.

How do you keep up that level of hate? Wouldn't it lessen in intensity even a little bit after three or four or seven years?

It truly is amazing. Can you imagine how degraded the abusers became, so full of rage and hate, and so insecure...?

L-girl said...

I was shocked at the level and extent of the abuse.

This is what I remember reading about. It must have been after a lower court decision, because my father and I talked about it - so it must have been in the mid-80s. He was still a union representative at the time, and this hailed as a huge victory for workers and women. We were both thrilled.

My father was all for justice and equality as long as he didn't have to kick in personally. :)

Nerdbeard said...

I think the answer is, "because it feels good to be a jerk." And I'm not being glib when I say that. They get a little charge out of it the first time, or see someone else do it and get a bit of excitement, and it self-reinforces.

I don't think it really has a lot to do with the gender of the victom. Anyone that could be easily identified as a relatively helpless minority in the local environment would probably be subject to the same sort of behaviour. But I say that with no knowledge of the details of this particular case.

I'm sure males are more prone to this sort of thing -- we enjoy seeing people suffer more -- but I don't think its unique to our gender, especially when you get a group of people who identify with each other together and add a perceived outsider.

BTW -- yeah, it's a shame that names for female genitalia are used as an insult. Hope you remember that next time you hear someone use the word "prick", "dick", "dork", etc.

L-girl said...

I don't think it really has a lot to do with the gender of the victom.

This has everything to do with gender, and power. You might want to see this movie to see what we're talking about. It's simply not possible to think this had nothing to do with gender. The owner of the mine and the foreman weren't getting a charge out of being bullies. They were trying to drive women from an all-male environment.

L-girl said...

Dork is a word for genitalia? I didn't know that. I thought it meant nerd. No?

Wrye said...

James:

Not entirely, though.

That would be why I used the word partially. Qualifiers like that do not just accidentally wander in to my sentences.

.Computer engineering has never been a dangerous or dehumanizing job, but it was very hard for women to break into it 'way back when. It's much better now, though, and probably was never as bad as mining, but the correlation isn't as direct or strict as it might appear at first.

Again, the word partially is key. And I think your example points out wht the correlation is: the more dangerous, degrading and dehumanizing the workplace, the worse the manifestations of sexism you will see. We're not talking about "breaking in" to a field, we're talking about a hostile workplace verging on violent. We're not talking about run of the mill sexism here.

See, sexism exists everywhere, and in Female-dominated fields, too. Ask a male nurse or librarian sometime. But people don't lose limbs in libraries or hospitals very often. Your average computer technician is not at risk of dying every day they go to work on the job. Your average computer technician does not hold the life of other computer technicians in their hands on a daily basis.

Here, lemme tell you a cheery story:

I worked several summers in pulp mills. If you've never worked in heavy industry, I don't know how to convey the experience, but imagine working inside the largest basement you can concieve, heated to absurd levels, with every exposed surface in the place covered in-chemicals, sawdust, you name it, depending on where you were, and every one of your senses under assault, surrounded by machinery (or heights) that could kill you and the constant threat of poison gas. The protective gear you wear is hot and uncomfortable, and the work itself is mind-numbing and repetitive. (I once calculated one summer that I had personally shovelled about three metric tons of woodchips).

All of this is being done so you can have toilet paper, bear in mind.

Deep in one of the bleach plants, about five stories up on one of the tanks, some guy had pasted a Playboy centrefold. (And just doing that would've taken some doing) It was the only thing in that particular place which wasn't yellow, toxic, corrosive, or otherwise depressing. I smiled pretty much every time I saw it. It was so absurd, but the impulse was clear: the only thought powerful enough to take your mind away from that awful place was the thought of women. It wasn't, so far as I could tell, a place where harrassment or sexism went on, but it was somewhere you felt barely human at times. My brother had it worse--he got stuck cleaning the insides of railraod chemical cars a few times. It's not hard to imagine how that feeling might curdle, especially if (unlike me) you were stuck in a place where you weren't so well paid, the management didn't place such an emphasis on safety, or your union was corrupt or non-existent.

So no, I don't think we can disount the sheer awfulness of a workplace as a contributing factor.
And mining is, after all, about as awful an occupation as exists.

Wrye said...

I didn't think that was true of dork. But then again, I didn't think it was true of schmuck or putz, either. Evidently "goon" means something worse than "thug", too.

L-girl said...

Thanks for this, Wrye, great comment.

I always thought mining was the single worst job a human being could have. Then I read Orwell's The Road To Wigan Pier and I knew I was right.

We're not talking about "breaking in" to a field, we're talking about a hostile workplace verging on violent. We're not talking about run of the mill sexism here.

I meant to say this earlier in response to James's comments about the sexism Lori encountered when she broke into the IT industry.

I have no doubt what Lori encountered was maddening, and stressful, and it was clearly wrong and unnecessary. But I highly doubt anyone smeared shit in her office, routinely called her a whore and a cunt, grabbed her physically, ejactulated on her locker...

Hostile-climate sexual harassment is another beast entirely. This is why my eyes popped open reading "it has nothing to do with gender". Oh really. I guess lynching had nothing to do with race.

L-girl said...

Yeah, shmuck and putz are Yiddish. But I think the ordinary English useage no longer refers to penises. Although it did start out that way, once upon a time.

L-girl said...

BTW -- yeah, it's a shame that names for female genitalia are used as an insult. Hope you remember that next time you hear someone use the word "prick", "dick", "dork", etc.

By the way, I said "I detest...". That's a statement of my personal feelings. Nothing more, nothing less.

I also wasn't referring only to names for female body parts. The very word "girl" is used as insult, and as a former girl, I hate that.

Your mileage will certainly vary. Feel free to go on about it on your own blog.

James said...

How do you keep up that level of hate? Wouldn't it lessen in intensity even a little bit after three or four or seven years?

For some folks, it's easy. Look at Fred Phelps.

I didn't think that was true of dork. But then again, I didn't think it was true of schmuck or putz, either. Evidently "goon" means something worse than "thug", too.

Not really. It originally meant a stupid or oafish person.E.C. Segar popularized the word in his "Thimble Theatre" (Popeye) cartoons with the character of "Alice the Goon" (from the Moon). Spike Milligan got the term from Segar for his "Goon Show" (staring Milligan, Peter Sellers, and Harry Seacombe). It picked up the "thug" meaning in the laste 30s.

I have no doubt what Lori encountered was maddening, and stressful, and it was clearly wrong and unnecessary. But I highly doubt anyone smeared shit in her office, routinely called her a whore and a cunt, grabbed her physically, ejactulated on her locker...

True enough -- but then, computer geeks aren't generally physically aggressive enough for most of that.

Nerdbeard said...

I was under the commonly held mistaken belief that a dork was a whale penis, so it would be like saying, "you are the biggest phalus on the planet." Actually, according to Wikipedia, its original meaning was merely any penis, so close enough for my purposes.

Looks like I've been talking out my ass again, but I still wonder if the exact same series of events could not have occurred if the "intruder" was an immigrant worker, or the wrong religion, social class, or ancestry, or broke their eggs on the wrong end, or any of the other billions of things that people get up tight about. I assume the nature of the abuse was gender related, but that only makes sense since that was this particular group's problem. That was the moral panic that was fashionable at the time, but a moral panic can take any form. The question was essentially, "why do men do this to women?" and my opinion is that you need to consider the general case to get meaningful answers. I don't think that the genders of the players in this case tells the whole story but rather that focusing on those details leads to less useful questions.

I do agree that men are more likely to be abusive and to a greater extreme, I think that's probably well-documented. So I'm not saying that gender isn't a contributing factor. However I do still also think that being mean and foul and getting away with it, even being rewarded for it, is a terribly powerful stimulant. Men love to see revenge, most of us are wet-wired to really enjoy it. As I mentioned a moment ago, women in the workforce was a huge moral panic of the day (and of course continues to be such for some people). Abusing the subject of the panic makes men feel good; they are exacting revenge for their imagined greivances. I think that asking "Why do men get threatened by women?" misses the more important and meaningful question, "How and why do these panics arise in all human populations?" which is why I still assert that, to overstate my opinion, it has "nothing to do" with gender, in exactly the same way that lynching has "nothing to do" with race. As you seem to be saying, they are the same phenomenon. So why do we disagree?

As I'm not likely to see a dramatisation that fictionalises a tragic event (I would also rather see a documentary) I'd love it if someone would try to educate me and point out how my opinion can't fit the facts.

impudent strumpet said...

Two unrelated comments:

L-girl said:

Or, in the case of the other female mineworkers, believing the best way to handle it was to keep their head down and say nothing

Reminds me of middle school, when the tormented are told "just ignore them, they just want attention."

Wrye said, as explanation for pasting up a centrefold in a manufacturing plant:

It was so absurd, but the impulse was clear: the only thought powerful enough to take your mind away from that awful place was the thought of women

But why was the picture necessary? Surely you can just escape into your own happy thoughts whenever necessary without visual aids!

James said...

But why was the picture necessary? Surely you can just escape into your own happy thoughts whenever necessary without visual aids!

Having a visual aid helps trigger the happy thoughts. When you're up to your elbows in unpleasant work, you tend not to think about anything else. Catching the photo out of the corner of your eye can provide a spontaneous pick-me-up.

M@ said...

So let me just jack the ol' thread here... anyone listen to Ideas on the CBC last night? They're playing last year's Massey lectures by UN diplomat Stephen Lewis (I hope I remember the name correctly!). The theme of the lectures was the African problem, and they were entitled "Race Against Time".

Last night's lecture dealt specifically with the plight of women in Africa, and the unwillingness of the UN or any other organization to commit any action or funding to resolving it. His descriptions, first of the AIDS-ravaged areas he visited, and then of the clanking bureaucracy of the UN, were quite moving.

His summary for the problem was "benign indifference" -- that is, no one at the UN has any negative feelings towards women; their inaction isn't deliberate. But they're still just as culpable and the problem is growing worse every day.

I think that phrase, "benign indifference", sums up the insidious problem of sexism quite nicely.

Oh, and I'm going to buy his book myself -- the Massey lectures are almost always worth hearing or reading. They pick some of the greatest minds in Canada and I always learn a lot from them.

Marnie said...

I caught part of that. He was very forceful! For once I think I'd prefer the CDs over the book, just to hear his delivery. He's a great man.