Originally published on August 14, 2010
Last week The American Prospect revealed an unsettling workplace trend. This discovery is completely unanticipated, so prepare to be shocked.
When female coworkers are out of earshot, men sometimes talk about them. Just awful, right? And guys aren’t just discussing the work habits of their female colleagues — occasionally they mention their looks!
This is the new “sexual harassment”: not the groping, fondling, and obscene comments of yesteryear, but “what’s said about [women] when their backs are turned.” According to the Prospect‘s Ann Friedman, “behind-their-back comments are also intimidation and bullying of a sexual nature.” And this indirect harassment is even worse than dealing with run-of-the-mill lewdness from male coworkers.
[G]iven that networking and reputation are keys to success in many professions, what people say about you is arguably more important than what they say to your face. If your professional contacts are talking about your legs rather than your résumé, you’re at a disadvantage. I know how to handle direct sexist comments. It’s much harder to think about how to shut down a conversation about me that I may not even be aware of.
Watch out, guys: if you’re hanging out at the bar after work, be sure to limit the leg talk to women who aren’t coworkers. Unless, of course, the owners of said legs are around to “handle” the comments. Got it?
Friedman describes some of the other conversations that would be off limits in her Utopian vision of a world in which men no longer talk about attractive women: continue reading …