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Hi Matea -

Thanks for your response and dialog on this.

Please know that I do support the essential theme of Professor Pratt’s article. I did not re-iterate the points that she made, because she made them so well, and because those same points have been made recently by countless other articles in the media. While there is still a culture to change, there is no dearth of articles about the problems.

What I wrote was what I perceived to be the flaws in some of her points, even though her core ideas are right. As I have said, oppression and discrimination are one thing — something to be fought — but it is easy to start to see everything through that lens, and it appears to me that she is doing that. No every inappropriate act is an act of discrimination — some are merely human nature, that has nothing to do with discrimination. Also, seeing everything as discrimination will alienate men, and that is not helpful to the cause. If you read some of the comments to her article, it is clear that it came across as whining to some of the male commenters, and that is because Pratt seems to see everything as discrimination, and does not acknowledge the challenges that men have in all this. Progress on this will require honest dialog — not hyperbole.

On your point that, “every touching is inappropriate unless consensual — whether its at a bar or a classroom”, while that sounds logical, is it practical? It has been a long time since I have been single, but I seem to recall that if I had been in a bar and asked, “can I put my hand on your yours”, the question would have been seen as creepy. Courtship is a subtle dance, and the rules for that are not written down anywhere.

If we ban every normal well intentioned action in the workplace, we sterilize it, and doing that is probably not what people want. What they want is fairness.

Your comment about clothing misses my point entirely. You wrote, “it implies that all men think about is objectifying women”. That is definitely not what I said. You are seeing this in extremes, as if I had written, Clothing influences the perception of men, and thus men only perceive women based on their clothing. You are seeing this as a choice between two opposites, when reality is somewhere inbetween.

The reality is that,

  1. Most Western men do perceive women as professionally credible (notice that I said “most” — not all).
  2. However, extremely distracting and sexually suggestive clothing undermines one’s professional credibility, because it triggers deep parts of the brain that are very difficult to resist (the limbic system). (This is true for both men and women.)
  3. Women don’t need to “be ugly”. It is possible to dress in a non-sexual way that is not “ugly”.

You can’t have it both ways: if you want to be seen in a professional way, dress in a non-sexual and non-attention-getting way. If however you want to attract potential suitors, dress in a sexual and attention-getting way, but then don’t expect people to focus on your professional abilities. The same applies to men who work in a female-dominated profession: if I were a man working in an office of female behavioral therapists, I would not wear a sleeveless muscle shirt with a plunging neckline showing the top of my pecs and then expect that when the women see me that they will first think of my professional abilities.

Again, I want to reiterate my support for women in the workplace, to be treated fairly, to be paid the same as their male counterparts, to be given the same opportunities, to be acknowledged in meetings and not talked over, to be included and not bypassed by discussions in the mens room, and to not be harassed sexually. Discrimination and sexual harassment exist and are real problems.

Very best,

Cliff

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