Saturday, 5 January 2013

I'm too sexy for my job

My parents conceived me in the USA, but my mother travelled half a continent, alone, to give birth in Canada.  The US were invading Vietnam at the time, and my parents, no radicals, did not want a possible son to be drafted to another imperialist war.

Just today, I'm thankful for that choice, difficult as it must have been for my mother.  Because in the USA, you can fire someone if you think they are sexy.  That's what happened to Melissa Nelson, backed up by the all male Iowa Supreme Court.  Her employer's lawyer said:
"While there was really no fault on the part of Mrs. Nelson, it was just as clear the decision to terminate her was not related to the fact that she was a woman," he said. "The motives behind Dr. Knight terminating Mrs. Nelson were quite clear: He did so to preserve his marriage."
Poor boss Dr Knight.  Apparently he found Mrs Nelson "irresistable" and wasn't sure he could restrain himself, describing her as a Lamborghini - which some might call sexual harassment, since it was in reference to it being a waste she wasn't having much sex - and he thought eventually they would have an affair.  Not based on anything Mrs Nelson had suggested, mind.

Not only do women have to make sure we're not tempting men with our bodies, our clothing choices, our habits, our movements - now we have to not earn a living, in case our male employers feel they might suddenly feel driven to be sexual with us.

Well, I don't know about you, but I find other people attractive and don't sleep with them all the time.  Some might say I make a habit of it.  Walking down the street - oh, there's someone else, I think I won't sleep with them.  Sometimes at work I see someone attractive and, well, chat to them about work.  Out with friends?  Just more opportunities not to sleep with people I'm attracted to.

That is life, isn't it?  Unless, of course, you're a male employer living in Iowa, unable to control those manly urges.   Having the power to fire someone because you think they are sexy is rape culture in the extreme.  Having that power bolstered by a Supreme Court shows how entrenched rape supportive attitudes are in the institutions supposed to protect citizens from crime.

Rape culture, Iowa is soaking in it.

Thanks again, Ma.


AnneE said...

I could hardly believe this when I first read about it. He wouldn't get away with in NZ - would he?

Anonymous said...

@AnneE - pretty sure he wouldn't. I like to retain a little bit of faith in our country.


AlisonK said...

Thanks for the post: like AnneE, I could hardly believe it, & then, when I felt I had to, couldn't come up with anything like your coherent commentary.

@AnneE & @Anonymous, I know employment stuff in Aotearoa/NZ, very little of detail about the US, but I do know there is for some, as apparently here, a provision for "at will" employment, meaning your employment can be terminated at the will of the employer, other than for some protected grounds (similar to, but not as extensive as, our anti-discrimination provisions).

We do not have "at will" employment: you can be fired, but there must be a lawful reason, & this would not be one ...

Julie said...

In terms of NZ employment law, a lot of it is based on concepts of "reasonable grounds", and the level of communication about them. I very much doubt that a NZ Employment Relations Authority member or judge would find "too sexy" a reasonable ground. Which is a Good Thing.

Cat said...

That one ended up being one of those weird legal things - she didn't pursue sexual harassment, which she'd have had a good case for, but unfair dismissal (i.e. based on being a woman, protected classes being one of the few protections in the US).

As, technically, it didn't matter that she was female, just that he was attracted to her (and it could easily have been turned around into a 'Oh noes, I'm having nasty gay feelings, must fire him!') as opposed to an 'oh, wimminz can't do this job', she didn't win.

tl;dr: US at will employment is pretty dreadful.