WOMEN
09/26/2013 10:21 am ET

Guardian Article Seriously Claims You Shouldn't Report Sexual Harassment At Work

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Apparently, women are partially to blame for any sexual harassment they might experience in the workplace -- and therefore ought not to report it.

At least that's the argument made by lawyer Vanessa James, who wrote a Sept. 23 piece for The Guardian urging women to register complaints about sexual harassment only as a last resort. According to James, the responsibility falls on women to set boundaries for what's appropriate, and they shouldn't complain about being sexually harassed if they weren't clear enough in setting said boundaries. Yup, we feel like banging our heads against our desks too.

Here are five of the most frustrating, victim-blaming parts of James' piece:

  1. "A successful court case does not give you back the career you lost." Sure, a sexual harassment court case may not give you back your career, but this is just evidence that we need a system overhaul -- telling women to stay silent about harassment shouldn't be the answer.
  2. "To progress fully in a career, ability is only part of it –- you have to be liked and trusted by your colleagues. A woman who has raised a grievance or complaint (however justified) will no doubt feel vulnerable in the long term because of it." So basically, you're telling women to prioritize popularity above their need to stand up for themselves? Again, not the message we should be sending.
  3. "If you do not define your own boundaries then you cannot expect others to be able to either." There's of course something to be said for making it clear what you're comfortable with and what you're not, but the idea that failing to spell out your boundaries makes it okay for people to treat you inappropriately is all kinds of messed up.
  4. "A female employee who instigates sexist jokes has demonstrated to others that she enjoys risqué banter and so once that boundary is broken down she has to be comfortable with that behavior in her working relationships.” That logic doesn't quite work for us -- making one joke or comment doesn't mean you are asking to be sexually harassed.
  5. "The formal route should be seen by women seeking career progression as a last resort." We don't think women should only seek help when they're at their wits' end. We should be empowering women (and men) to report sexual harassment and prevent future incidences. James' op-ed does quite the opposite.

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