Great post from Mark Kleiman about a new California law requiring “anyone with supervisory responsibilities” to undergo training in “sexual harassment prevention.” At UCLA, where Kleiman teaches, “anyone with supervisory responsibilities” is defined so as to include “chairs, deans, principal investigators, and any faculty who have teaching assistants or research assistants, in addition to staff supervisors and managers.”
The whole concept is, I submit, deeply offensive.
Let’s consider the notion of “training,” shall we? I know what it means to “train” a puppy, or even an infant. But what, pray tell, does it mean to “train” an adult human being? I can train for a skill or a performance (chest surgery, say, or running a marathon), by building up the appropriate muscles, reflexes, and habits. But what does it mean to “train” someone about how not to be a sexual predator in the workplace? Are we to practice not demanding sexual favors from our subordinates? Do obnoxious-language-avoidance drills?
No, we can sit there as some staff drone or contractor either recites from a policy manual or tries to “raise our sensitivity”: i.e., attempts to indoctrinate us. To paraphrase the caption (by E.B. White) of one of my favorite cartoons, I say it’s Maoism, and I say to hell with it.
Here’s a question for my readers learned in the law: Can the state lawfully require, as a condition of my employment, that I endure being preached at? Can it require
that my employer discipline me for refusing to sit through two hours of offensive boredom?
Well said. To make this even more offensive, by the way, the law requires that the sexual harassment prevention training be repeated every two years (apparently in case the dogs have forgotten their lessons).
By the way, Kleiman is likely to find that the “training” targets behavior that doesn’t even start to rise to the level of sexual predation. The sexual harassment prevention materials I’ve seen (admittedly all going back a few years, but I doubt that much has changed) espouse a grim puritanical ideology that seeks to exterminate all sexual humor and innuendo, and even innocent compliments on personal appearance or clothing. Courtship is allowed, but only as a one-shot deal: once you’ve been turned down, any further attempts are verboten (a rule that would effectively nix a lot of marriages).
The feminist war on sexual harassment, another good cause gone awry, has faded from the news lately; but, as Kleiman reminds us, it is definitely still with us. Let’s not forget that coercive attempts to regulate personal behavior are just as likely to come from the left as from the right.