Thursday, August 7, 2008

Our sensitive world

Corporations, schools and even sports teams across the country are mandating sensitivity training courses so that nobody will ever be offended again.

That's the intro to a recent installment of the Penn and Teller program on Showtime called, well, it's called what comes out of the back end of a bull. And it's also what I think of all this mandated "sensitivity training." A lot of it's aimed at not offending the opposite sex or persons of another race, and most of it is highly unnecessary. This is not the swinging '70s, when a large percentage of men seemed to be constantly "on the make" like the Festrunk brothers, portrayed above by Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd, and women were still something of a curiosity in the workplace. Several decades later, women and men largely work as equals, and based on my workplace, I see very few incidents of someone making unwanted advances toward a member of the opposite sex. Nevertheless, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is still handling about 15,000 sexual harassment complaints annually, based on information I was able to gather. My guess is that at least half of those cases are bogus. The American Association of University Women did a study of 8th- through 11th-graders in 2002 that purported to find 83 percent of girls and 78 percent of boys had been sexually harassed. THE AAUW issued another study in 2006 alleging that 62 percent of college women and 61 percent of college men had suffered the same fate. My thoughts on those studies? I would refer you to the title of the Penn and Teller show. That's also my feeling about most of these training seminars. It's all common-sense stuff, and unless you're hiring a bunch of dolts, it shouldn't be necessary. Write up a clear company policy and be done of it. But I know why companies do this. They might say otherwise, but a key reason is that if they happen to get sued for an incident of alleged sexual harassment, they can go to court and say, "Look at our extensive sensitivity training program." It's CYA, all the way. Some of what they "teach" you is so obvious as to be funny. I'll try to capture the gist of what you learn at these seminars with the following acceptable and unacceptable comments you can make to a co-worker of the opposite gender. Acceptable: "That scarf is a lovely color." Unacceptable: "Nice dress, babe. I'd sure like to see what it looks like on my bedroom floor." See, it's simple. It's much the same with relations among the various races. The vast majority of people don't care whether their co-workers are white, black, red, yellow or some combination thereof. The reason we continue to get many of these sexual harassment and racial discrimination cases is that, in large part, we are a people who have become accustomed to feeling aggrieved by the slightest offhand comment or action. There are still legitimate cases in which women and people of color are treated improperly or illegally, but in some people's twisted minds, an encouraging pat on the back is akin to a sexual advance, and relating a scene from "Chappelle's Show" could get you branded a bigot. I'm getting tired of people crying "Wolf!" when the "offense" is the equivalent of a Chihuahua. By the way, the next Penn and Teller show, which starts airing tonight, is about the "stranger danger" hysteria. Should be a good one.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good comments. I think we have come a long way in the work place as far as equality for gender and race. But, I will say that we still need to do a little sensitivity training when it comes to the subject of sexual orientation. Many people I know and have worked with are still quite insensitive. It is a touchy subject. Many people have feelings about LBGT's (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered)that are based on religious beliefs, or just plain fear of what they don't understand. And these people feel like it is still okay to discriminate against folks and use words and make comments that hurt or harass. I am one of those people that believe that sexual orientation is not a choice and you can no more choose your sexual orientation than you can choose your race or your gender. I know plenty of people who still don't feel comfortable in their workplace because of comments or language that they have heard coworker use - or blatant discrimination.
We need to all realize that no matter what your opinion is on those of another race, gender, sexual orientation - the work place is no place for it and keep it to yourself.

August 8, 2008 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger miss bess said...

You are one wild and crazy guy, Brant. Happy bday buddy...

August 8, 2008 at 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good column, sweetie.

August 9, 2008 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Thanks, honeybuns

August 9, 2008 at 10:22 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home