Sexual harassment, professionalism and lessons (not) learned

ethics cartoonI wasn’t at all sure what I could add to the cacophony of outrage instigated by the puerile remarks of a bunch of hooligans (highly paid hooligans it seems) broadcast by a Toronto television station after one of their female reporters decided she had had enough with the sexist and sexual harassment in her workplace (anywhere she is reporting from). She turned the cameras on the young men laughing at the harassment, asked them why they were laughing, let them show themselves to be even more infantile than we had thought, then broadcast the whole piece for the world to see.  One of the young men, later identified as a Hydro One employee was summarily fired from his six-figure salary job, a decision by his employee showing at the very least concern for their organization’s image if nothing else.  [See here for the Global New story and the video] So they did the right thing in the end, but where does that leave me in the professionalism/ethics discussion?

Well, I had the great good fortune to be lunching at a lovely restaurant on The Esplanade in downtown Toronto today when we were joined at the neighbouring table by a group of six suit-clad young men who looked to be in their late twenties to mid-thirties, all, as it turned out from a bit of clever eavesdropping, to be the young breed of Bay Street warriors all.   After listening to them for a few minutes my husband who had his back to them asked me if they were drunk. No, I said, they seemed sober, with only two of them even having a drink or a beer.  “They seem to be intoxicated by their own presence,” he said.  As I thought this over and listened in further, I knew that he had hit the nail on the head.

The young men’s conversation moved from stocks and commodities to the news story of the City TV journalist and the punishment meted out against the young man who was just about their age.  It seemed that one of them was either under a rock for the past few days or out of the country since one of the group had to fill him in on the details.  A discussion ensued.  This, I thought to myself, should be interesting.

you are firedThey batted around what had happened and then discussed the termination. None of them seemed too upset about the punishment, but here’s the kicker.  It wasn’t because they thought that behaviour was out of line, it was this.  “How stupid was that guy for getting caught on camera.”  There you have it.  The condemnation was not for the harassing behaviour, the fundamental wrongness of making this or any woman feel like a “piece of meat” as the journalist said in a later interview. No, the reason the guy was wrong was for letting himself be caught on camera.

I had wondered if this situation might actually alter other young men’s behaviours, and that they might begin to behave in an ethical way toward women because it’s the right thing to do.  Not so much.  It sounded to me like it would continue – if they didn’t’ get caught.

They and the young men caught on camera spewing and/or supporting the sexist expletives were indeed intoxicated by their own presence. Nice guys to have working on Bay Street. Not.

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