The other day one of my professors read a piece from a fiction book, supposedly written by a man, in which a female employee laments that all men in her organisation are sexist pigs who will never change. He read it out simply to make us aware that sexual harassment in the workplace is something we all need to be aware of. He then asked for comments. Have a guess whose hand went up first?
My opening remark was that the sentiments expressed in the passage he read out, although a work of fiction, are a foundation of third wave feminism. I then stopped to briefly explain the difference between second and third wave feminism, because this appeared to be new territory for everyone, including the professor. I then said that, if these sentiments are true and men are truly unreformable sex pests, the logical conclusion is a return to segregated workplaces and an admission that those old dinosaurs of the 1950s were right all along. Is this what everyone wants? Silence.
A lively discussion ensued and I withdrew for a few minutes, but when the subject of the gender pay gap and the glass ceiling came up, I had a wealth of pre-prepared arguments to put forward. The clincher was, if all these brilliant women are underpaid, why hasn’t a company sprung up which hires them all and crushed their competitors into dust? That one made the professor pause.
The thing is, as I wrote here, if you’re going to raise a contentious issue you’d better hope there’s not someone in the audience who’s given it serious consideration and reached a different conclusion from you unless you have all your ducks in a row. All I was doing is repeating the strongest lines of argument I’d seen others make – such as Christina Hoff Sommers, Ben Shapiro, and Jordan Peterson – during endless debates on the same subject. At one point I had to confess, with a grin, that reading and writing about this stuff is a hobby of mine. I don’t think anyone expected that.
Still, it was a good discussion and the professor right to raise it: sexual harassment is a big topic in the modern business environment, whether we like it or not. I also learned from the professor that Switzerland is a very conservative country, and they haven’t bought into a lot of the gender equality stuff. As I’ve said before, the Swiss are a serious people.