Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cleanup Needed on Aisle 1

There's been a huge surge recently in the recognition of the problem of sexual harassment, with many prominent persons (mostly men) in the worlds of politics*, business, and entertainment forced out of their jobs or prominent positions because of their sexual misdeeds. It's led to a lot of soul-searching in some quarters, and much discussion of what can be done to help end the problem.

There was an interesting piece in the Washington Post this past Sunday titled "The One Best Idea for Ending Sexual Harassment," in which a number of prominent people** offered their best ideas. All were good, and I could see most of them actually taking hold, but one of them appealed to the linguist in me: Kishia Clemencia, a captain in the Washington DC Fire and EMS Department, suggested Let's clean up the language. She wrote it this way:

"In our agency, you have to lead by example. Discipline is important. When those in positions of authority are crude in conversation, it fosters an environment that makes it easy for misconduct to happen. Vulgarity in language, even if inappropriate touching never happens, trickles down throughout the organization. If people in a position to lead and make decisions constantly curse and joke about sex while playing down complaints about harassment, it sends the message that harassment is not a problem — and that everyone else should feel the same way. Loose conversation promotes a negative culture throughout the chain of command. It’s hard to change people’s morals or values individually, but the agency can set the precedent that that kind of language is not acceptable — from the top down."

We all know the old schoolyard taunt that sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me ... but they will. The use of crude sexual language, particularly by those in positions of authority, sends the message that this is okay, it's normal, get used to it.

Unfortunately, we have gotten used to it. And the most egregious offender is getting a free pass.

Have a good day, and watch your language. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Apparently applicable to Democrats only ... the GOP denies it has a problem, and it clearly doesn't - because it stridently denies it has a problem.

** Who have not been accused of anything so far.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

That makes remarkably good sense. Plus it adds dignity to the work setting. I find that it's too easy to lapse into vulgar language if others are doing it. And it can be a slippery slope to other things.

John Hill said...

Good point!

Grand Crapaud said...

The quality of discourse affects no only thought, but also action.

Mike said...

It's funny how certain words in some cultures have more shock value than others. It's bloody crazy.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

That is a very good point. We have the sorry example of President Trump's remarks regarding Senator Gillibrand,