At this point in history, no one goes to Katie Roiphe for thoughtful responses to issues dotting the world of feminism, politics, sex, and gender. Oh, except for The New York Times. And Slate. And New York University.
It is only because she is given such platforms to spew her barely-risen thoughts that I feel the need to respond. She is not just an individual writer; she is in a position to change hearts and minds. Although, as we will see, “hearts” and “minds” don’t come into her analysis that much.
In her piece “In Favor of Dirty Jokes and Risqué Remarks” (I am not linking because I don’t want to give her more traffic), Roiphe shows us how political correctness has drained all the fun out of life, working life in particular. How boring that we are paying all this attention to sexual harassment again because of the allegations against Herman Cain. She does not mention that Cain is actually accused of assault as well as harassment—he is accused of groping a woman in his car when she was trying to get her job back.
That’s the danger, isn’t it? That harassment, unchecked, doesn’t just stay in the realm of dirty jokes—or in Cain’s situation, invitations to his corporate suite—it can get physical.
Not surprisingly, Roiphe isn’t going to mention such hysteria, as neither rape nor sexual harassment epidemics exist. That is, she hasn’t experienced either, so they can’t exist. Sure, her mother has detailed her experience with sexually exploitative workplaces (as well as the nuances and fuzziness of human interactions), but that’s way back then, right? Even though Katie herself pointed out that The Paris Review of the 50s wasn’t so different than that of the 90s.
Whether in the 1950s, the 1990s, or the 2010s, Roiphe is right about one thing: a single case of sexual harassment will not derail a woman. She will either speak up, laugh it off, or ignore it. But we aren’t worried about a single case. We are worried that it is acceptable to make workplaces hostile to women (and other groups) in a variety of different ways—dirty jokes, groping, “oh, I didn’t know you wanted the raise,” cutting maternity leave, that last 25 cents on the dollar, etc.
These are issues that actually are impacting the creativity of workers. Think of what we could do in the workplace if only we had equal pay for equal work, security, and safety!