Posted by: liseoverturf | April 4, 2018

Female Senators Push for Change

Last week, the Washington Post did a news story about a recent spending bill that was passed. The bill failed to include rules in regards to sexual harassment claims, something many female senators heavily supported. Currently, the “Congressional Accountability Act” is referenced anytime a sexual harassment suit is filed by or against an employee from the legislative branch. Currently, “the law requires accusers to undergo counseling, mediation, and a month-long ‘cooling off’ period before filing a suit by their harassers” (Vlebeck). Female senators pushed to address this issue and institute changes that would no longer require an accuser to jump through that many hoops to file a claim. In wake of the #metoo movement, sexual harassment is becoming a bigger and bigger issue in today’s world; or it at least is receiving more coverage. Women are predominantly victims of sexual harassment, and as we have seen with guest speakers in our class, even sexist remarks and actions can be enough to make a woman want to quit her job. A woman being sexually harassed at work is very likely to leave, which continues the problem of there being a lack of women in leadership positions.

I was surprised to see this headline. With paternity leave becoming more prevalent, and more women being in positions of power, I was surprised that there is legislation that has a likely ability to discourage a woman from seeking justice. Going through counseling, mediation, and having to wait a month is a lot of steps to complete; I am sure many women want to avoid the process and do not report things, or get caught up with the process in the middle of a suit and decide to drop it all together. Additionally, this story showed that the 22 female senators, both democratic and republican, all found it necessary that changes be implemented in this bill. I am positive that if we had more females in the senate, it is more likely that we would see change. My questions for the class are: what are your thoughts on this long process to file a sexual harassment claim? Is it fair that both democratic and republican senators can unanimously agree on something and it will not pass because they are the minority sex? How do you think things would be different if women had the majority in the senate?

 

Article:

Vlebeck, E. (2018, March 28). Female senators demand rule changes to address sexual harassment in Congress. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2018/03/28/female-senators-demand-rule-changes-to-address-sexual-harassment-in-congress/?utm_term=.4bf2a23b0e0b

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Responses

  1. Hi Lise! I had no idea about this law, nor the recent changes/lack to changes to it. I think this is absolutely atrocious. First, why is this still a law? I don’t understand why people are so loath to change laws. The world is a wildly different place today than it was twenty years ago. Why should there still be the same laws? Fun fact, my main man Thomas Jefferson thought that the Constitution should be written every eighteen or so years, with the maturing of a new generation. The Constitution is a living document for a reason. Second, I think it’s incredibly offensive to begin with. If the topic of this bill was not sexual harassment, it would be written totally differently. If it was about physical violence, say punching someone in the face, there would doubtfully be counseling for the accuser, nor a ‘cooling-off period.’ I don’t understand what the difference is.

    I think that the #metoo movement has been very important in bringing uncomfortable (and not often discussed) topics to the table. Women are refusing to be swept aside, and I think this is an example of a time where tempered radicalism won’t work. This is a topic that required immediate and forceful debate. There is no time to settle for little wins: this is a fight that people are taking up. When it comes to safety, I think there should be no question. Sexual harassment has become so common, it is a structural part of society. The first time I was sexually harassed, I was in sixth grade. I couldn’t understand what I had done to invite such advances, and I blamed myself. This behavior isn’t corrected in young people, so it just continues throughout their lives.

    I thought it was interesting how these changes were being pushed by both Republican and Democratic senators. Also, the article mentioned how “all 22 female senators” (out of 100) casually. I think you’re on the right track Lise, that this would be really different if women were the majority in the Senate. But, at the same time, if women were the majority, there would not have been this aspect of the Congressional Accountability Act to begin with. Another interesting point is that the House has approved changes to this law. There is a similar percentage of female Representatives (84/435), so I wonder what the difference is.

    I think that the long process of filing a sexual harassment claim is intended to keep women from confronting their harassers. If women are being harassed, most likely by someone higher up than they are, they would hardly want to make the waves that would come with a sexual harassment lawsuit. The system for filing a claim is so convoluted that it probably disheartens many of the women who initially plan on confronting someone. I think it’s worth nothing that the people who wrote this bill were people who may have been prosecuted under this law. The people who this law was intended to stop may have had a large hand in how the system was created.

    I think the fact that every female Senator (across the political aisle) thinks this law needs to be changed is significant. There is obviously some truth to this if the entirety of an identity group gets together with the intent to make change. I wonder how directly Senators know about what the constituents want. I would be willing to argue that most sane people in the world think the current Congressional Accountability Act needs to be changed. Doesn’t the entire Senate have a responsibility to make the changes that the people who put them in office want? Or are many Americans not aware of what their Senators are doing?

  2. I don’t know much about the process of lawmaking and bill-making but I’m sure it’s difficult. Also, I was under the impression that anyone could file a suit against harassers without having to undergo certain procedures…so I’m a little confused about that process. Also, I’m curious as to what the spending/funding bill was for, like where the money would go, because the article didn’t really give information on that and how the money would help. On one hand, I think it’s helpful for people to go through counseling services and the proper steps to help victims recover. On the other hand, if victims have to stifle their experiences or have to “cool off” before making any claims, it seems like that would discourage women from speaking up in general. I tried doing more extensive research on the bill, but I couldn’t find the information I was looking for. But I do find this interesting and worth looking deeper into.

  3. Hi Lise! Wow – this post makes me so angry! I am shocked that this law is even in place to begin with. No wonder women (and men) are hesitant to report sexual harassment/assaults. When an individual is forced to endure a lengthy, exhausting, and embarrassing process, it makes seeking justice less desirable.

    I do understand that there is the potential for false accusations, especially when considering powerful public officials. However, it is important to first and foremost take care of the victim. Making a victim jump through so many hoops does not take care of them.

    In this world, there seems to be disagreements over almost everything under the sun. The fact that despite every single female senator believing that changes should be made to this bill, yet nothing changes infuriates me. If there was more female representation in congress, this would probably not be the case. This is particularly frustrating because statistically, this bill mostly impacts women over men so therefore, I think their voices should count for something. I think that in order for changes to be made to a bill like this, society must first confront the roots of all problems regarding inequality of the genders and the stigmas associated with reporting sexual harassment.

    With the rise of movements such as #MeToo, steps are being taken to address these issues head on. It is important to encourage women to use their voices for much needed change!

  4. I think this bill is extremely unfavorable against the female minority in the Senate. Women who have faced sexual harassment at their workplaces do not need a “cooling off period;” instead, they need to be taken seriously and respected by their coworkers, because any sexist transgression has detrimental effects against women, especially in highly-masculine environments. Meditation and counseling are not going to solve the epidemic of sexual harassment against women employees, and this legislation has merely been considered because it ensures that men who harass women will not be held accountable for their actions. I think that the legislative system in the United States is largely dominated by men and therefore works to their collective interests. A similar course is demonstrated in states that require women to have three-dimensional ultrasounds before undergoing an abortion because it might cause women to deter from going through with the procedure. This kinds of laws are extremely deceptive and inappropriate, and this law will hopefully be killed by members of Congress.


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