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This Week, In Sexual Harassment Defenses: But Have You Noticed You Are Hot, Though?

Meet Pete McMartin, a Canadian journalist. He wrote for the Vancouver Sun, and also for the paper of a town called “Regina,” which sounds nice because it is a lady name. No other information was available on Pete McMartin, largely because I didn’t look past the first few results on Google. But it seems like things were going pretty well for him! Until he entered: THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT OP-ED WRITTEN BY A DUDE ZONE. A world of terror and wonder, where even the most inoffensive man cannot apparently venture without being transformed into something profoundly creepy.

The headline for this particular piece, when it ran in Vancouver, was apparently “By human rights, do you mean that includes bleached blondes, too?” Which is how you know it’s going to turn out well. The mere (Canadian?) sentence construction of the headline alone promises wonders! (“With respect to Canadians, are there extra clauses and words too, because of headline conventions, and how headlines are written, also, eh?”) (And that’s the story of how Sady was assassinated by the Lady of Maple Vengeance, known to most by her cover identity, “Margaret Atwood.”)  The headline when it ran in Regina and/or showed up on my Google reader is far less offensive (“Swine, sharks, looks — and human rights”), except for how this apparently also ran in Regina. And here’s how it starts:

For the benefit of female readers — and I write this as if you didn’t already know — here is the truth about men:

Men are swine.

Awww. Cheer up, buttercup! No need for the self-flagellation! Here, take my bell hooks books, you can learn a lot about handling privilege…
This fact has survived the feminist revolution, which men applaud, by the way, because now their wives and partners can go out and get jobs and work themselves into an early grave just as men have traditionally done, plus there is the added bonus of a second income that now allows men to go out and buy that motorcycle they always promised themselves when they turned 40.
Oh. I see. IT’S THAT KIND OF THING. Yes, Mr. Pete goes on to inform us that “men are liars,” that men are incapable of understanding or caring about what women say because “mostly, they’re wondering what she looks like without her clothes on,” that all men who say they do not do this are lying, that “objectification” is a funny word invented by feminists because we look so cute when we’re angry, and that any man who actually doesn’t objectify women, instead of lying about the fact that he doesn’t, “is either (a) medicated, or (b) gay.” But, like the man said, “men: swine and liars.” No use getting mad and calling names, ladies! He has done it already! He has done it for you, because men are better.
This is the “I’m Such A Dick” Gambit. And before we proceed, it is time to discuss. For the “I’m Such a Dick” Gambit, aside from being the world’s Number One Most Popular Rhetorical Device To Open Your Sexist Op-Ed With, is also one of the more fearsome and annoying weapons of psychological warfare in existence.
It seems so simple, really. The first party — let’s call him Dick — opens up his statement with an avowal of dickery. As for example, “I know this might make me sound like a jerk, but,” or “this is kind of an asshole thing to say, but,” or, in the classic form, “maybe I’m a dick, but.” Note that this confession is rarely done with the sort of regret or sorrow one might expect from a person who questions his capacity for kindness or human decency; rather, it’s done with a smile, as if to suggest that this is a hilarious, endearing, and ultimately minor flaw in the otherwise non-stop parade of awesome that is his personality. (And if the confession is made with any degree of sadness, watch out. Chances are that you are dealing with a Level Two Dick, or “Pity Dick,” who is shielded from critique by his own poor self-esteem, forged from the fires of Hell into an unstoppable weapon that lets him get away with basically anything, because if you’re mean he might cry.) Once the hook is set — I’m such a dick! Do you not find me charming? — the player will then say something that is harsh, judgmental, nasty, and/or dickish.
And here’s the fun part: There’s nothing you can do. We have already established that this person is an asshole; he admits to it. We’ve also established that being an asshole is funny and cool. Your choices are to laugh along, congratulate him on his discernment — wow, people who aren’t Dick really ARE losers, aren’t they? — or RUIN EVERYTHING FOREVER BECAUSE YOU’RE MEAN AND HATE FUN. Magically, by admitting that he is a total prick sometimes, Dick has managed to leave you, the person who objects to his behavior, holding the bag. He took a chance; he told you what he really thought; now you are overreacting. It seems like you just don’t get it. Plus, by establishing the options of “I’m a dick” or “I’m totally correct in every detail and must receive unconditional support from all human beings,” Dick has managed to ensure that anyone who disagrees with him has basically called him names. Granted, he chose the names that you are now implicitly calling him. But still! Dick is a sensitive guy! He doesn’t have to take this abuse from you! What are you, a monster?

There is a reason that every single article published on this continent and in Britain which could basically run with the headline “I Oppress Women: Let Me Show You How” — and there are A LOT of these articles — starts with the “I’m Such a Dick” Gambit. It is not because this is how sexism works. Women do the “I’m Such a Bitch” thing, too. And sexism is a whole different, complicated, structural dealio. It is because this is how jerks work. The “I’m Such a Dick” Gambit is the leading sign that the person you are dealing with is going to say something awful.

Such as?

A young, attractive woman by the name of Karolina Bil launched a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against the Shark Club in Richmond, her former, and short-tenured, place of work. Bil quit days after being hired as a bartender because, she claimed, she was discriminated against for being instructed to wear mini-skirts, high heels and tops that revealed cleavage. She said she was also exposed to sexist remarks from customers.

Now: Let’s see whether we can make this all her fault, shall we? For example, did you notice that she is young? And also, attractive? Because Pete McMartin sure did! Why, there’s a good fifty percent of an article to be wrung out of THESE FACTS ALONE! If you are Pete McMartin. Which, if you are: Please stop.

Now, the first clue for Bil that the Shark Club may not have been the right fit for her employment-wise, if she was dress-code sensitive, would be the fact that it was named the “Shark Club” and not “Mom’s Family Diner.”

Because, true fact: Sharks love titties. Most of your large marine predators, in fact, are total boob fiends! Ah, the wonders of nature.

The second clue that might have told her that the Shark Club would not be a good fit for someone sensitive to discrimination was the appearance of the other servers at the Shark Club, all of whom were young, attractive females and who Bil, a blond, described as all having bleached blond hair. (Meeowwww!)

Okay, first, of all, I think we need to acknowledge what just happened there. Because we all saw it. Yes, that’s right: A dude did the “meow” thing. As a joke. Because he thought folks would find it funny. There are a lot of plausible explanations for this — time travel, raised in a basement on bad TV, Pete McMartin is the Canadian op-ed writing pseudonym of your gross uncle Larry, etc. — but me, I prefer to go for the obvious. Pete McMartin is clearly three hundred years old. Pete McMartin is a vampire.

Oh, and also: WHAT? I mean: I imagine this made sense, to someone. Someone had to look at this and perceive a clear and logical chain of argument, suitable to persuade and provoke readers. But I swear to you, I have looked at it seventeen times now, and here is what I see:

IF Karolina Bil objects to sexual harassment,

AND Karolina Bil is attractive to Pete McMartin,

AND other servers look like Karolina Bil,

THEN Karolina Bil was not sexually harrassed,

ALSO sharks.

Like: Other people would at least make the “she consented to sexual comments by working in a highly sexualized environment” defense. (Because, yeah. Place looks gross.) Or the “she agreed to the dress code by signing her employment contract” thing. Or SOMETHING. It would still be wrong, mind you. You can’t legally take away someone’s right to withhold consent for sexual or sexualized interactions; that is a human right (that includes bleached blondes too, also) and not a legal one. But it would be a chain of logic, however nasty. There is literally nothing about the Shark Club’s policies or dress code here, largely because I suspect it wouldn’t support Pete McMartin’s real argument. Which appears to be: If there are ladies in a place, and they’re hot, nothing you do to them counts as sexual harassment. Because of how they are hot, duh. If you’re so uninterested in Pete McMartin’s sexual advances, then why is Pete McMartin attracted to you, HMMMM? Answer that! Sharks!

And that, my friends, is when it REALLY starts to get wacky.

Now, many women looking for work would take one look inside the door of the Shark Club and think “Not my kind of joint,” and walk the other way… Yet Bil did not do so. Even more oddly, she did not take issue with the fact that she was hired in the first place precisely because she was young, attractive and female.

It’s true; young, conventionally attractive, female people fucking dominate the job market. You can tell, because of how they tend to own all those Fortune 500 companies. Meanwhile, the older, baggier variety of white man cannot catch a break! Where are HIS tables to wait? HIS bars on which to dance for the salacious entertainment of drunk tourists? HIS bright orange hot pants? When will the tyranny of hot chicks finally be overthrown? WHEN, Pete McMartin asks you?!??

That is, once she was in the door, she took issue with one kind of discrimination, as she saw it, but had no problem with taking advantage of or was blind to another (and to me, worse) kind of discrimination in the service industry that got her in the door in the first place — the kind that discriminates in favour of beauty.

Yes, sexual harassment is nothing. Not compared to the kind of discrimination that the hot exercise! Behold its wondrous powers: Merely by being hot, Bil was hired, and gained the incomparable privilege of… being sexually harrassed? Which she said she didn’t want? And which was apparently upsetting enough for her to sue?
Let’s update the chain of logic here:

IF Karolina Bil objects to sexual harassment,

AND Karolina Bil is attractive to Pete McMartin,

AND other servers look like Karolina Bil,

THEN Karolina Bil was not sexually harrassed,

BECAUSE sexual harassment is awesome,

AND a rare, much-coveted privilege,

THEREFORE sharks.

Okay! I think that we are on the same page! It is a page in the book “HIGH OCTANE WACKY: The Gleebleflork Wonderthoughts of Pete McMartin, Dream Wizard,” granted, but whatever. Let us move on! To the rousing conclusion!

Sometimes, the real issue, and the greater injustice, is as plain as the look on your face.

Bil should look in the mirror.

Because it’s bound to be pretty sexy! Because of how she’s hot!

42 Comments

  1. scrumby wrote:

    I hate the “it’s not like you have to work there” argument. I’m sure Ms. Bil was hired after an interview which should have given her employers an idea of how she looked and dressed; if they didn’t like it they didn’t have to hire her. If they wanted her to look or dress a different way they should have made their expectations clear during the hiring process (or mandated a uniform) not bully her about it later because her psychic powers failed to inform her what they wanted.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink
  2. Simon C. wrote:

    I’ve gotten over my Nice Guy™ “ashamed to share a gender with this jerk” impulses, but sadly, I am now ashamed to be Canadian.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Permalink
  3. MissaA wrote:

    I hate the “if a man says he doesn’t objectify women he’s a liar” argument. It’s insulting and untrue and an underhanded way of circumventing being held to higher standards of behaviour.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Permalink
  4. In the event the TBD crew ever tires of the motto “Ladybusiness,” I suggest replacing it with “Feminists: Funnier Than You Are.”

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 2:03 am | Permalink
  5. William wrote:

    @MissaA: I think what’s so pernicious about it is that it sounds a lot like something that is true: straight men do have a lot of lustful reactions to women’s bodies. And men certainly do lie about it. But McMartin blurs — intentionally, and conveniently — the line between involuntary impressions and desires on the one hand, and voluntary thoughts and actions on the other.

    The upside is that I’m sure he’d support me indulging my equally natural and equally male impulse to punch him in the snoot.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 2:30 am | Permalink
  6. tree wrote:

    it seems to me that THEREFORE sharks is the logical conclusion to [BONERS]. it’s like a geometric proof.

    given [BONERS]
    THEREFORE sharks.

    it’s math so it must be right. and that explains why i can’t understand it with my tiny lady-brain.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 3:18 am | Permalink
  7. Spiffy McBang wrote:

    “…another (and to me, worse) kind of discrimination in the service industry that got her in the door in the first place — the kind that discriminates in favour of beauty.”

    I readily acknowledge this type of thing may be old hat to some people. If so, please excuse my noob reaction.

    …did he REALLY fucking say that? Holy jesus.

    As an aside, have you ever responded to the “I’m such a dick” move by calmly explaining why they’re dicks at a level that should embarrass them and recommend they change their ways? When it works and you feel everyone shift to your side, it might be the best non-sexual feeling ever.

    Of course, if it doesn’t work… well, hopefully none of the people who now think you’re the asshole are your boss.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink
  8. Elizabeth wrote:

    Actually, the town of “Regina” rhymes with “vagina” rather than sounding like the girl’s name. :)

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink
  9. lil sis wrote:

    ugggh what a douche, an excellent take down def makes the nasty article go down sweeter. you said all the things i would have thought but didn’t have to because you said them; yay! love tbd

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink
  10. Crito wrote:

    Tree just reminded me–you know who was a classic Level Two/Pity Dick? Freddie.

    [BONERS]. Q.E.D.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink
  11. red cow wrote:

    Oh god what the hell is this guy thinking XD I’m so glad that when I read your commentary and my face starts to look like this >:| that you say something to make me laugh out loud.

    @Missaa: You are totally right, and I think that ties into the “I’m Such a Dick” Gambit. You trot out whatever quality you have that makes your following statement immune to criticism. In this case, we get the author claiming his Dickitude to allow him to make misogynistic statements, followed by his Dudeitutde that allows him to make sweeping generalizations about How Men Are (btw they are dicks. and sharks).

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  12. Kaitlin wrote:

    Dear Sady,
    I love you and your writing. A lot. Tiger Beatdown is amazing, and so are you.

    And of course sharks love titties. everybody knew that! the number one cause of shark attacks world wide.

    love,
    kaitlin

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink
  13. ninjastar wrote:

    “You can’t legally take away someone’s right to withhold consent for sexual or sexualized interactions; that is a human right… and not a legal one.”

    I don’t quite understand this one. No one can force you into a sexual or sexualized interaction, but they still have the right to speech and expression (short of making legitimate-seeming threats). Can somebody expound?

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  14. I highly recommend imagining Pete McMartin as 80s Guy from Futurama. “Gutsy question. You’re a shark. Sharks are winners, and they don’t look back because they have no necks. Necks are for sheep.”

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink
  15. Daniel wrote:

    It’s times like this that writing a letter to the editor just seems so… trite.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink
  16. slythwolf wrote:

    I hate the “it’s not like you have to work there” argument.

    I also hate this argument, for the reasons you gave and because, yes, a lot of the time, she does have to work there. Or, you know, starve to death in the street. Which isn’t really a choice.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink
  17. skeptifem wrote:

    MEOW?

    How does one type that out, read it, let other people read it, and decide it was acceptable? I mean, isn’t that one of the best things about writing- when you think of something stupid you can DELETE it before anyone reads it??!!

    The Im Such A Dick guys always bully other dudes into their stupid ass masculinity competition. I fucking hate those guys.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Permalink
  18. marion wrote:

    I’m always shocked when I come across this sort of writing in Canada, but never shocked to discover that it was written by Old White Guy out west.

    In other, less frustrating news, just yesterday the Ontario government took some big steps towards legalizing prostitution & basically guaranteeing safety for sex workers: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/judge-decriminalizes-prostitution-in-ontario-but-ottawa-mulls-appeal/article1730433/

    Pete McMartin are you trapped in the past or what

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink
  19. RGR wrote:

    God, seriously, some people are just way too “sensitive to discrimination.” Like, way more “sensitive to discrimination” than other people. It’s like, they want to see discrimination everywhere! It’s like they have their eyes specially tuned to discrimination! It’s like they think discrimination is this huge deal!

    Usually, you know, people who get discriminated against.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  20. Emily wrote:

    Pete McMartin is a math revolutionary. Here are some more math expressions given us by Pete McMartin.

    Workplace sexual harassment < Workplace bias in favor of attractive women

    Accepting a job you are qualified for but maybe were selected for because Pete McMartin finds you attractive + objecting to workplace sexual harassment = Moral inconsistency

    Also:

    Restaurant full of families + waitresses Pete McMartin finds attractive = suspicious!

    Ah, the Pete McMartin mathematics, so quaint!

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  21. Brid wrote:

    I like how there’s a ‘Refine Location’ button on the top left of their website. Sadly, it’s not the refinement needed.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  22. Aoede wrote:

    Sexual harassment is a compliment, remember? If you object to compliments, you’re obviously oversensitive. Man, I would be flattered if I was so sexy that people wanted to dress in revealing clothing! Haha!

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  23. Dear Peter McMartin: why do you hate men?

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  24. lapidary wrote:

    Can we also discuss how I strongly suspect that Pete McMartin, despite his condemnation of restaurants that seek to hire hot women, and statement that being hired by such a restaurant is somehow reflective of Karolina Bil’s lack of moral compass, would be extremely disappointed if said restaurants did not conform to strict hotness-hiring standards? And how I think he would probably be willing to declare a blind-hiring policy at such a restaurant to be spoiling everything?

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink
  25. M. Patricia wrote:

    Apropos of blondes, how hot they are, and dicks, did you see this bit about Abbie Boudreau of CNN and that conservative ACORN pimp fellow? Totally bizarre.
    http://siu.blogs.cnn.com/2010/09/29/our-documentary-takes-a-strange-detour/

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink
  26. Bethany wrote:

    In my admittedly limited experience, there is one good response to the “I’m such a dick” gambit. It’s,”Wow, you’re right. You really are a dick!”

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Permalink
  27. AngryPunkPixie wrote:

    This guy wrote this article for a paper in Regina?!? Now I am officially ashamed

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  28. AngryPunkPixie wrote:

    and too remind you Regina is a city not a town

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Permalink
  29. ananimaltoo wrote:

    @ Simon C.

    Don’t be ashamed to be Canadian (oh, except for that whole colonialism/cultural genocide thing)! Because, as Sady states above: Margaret Atwood.

    It’s true, she would probably kill you. Just by looking at you. Have you ever seen old interviews with her? She tears journalists to pieces. Kind of like sharks do.

    Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 12:54 am | Permalink
  30. Emmy wrote:

    Elizabeth, you beat me to it. Oh Regina, what an unfortunately appropriate to this post pronunciation you have! Though because my knowledge of the town is limited to the unintentionally hilarious radio commercials we could pick up from a brief stay in North Dakota before the era of the ipod, I actually had to google it to see if there were actually TWO Reginas. Sidenote: never google “are there two Reginas?”

    Cooter jokes aside, I feel like there’s a sexist op-ed piece in pretty much every issue of every small town paper, ever. It’s a staple! Does it say something terrible abut me that I expect and even, sometimes, am charmed by how horrible these pieces are? They’re like my racist grandpa at this point. Men and women, they just can’t get along, amirite? So funny!

    Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 1:12 am | Permalink
  31. Ennu wrote:

    “The Im Such A Dick guys always bully other dudes into their stupid ass masculinity competition. I fucking hate those guys.”

    Ah, yes, men are swine. Except for Pete McMartin, who’s a proud member of the weasel family!

    Seriously, that is such a weasel move and he knows it because even though a lot of men might privately object to being lumped in with Dick here, not many of them would out loud because what guy wants to out himself as a big fat pussyfag who doesn’t appreciate the fine (and MANLY!) art of titty-gazing?

    Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 3:28 am | Permalink
  32. Heather wrote:

    That was fun and awesome. Your posts have started to inspire dramatic readings in my household because you are a comedic wondergenius. Also, so too, are your points good, as well.

    Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink
  33. AMC wrote:

    Sharks love boobs?

    So wait…

    “I’m ashamed on behalf of my sex,
    At how we treat women like they;re objects..
    Fuck I love boobs though,
    I just really love em,
    They’re so droopy, they make me feel loopy,
    I would rather watch boobs than a movie!
    Fuck I love boobs,
    I just really love boobs…”

    You see? THAT is how you admit you look at women and sometimes see them primarily sexually. You first state that you support feminism, and then admit you love boobs.
    So…does this mean Tim Minchin=sharks?
    Teh maths, I cannot do them!

    Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  34. AMC wrote:

    I fucked up those lyrics bad, so instead, just listen to the song here, he is much better singing than reading:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bEGLbCNRqw

    Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink
  35. AK wrote:

    And yet, if a woman were to agree with him – “Yes, you ARE assholes and liars, and that’s why I hate you all” – I for some reason think he’d feel that she was being unreasonable…

    Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Permalink
  36. Nanuq wrote:

    I have actually been to one of these Shark Clubs, more than once, even! Admittedly, it wasn’t the same one, or even in the same Province, that this harassment occured in.
    Basically, it is just a semi-classy sports bar, with pool and giant TVs and stuff. It’s not like some kind of Candian version of Hooters, and there’s nothing that would make me think any girl that worked there would be expected to dress like it was. From what I saw, most of the waitressess and lady bartenders dressed like waitressess at your average restaraunt (ie. not like they worked at Hooters).
    What I am trying to say here, and I hope it’s getting across, is that if I were to be hired there and then told I had to wear clothing more revealing than I was comfortable with, I would be very surprised and upset, just like Karolina Bil obviously was.

    @Missy: Neither Vancouver nor Regina are small towns by any stretch of the imagination. Vancouver is one of the largest cities in Canada, and Regina is the second largest city in Saskatchewan.

    Friday, October 1, 2010 at 3:25 am | Permalink
  37. Brenda wrote:

    To be clear, the Vancouver Sun is Vancouver’s main paper and is owned by the same national conglomerate that owns most of Canada’s local papers (including Vancouver’s other local paper, the province). There is not a lot of competition, hence no incentive to not print drivel.

    Friday, October 1, 2010 at 6:33 am | Permalink
  38. Robyn wrote:

    Ohh, I’m so glad to see TBD back doing what it does best: making me both frown and laugh at ignorant people. After a lesson today where a teenage boy was asked what he would think if a guy said he was a feminist, and responded “I’d probably think they were gay”, this is EXACTLY what I needed to get over my facepalming. I.e., some intelligence.

    Friday, October 1, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  39. Erica wrote:

    I love the way you write! Totally made my day :)

    Friday, October 1, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Permalink
  40. And because after all, no woman a man is attracted to can object to anything any man says or does to her because she brought it on herself by being attractive, the bitch! (I really think “the bitch!” is the not-so-subtext here. Because there are a lot of men who vividly resent women they see as attractive; especially if those women seem to think they own their own bodies and are therefore, you know, possibly unattainable.)

    Saturday, October 2, 2010 at 2:36 am | Permalink
  41. Alecto wrote:

    Sady, I love you. That is all.

    Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  42. Keys wrote:

    This was a great read, as always (esp. including comments).

    Sady, to me you’re like a new age Malcolm X (who is also hilarious) or something. As a black mayne, I can appreciate that. I also apologize if that isn’t an apt characterization in your opinion!

    Monday, October 4, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Permalink