Cato Books: “Dealing with Harassment”

While high-profile sexual harassment suits have captured headlines around the world, a new Cato Institute book argues that there are nonadver-sarial alternatives to reporting harassment to corporate or legal authorities.

Joan Kennedy Taylor writes in What to Do When You Don’t Want to Call the Cops: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Sexual Harassment that current sexual harassment law often has the effect of exacerbating the hostility it is supposed to reduce.

Taylor interviewed managers, labor experts, and workers in male-dominated fields to create a guide to preventing and countering objectionable behavior without resorting to legal action. Lawsuits are often life-changing events that harm or ruin the careers, reputations, and lives of all involved.

Taylor, the national coordinator of the Association of Libertarian Feminists, also describes factors that lead to the perception of sexual harassment, such as demographic changes in workplace populations, differences in communication styles, and faulty expectations.

She challenges the assumption that women are passive victims who need government help. Instead, she recommends that women have realistic expectations when entering predominantly male environments and points out that women who have learned to communicate their feelings clearly have done well at combating sexual harassment.

What to Do When You Don’t Want to Call the Cops has drawn much praise. “Joan Kennedy Taylor demon-strates that free speech and women’s empow-erment are as mutually reinforcing in the workplace as in other contexts,” said Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union. “She makes a persuasive case that countering offensive workplace expressions with more speech is a constructive response from the perspectives of all concerned: notably, the pioneer woman workers in traditionally male-only occupations, who often feel ostracized and vilified; the men in such workplaces, who often are unprepared to interact with women co-workers; and the employers who want to promote cooperative relationships among their employees and to avoid lawsuits.”

“Joan Kennedy Taylor’s book represents a real breakthrough in common sense in dealing with sexual harassment,” said Ann E. W. Stone, CEO of the Stone Group.

What to Do When You Don’t Want to Call the Cops, a Cato Institute book published by New York University Press, can be purchased through the Cato Institute’s online bookstore along with Taylor’s previous book, Reclaiming the Mainstream: Individualist Feminism Rediscovered.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2000 edition of Cato Policy Report.