The Other McCain

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Woman Lawyer Offers Helpful Career Advice, Gets Slammed by Feminist

Posted on | September 25, 2013 | 57 Comments

Vanessa James is a British lawyer who wrote a column for the Guardian newspaper with the headline, “Formal complaints over sexism should be last resort for women,” which included this:

The point is that everyone has boundaries and communicating these to colleagues through behaviour is key to avoiding unnecessary offence.
It is also important to ensure that when a women is subject to treatment that falls outside her boundaries she can identify that and decide how to address it and move on.
If you do not define your own boundaries then you cannot expect others to be able to either.

This seems like good advice, as does her conclusion: “The formal route should be seen by women seeking career progression as a last resort, as the outcome is not always a happy one for the complainant.”

In other words, if a woman’s goal is to advance her career, filing a complaint for harassment is likely to be harmful, resulting in her being labeled a complainer — “not a team player” — and harassment may be more easily avoided or discouraged if a woman makes clear what behaviors are unacceptable to her.

However helpful this may be as career advice, it offended the feminist sensibilities of Katie Halper, who sees this as victim-blaming, and winds up ranting about rape and gay rights and stuff:

Given that rape survivors often face humiliation, intimidation, disbelief, and hostility from law enforcement and the criminal justice system in general, is the solution not to report rape? Should women just focus on setting boundaries that prevent their rapes in the first place? Does that mean no dirty jokes, no flirting, no short skirts, no leaving the house? This seems like the logical conclusion. In all seriousness, the advice James doles out isn’t that surprising, given the nature of her work. The Guardian just says she’s a lawyer at SA Law. But if you look at her website, she boasts  that she has successfully defended corporations from being sued for discriminating  and bullying against workers based on their gender, sexual-orientation, disabilities, and race. So, I guess it makes sense that a woman who makes her living defending employers who are accused of pay discrimination, abuse, and prejudice, wouldn’t have the best advice for women.  Well, that’s not entirely fair. I’m sure she’s an equal opportunity offender, whose advice for LGBTI people, people of color, and people with disabilities is just as sound.

Vanessa James is a successful lawyer — and that’s a bad thing, says Katie Halper, who writes for a feminist blog.

This is the difference between pragmatism and ideology: Do you want to solve your problem, or do you want to construe every problem to fit political categories and intellectual abstractions?

If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, and if the only tool you have is feminism, every problem looks like heteronormative patriarchal oppression and “rape culture.”



57 Responses to “Woman Lawyer Offers Helpful Career Advice, Gets Slammed by Feminist”

  1. bet0001970
    September 25th, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

    That was the beginning of the formation of the standard “sexual harassment training” that everyone gets now. That’s where it came from. From all those sexual harassment lawsuits that were filed around that time between men and women. The fear from the businesses and corporate lawyers was pretty nutty back then.

    When they brought me in and grilled me about the incident, they actually, totally believed me. And the company lawyer was flipping out. He was convinced that I was going to sue. Which was ridiculous I loved the president and especially the VP (my direct boss).

    Then my manager (insanely) admitted to the incident and everyone wanted to fire him. But the attorney wouldn’t let them. Because he was afraid that my manager would turn around and sue. So they put him on probation. I think they were hoping to try and get him on something else during that time. But then he did it again. So they just fired him.

    Case closed. My magazine was lucky. We had a bona fide perv and we got rid of him with no litigation. Unfortunately, they still couldn’t legally reveal to future inquirers at to why he left the company. In fact, my boss found out about him from his last employer under the table, because she told them what he did to me. They felt so bad, they secretly spilled the beans on him.

    And you all should know…when I say that I was a “victim”, I was victim for all of ONE day. Cause that shit got fixed quick, fast and in a hurry. The VP of the magazine was one mean bitch that you didn’t mess with. And she loved me.

    I can’t believe I told you guys that story. Oh well…good times.

  2. RS
    September 25th, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

    I’ve been a boss for over a quarter century with the same secretary. It’s about respect. It’s about forgiving mistakes. It’s about being kind. It really isn’t that hard. If one is decent to one’s employees, they will follow one through fire to do good work. I’m not nice merely because it makes me money; but that sure helps.

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  6. SwiperTheFox
    September 26th, 2013 @ 3:02 am

    I’m thinking more of the “Help, help, I’m being repressed!” from Monty Python.

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