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Power, Control and Resistance - Lectorial Exercise

By:   •  April 10, 2018  •  Essay  •  1,122 Words (5 Pages)  •  908 Views

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Power, Control and Resistance– Lectorial Exercise

Jenny was 26 and Sheila was 25 when they were appointed as sales representatives to the sales division of the ACME life insurance company. They were the only two women amongst 37 men. There were a number of women in the accounts section. Their manager was Dick Sharples who had a company wide reputation as a “ladies man” and a heavy drinker. Jenny held monthly discussions with Dick to discuss her sales figures and these were always scheduled in the afternoon when he had probably been drinking heavily with clients at lunch time. Jenny was often nervous about these discussions as when they were in his office he was intent on personalising the discussion and telling her what she was missing out on by not taking up his offer of sex. Jenny began to formally complain about being harassed by Dick

Jenny was also required to attend monthly dinners with the other sales representatives. At these the men competed with one another over who could tell the dirtiest joke. At the first dinner Jenny went into the women’s toilet and stayed there for 20 minutes in the hope she would miss her turn. When she did return the men insisted she tell a joke. Although she initially refused, this was met with such hostility that she agreed to participate in the future. She felt that she had no choice if she was to have a positive relationship with her colleagues. Jenny complained to Dick’s manager John, who dismissed her comments as ‘whinging’. At her performance appraisal he told her she needed to fit in with the company’s professional approach. She looked to see if ACME had a policy on sexual harassment but found to her disappointment that it didn’t. This made her feel that if it didn’t then it mustn’t happen in the company. When she approached Human Resources for advice and assistance they took the view that it was her confrontational style of handling the situation that had reinforced the problem. Many men and women employees labelled Jenny as a “complaining feminist” who did not know how to “handle” men.

Sheila also experienced problems with Dick Sharples. In their one on one sales meeting Dick would stare at Sheila’s breasts. This made Sheila feel very uncomfortable. She wondered if she had in any way encouraged Dick through aspects such as her dress. When Sheila passed Dick in the narrow corridor he would deliberately brush up against her. At one Christmas party Dick asked Sheila intrusive questions about her private life and over the evening repeatedly asked her out on a date. When Sheila mentioned this to one of her women colleagues, she explained his behaviour as “Its only Dick and everyone knows he behaves that way after he has had a drink”.

Although Jenny and Sheila had joined ACME at the same and had pursued the same career trajectory they had little or no contact with each other. Jenny thought it was a shame they had so little to do with each other while Sheila made a conscious effort to keep a distance from Jenny as she did not want to be labelled as a “complaining feminist” by association. Sheila wanted to make her sales targets and be accepted by her work colleagues. This was reinforced by Dick’s divide and rule practices. He regularly complained about Jenny to Sheila claiming that she could not cope with life in sales and was disliked by her colleagues. He repeatedly emphasised how different Sheila was and how well she had integrated into the male sales environment and often added that he “could never fancy Jenny as she was not even attractive”. Jenny decided that the best course of action was to keep quiet and hope Dick would lose interest and his inappropriate behaviour towards her would stop.

Sheila found working at ACME very difficult. One day when she was talking to the women in the accounts area, she mentioned that she found Dick’s behaviour offensive and challenging. Bronwyn, who worked in accounts was sympathetic and said that Dick had come into the Accounts area and made some offensive jokes with the women who had responded with some jokes of their own about Dick’s alleged lack of sexual prowess. Dick had not visited the Accounts area since. Bronwyn invited Sheila out for coffee to talk about her problems. When Sheila arrived at the coffee shop there was another woman, Gia, from the union. Gia encouraged Sheila to join the union and the three of them came up with a plan to deal with the sexual harassment.


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