Calling a man ‘bald’ is apparently sexual harassment – yet another double standard

<gu-island name="EmbedBlockComponent" deferuntil="visible" props="{"html":"","caption":"Sign up for the Week in Patriarchy, a newsletter​ on feminism and sexism sent every Saturday","isTracking":false,"isMainMedia":false,"source":"The Guardian","sourceDomain":"theguardian.com"}” readability=”1.5″>

Sign up for the Week in Patriarchy, a newsletter​ on feminism and sexism sent every Saturday

Finally, a win for men’s rights!

Looks like the British Bung Company is in a spot of bother. An employment tribunal recently ruled that the West Yorkshire-based manufacturer of cask closures must compensate Tony Finn, a former employee, after he was called a “bald cunt” at work by a (male) supervisor. This was not just a nasty insult, according to the all-male panel of judges on the tribunal – the word “bald” constituted sex-based harassment. The word “cunt” was fine though.

The circumstances are as follows: Finn had worked for the British Bung Company for almost 24 years when he was fired last May. The electrician then took the company to the tribunal alleging unfair dismissal and claiming that the insults his supervisor had subjected him to were harassment related to sex under the Equality Act. The panel, led by Judge Jonathan Brain, agreed. “As all three members of the tribunal will vouchsafe, baldness is much more prevalent in men than women,” the judgment stated. “We find it to be inherently related to sex.”

Don’t worry, the judges didn’t just draw on their own experiences with hair loss as they ruled, they also referred to precedent. Namely a 1995 ruling in which a man was found guilty of sex-based discrimination for commenting on the size of a woman’s breasts (the remark was “hiya big tits”). That’s pretty much the same as calling a man “bald”, apparently.

I have every sympathy for Finn: being bullied at work is indefensible. Belittling someone for their appearance is indefensible. I’m glad this tribunal took Finn’s complaints seriously. However, the idea that calling a man “bald” constitutes sex-based harassment that is equivalent to commenting on the size of a woman’s breasts is dubious at best and insulting at worst.

Let’s start with the questionable claim that baldness is “inherently related to sex”. I’m sure Judge Brain has a fine legal mind but he might want to read up a bit more on hair loss. According to the American Hair Loss Association, “while 85% of men will experience visible hair loss by the age of 50, so will 40% of women”. Baldness might be more common in men but it’s not exactly rare for women; indeed a number of high-profile women have spoken out in recent years about their struggles with hair loss. These include Jada Pinkett Smith, who was memorably mocked by Chris Rock for being bald at the Oscars.

Again, I have every sympathy for Finn. But, I’ve got to say, it’s pretty galling to see an all-male panel fall over themselves with compassion for a guy being called “bald” at work when women still have an extremely hard time getting claims of sexual harassment taken seriously. “It’s just a bit of banter,” women are constantly told when we complain about pervasive harassment. “Lighten up! Grow a thick skin! Don’t be so damn sensitive! Can’t you take a joke?” It’s hard not to see this case as emblematic of the double standards women are expected to tolerate.

IVF could be a ‘casualty’ of the US anti-abortion effort

Experts are worried that “personhood” laws, which give rights to fertilized eggs, would make it illegal for fertility facilities to freeze or discard embryos created in the IVF process and make accessing the treatment much harder. That’s “pro-life” logic for you! Force women to give birth against their will, but prevent them from trying to get pregnant when they desperately want to.

Republicans want to solve the US formula crisis by letting migrant babies starve

Again, very pro-life!

Rest in power Shireen Abu Akleh

I’ll be honest, writing this week’s newsletter is tough because I’m still reeling from the murder of the brilliant Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. According to multiple eyewitnesses, Abu Akleh was shot in the head by Israeli forces while covering Israeli army raids in the city of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank. Rather than reporting eyewitness accounts, however, a number of western media outlets acted as if Abu Akleh had died in mysterious circumstances during “clashes”. Then, to make a terrible situation even worse, mourners at Abu Akleh’s funeral were violently attacked by Israeli police. Again the media threw around the word “clashes” and ignored very clear power imbalances. As a Palestinian you get used to being dehumanized by the media but Abu Akleh’s death has been a heartbreaking reminder that Palestinian lives really don’t matter.

Spain to become the first western country to offer national paid menstrual leave

According to the Spanish Gynaecological and Obstetric Society, a third of women experience painful menstruation. “When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” Ángela Rodríguez, the secretary of state for equality, told El Periódico in March. Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Zambia already offer menstrual leave.

‘We’ve all made mistakes,’ says golf great Greg Norman of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder

Who hasn’t conducted widespread violations of human rights and butchered a journalist with a bone saw, eh? The good news is that there’s no problem a bit of sportswashing can’t fix.

Give us a grandchild or $650,000, say Indian couple suing son

Perhaps they could all compromise and get a dog.

Madonna defends decision to sell a 3D model of her vagina

“Not often that a robot centipede crawls out of my vagina,” Madonna said. “I’m doing what women have been doing since the beginning of time, which is giving birth. But on a more existential level, I’m giving birth to art and creativity and we would be lost without both.” On an existential level, I’m exhausted.

Do species names perpetuate gender bias in science?

“The scientific names of nearly 3,000 recently identified bloodsuckers, hijackers and other banes of the biological world mostly honor men,” according to a new study. Science reports that “of the 596 parasite species honoring an eminent scientist, only 18% immortalized women researchers”. While it may reflect societal biases I can’t say I’m entirely devastated by the fact more parasitic tapeworms aren’t named after women.

The week in pawtriarchy

Perhaps you think the future looks bleak? Perhaps you think we are nearing climate apocalypse and we’re all doomed? Well, cheer up my friends: Toyota has patented a robotic platform that can walk your dog and pick up its poop. There’s even a mode where your dog can drive the device using paw sensors. Self-driving dog cars, eh? What could possibly go wrong!

The Guardian

Leave a Reply