In late December, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court upheld a lower-court
ruling that a dental assistant could be fired because she was so hot that
she constituted a threat to her boss’ marriage. I checked the date on the
Associated Press story. It was indeed 2012 and not 1812.
The excruciatingly twisted logic that led to the ruling is just one more illustration of the barriers women have to overcome in the work place. Now there is another: Keep your boss from getting aroused.
Melissa Nelson worked for James Knight for 10 years. In the last couple,
he began getting suggestive toward her, texting her on the frequency of
her orgasms and lamenting that if she wasn’t having sex it was like
parking a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.
Knight’s wife also worked in his office. When she got wind of the texts she demanded Nelson be fired. Knight’s lawyer, Stuart Cochrane, said his client was a religious and moral person who consulted a presumably religious and moral pastor who agreed that Nelson must go. The immorality of forced unemployment on a person who had a sterling work record was not discussed by anyone.
This is the same court, in name at least, that legalized gay marriage a
couple of years ago. Reactionaries in the state forced the three justices
responsible onto a ballot referendum where each was voted out in 2010,
Their replacements were chosen by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad to upholdthe conservative idea of family values. One of the new judges, Edward Mansfield, wrote the opinion against Nelson.
Obviously, this guy should never have gotten near a bench. He wrote that
bosses can fire employees they see as “irresistible attractions” even if
the employee has not engaged in flirtatious behavior. Here is the idiotic
part of the ruling: What Knight did was not unlawful discrimination
because the firing was motivated by emotions and feelings not gender.
Did this guy really say this? Without the gender factor, Knight would not have those feelings and emotions. But Mansfield goes further by saying all of Knight’s employees are female and the person replacing Nelson was female. All that proves is that Knight was selective in his discrimination, targeting the one who aroused him.
Nelson probably made a mistake by not alleging sexual harassment due to
the nature of Knight’s texts. She was honest and said Knight’s juvenilia
didn’t bother her. She wasn’t counting on the top court in the state being
populated by deadheads who propose that women are expendable in a man’s world.
Last year, Republican politicians and their apologists issued lunacy after lunacy about rape and access to contraception. This was compounded in a culture that already winks at women being literally and figuratively assaulted, subjected to rape, given lower pay and little access to child care. Then, when women think they will be protected by the law, here comes a boys club court that agrees that an attractive woman dressed in scrubs can go on unemployment.
That women are to blame for the stupidity and lack of self control by
troglodyte males is a discrimination that can’t be overcome until more
enlightened jurists sit on the nation’s benches.
It’s not too late for judges to read John Stuart Mill’s “The Subjection ofWomen.” They then might see women not solely as sexual conquests but human beings who deserve protection under the law when preyed upon and wronged for no other reason than their womanhood.
Stephen Dick is an editor for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind. .Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.