January 26, 2001
2:25 PM   Subscribe

Noted without comment: 'The Italian Supreme Court has ruled that an unexpected pat on the bottom at work could not be labeled sexual harassment — as long as men didn't make a habit of it.'
posted by rebeccablood (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

a few years ago an italian court said that a woman who claimed to have been raped could not have been because she had been wearing blue jeans & it's IMPOSSIBLE to forcibly remove a woman from blue jeans.
posted by palegirl at 2:26 PM on January 26, 2001

I agree, that's not sexual harrassment. That's poor taste. A woman in that situation should express her objection, and if this kind of behavior happens again, then it's sexual harassment.
posted by snakey at 2:29 PM on January 26, 2001

I disagree. It's harassment AND it's in poor taste. A woman in that situation should file a complaint so fast it'd make the man's head swim.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 2:34 PM on January 26, 2001

I believe some of the feminists in italy have concluded that a swift kick to the groin of a bottom-patter is not violence, as long as they don't make a habit of it. :)

posted by rebeccablood at 2:37 PM on January 26, 2001

Not that this makes it ok, but in Italy patting a girls butt isn't as taboo as it is here, which is somewhat off-putting to some tourists.
And this also may have been a backlash against the very harsh treatment the man convicted of the crime originally received. 18 months in jail for patting someones ass? It's very hard when dealing with very different cultures that SEEM very similar.
posted by Doug at 2:44 PM on January 26, 2001

Don't we get any pictures so we can see for ourselves and, viewing the evidence, make an American judgement?
posted by Postroad at 2:49 PM on January 26, 2001

From family experience -- my uncle's Sardinian -- Italian women have subtle and admirable ways of making their menfolk suffer for their loose-handed misdeeds. After all, macho could only come out of a fiercely matriarchal country. (Mama Soprano, anyone?)
posted by holgate at 4:34 PM on January 26, 2001

Their ways sound subtler than a kick in the groin. *winces in sympathy*
posted by allaboutgeorge at 4:38 PM on January 26, 2001

According to Mussolini's granddaughter, "A smack - even if it is isolated and impulsive - is harassment if that is how it is seen by the person who receives it. We have to put an end to this: You can't quantify sexual harassment." That has to be one of the stupidest things I've ever heard emerge from a politician's mouth: we must stop something that we can't even define? I sympathize completely with the women who have to deal with louts of men, but it looks like the Italians are eager to slide down the slippery slope of American-style political correctness.

I find it interesting, by the way, that the thread-opener as written by Rebecca doesn't actually mention the sex of the patter or the pattee. Did we all jump to the conclusion that it was a man and a woman, respectively, before even reading the story? Did Rebecca leave out the sexes intentionally or was it subconscious? Only she knows for sure...
posted by kindall at 4:59 PM on January 26, 2001

(D-oh. It does say "as long as men don't make a habit of it." Of course, that still doesn't say whether they're patting men or women. )
posted by kindall at 5:30 PM on January 26, 2001

At any rate, that's a quote from the article, not Rebecca's words. So any subconscious motives, should they exist, would have to be ascribed to the journalist.
posted by jjg at 6:00 PM on January 26, 2001

Oh. D-oh again. Damn, but those little apostrphes are tiny in this font.
posted by kindall at 6:03 PM on January 26, 2001

Well, I don't know enough about Italian culture to really know whether a slap on the butt is necessarily offensive. Such a gesture doesn't always have sexual connotations, even in American culture (ever watch a pro football game?).

I think the court was right that one single incident of a questionable action such as this can't really be sexual harassment. I mean, I could imagine having a friendly enough relationship with a female coworker that in a particularly silly situation, I might do the same thing, but only if I were darn sure she wouldn't care. Maybe this guy figured she was okay with it. Maybe it was an impulsive gesture (he's used to doing it to his wife or daughters or something) that he mindlessly did. The appropriate course of action would have been for the woman to complain to the guy who slapped her, asking him to not do it again, and possibly bring it up with his superior. If he kept it up, that's harassment.

Obviously, there's a line of action somewhere past which only one incidence of would constitute sexual harassment, and where that line is would depend a lot on the local culture (community standards and all that). Italy's culture I can't speak for. Of course, the reported reasoning behind the rape case seems so offensively ludicrous, that I wouldn't be surprised if there was more to the story that made it clearly harassment.

Or if I'm wrong, I'd love to hear about it.
posted by daveadams at 10:25 AM on January 29, 2001

in the US I can't think of a single community that would feel that a slap on the behind was appropriate workplace behavior, one time or many times.

having said that, from a practical view, the only thing you *can* do in such a situation is do make clear your feelings on the action when it happens the first time, and then hold that individual to it. document any further incidents and report them to the appropriate place.

because you can never prove that someone didn't *know* that mentioning your breasts was inappropriate.

the larger problem, in my experience, is harrassment that doesn't take such an obvious form. to take an example from my own life:

my boss's brother (who worked at the bar at the time) made a remark about grabbing my breasts. I replied "only if you want to lose that hand."

at this point, he became very angry with me, "I don't buy that tough-girl shit." and I suddenly realised that he could and possibly *would* cause trouble for me at work if I didn't just take whatever he dished out with what *he* considered to be good humor.

what do you do about that? (keep in mind that the boss was crazy and was known for actually grabbing the women that worked for him.)

well, quit was about the only option, realistically.

posted by rebeccablood at 1:11 PM on January 29, 2001

or put up with it.

posted by rebeccablood at 4:17 PM on January 29, 2001

Yeah, in the situation you describe quitting is probably (unfortunately) the only realistic option unless you chose to stay long enough to endure some provable harassment.

You're right, of course, that in the US, common workplace behavior standards would not accept a slap on the butt as appropriate. Then again, between two good friends, it might be (to them, perhaps not to others in their workplace). I've even seen it happen in my workplace (a woman slapping a man's behind, FWIW). But it's also not such a dire offense that running to superiors/courts is called for either--not before making it clear to the offender that it wasn't appropriate and giving him/her another chance.

Grabbing of breasts, I would think, is another story. It crosses the line between possible sexual connotations to definite sexual connotations.
posted by daveadams at 2:43 PM on January 30, 2001

« Older Breast Milk: Assassin of Youth!   |   Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments