Saturday, November 23, 2013

Prostitutes Can’t Be Raped and Other Myths of a Rape Culture

The other day my son Adam, who's away at college, sent me this text message:
“Nothing worse than watching a film in class about poverty and obesity and a profile of West Philly comes up.” 
Philly. It’s a great town, but we’ve got our problems for sure.

Like judges who believe that prostitutes can't be raped.

The case in question was decided in 2007, but now that Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni is up for reelection, it's being talked about again.

The case involved a prostitute who met a man on Craigslist and then agreed to have sex with him for $150. The man asked if a friend could join in for another $100, and the woman said yes. However, when she met with the men, they pulled out a gun and demanded she have sex with them for free.

In Judge Deni’s mind, that’s “theft of services,” not rape. In my mind, Judge Deni couldn't be more wrong. The woman consented to have sex for money. She did not consent to have sex for free. And no consent equals rape.

For the record, I don’t approve of prostitution, and I don’t dismiss the danger inherent in the profession. But that’s beside the point. Deni’s decision was nuts.

Unfortunately, Deni’s attitude is not unique to her.

This past summer, a law professor from Tsinghua University wrote on his blog that "raping prostitutes is less harmful than raping ordinary women," a comment so blatantly ridiculous I can’t believe a man of intelligence could even think it, let alone write it.
In 2009, a lawyer in West Virginia defending a man accused of raping between 15 and 20 prostitutes after threatening them with a knife called the victims “tramps” and “whores” while stating that “[y]ou cannot rape the willing.”
Let’s try it again. Prostitutes present themselves as willing for a price. That’s the deal. Anything less is a problem. And threatening someone with a knife or a gun to do anything is definitely a problem.
I don’t care if all you want from me is that I repeat “She sells seashells by the seashore” three times. If you put a gun to my head so that I’ll say it, that’s a crime. And if you pull a gun on me so you can violate my person, that’s definitely a crime. At least it ought to be. Is this really that difficult?
The idea that there could exist a rape culture in the United States, that is, a culture in which rape is systematically normalized and excused, sounds like a radical invention of rabid feminists until you read some of the above, and then it just sounds like the truth.
Consider, for example, the increasing reports of rapes in the military. The news is full of testimonies from enlisted (or formerly enlisted) women who were raped by their fellow soldiers only to get mocked or ignored after coming forth about the crime. 
And a CNN story published last year revealed an even more disturbing pattern—female enlistees being discharged with a psychiatric diagnosis (one victim called hers a “ludicrous diagnosis”) after reporting a sexual assault—and no one investigating the allegations, of course.
Stephanie Schroeder, who was interviewed for the story, claimed that after she reported her rape to a non-commissioned officer he told her “Don't come bitching to me because you had sex and changed your mind.”
Just a few days ago, in one of the professional women’s groups I’ve joined on LinkedIn, one poster asked whether gender discrimination is over-emphasized, and if so, whether other “isms” deserve more attention.
Once the responses started, it was just a matter of hours before the boot strappers (as in “Women, pull yourselves up from your boot straps and stop whining!”) chimed in, claiming that gender discrimination is only as real as you make it, and if you’re well-spoken, can take things in stride, and have a good work ethic, you should sail through life just fine, discrimination be damned.
These responses make me want to scream.
Wallowing in self-pity and endless rounds of “woe is me,” won’t solve any problems, but suggesting that we women can avoid gender discrimination by improving our diction is insanity. It’s “blame the victim” at its finest, and it’s maddening. And if you think that gender discrimination and a rape culture aren't connected, well, I simply beg to differ with you.
In Ten Things to End Rape Culture, the author suggests that changing the way society thinks about rape can happen if we all get media literate, globalize our awareness of rape culture, practice real politics, and lobby our communities, among other things.
As for me, not only have I done a one-eighty and will from now on proudly declare myself a feminist, I might actually start picketing in the streets.
Will you join me?

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Awful Truth: What LinkedIn Has Taught Me About People

I’m a fairly active participant on LinkedIn, and I enjoy hanging out there, promoting my blog, being directed to other people’s blogs, and just generally hearing what people in the world of work are up to and talking about.

But make no mistake. Even within what some might consider the sheltered, virtual walls of the largest white-collar office building in the world, stuff happens. People are people, and sometimes people suck. For example, spending time on LinkedIn has taught me that …

Some Folks Think They’re Better Than Everyone Else
Well, I’m not certain what they think, but it sure comes across that way. These are the individuals who will insert themselves into a conversation that others are peacefully and respectfully enjoying and insist that it’s inappropriate, off-topic, or boring. Now why would anyone do that, I ask? Public service announcement? I don’t think so. It’s a puzzle to me, because it’s not as though group members are sitting around a large conference table in handcuffs, forced to listen to each other’s inane chatter. If the topic doesn’t interest you, then don’t click the link. Alternatively, if you were enjoying the conversation at one time but now aren’t, unsubscribe, and your email won’t be flooded with a bunch of stuff you don’t feel like reading.

Some People are Intolerant
Whenever social justice issues make an appearance in mixed LinkedIn groups, talk is liable to turn ugly, even in 2013 amongst a group of so-called professionals. Discussions I’ve followed have been shut down by moderators because someone complained that LinkedIn is no place to talk about poverty, racial tensions, income inequality, or anything else that makes some people “uncomfortable,” and other times folks just got out of hand. Topics that set people off included Hillary Clinton speaking at the annual SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) conference, George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, Paula Deen, and of course, the Affordable Care Act. The words that fly off some folks’ keyboards is scandalous, in my opinion, and complete evidence of some pretty dark beliefs. Sad.

Some People Can’t Take “No” for an Answer
When a discussion gets personal, I’m out. I’m happy to defend my ideas, but I won’t defend my person—especially to people who don’t even know me, although they may think they do.

So, when a fight discussion is getting nasty, I’ll disengage. I’m not a punk, but I don’t fight shadows, and I don’t fight stupid. (You can take that last bit anyway you wish.)

Still, there are those who simply won’t take no for an answer. I’ve been called names and baited even after I made it perfectly clear that I’m not one to participate in that sort of thing—even as the baiter claimed superiority.

Some People Are Mad About a Lot of Stuff
Not too long ago I wrote a piece that didn't denounce the ACA (aka Obamacare), and certain members in a certain LinkedIn group just went bananas.

Here’s a sample:
"How come all of those seeking entitlements and hand-outs ALWAYS seem to have no trouble buying cars (well beyond their means), smartphones/iPhones, smart phone data plans (after all, you need to have that phone cause you don't want to miss that important text message or Facebook post), internet access, cable TV, expensive shoes/sneakers/clothes, lottery tickets, alcohol, pot, ecstacy [sic], dining out (fast food preferred), movie tickets, travel, vacations, BUT . . . THEY WANT FREE HEALTHCARE because the can't afford the cost! FOODSTAMPS because they need to buy those lottery tickets and alcohol (don't dare ask them to work for their foodstamps or take a drug test for their foodstamps though, cause then you are a (wait for it) RACIST! What they really need to get is BETTER TALKING POINTS cause the ones they have now don't work anymore. Maybe we can get another genius like that ineffective and unqualified President to come up with some new talking points. Because you know with all the FREE eductation [sic] they get they can't come up with them on their own!"
Oh my God. (And that is a literal cry to the almighty. No blaspheming here.)

Hateful stuff. But it gets worse. One poster, apparently in a fury about another poster’s comments, directed a note to her thusly:
“Will tell you this XXX [poster with alternate viewpoint] have been reading all of your posts. Just marked it down, don't think I will be requesting any more quotes from the [XXX’s employer] with you on board. They haven't been very competitive anyway.

But I find it so ironic to hear your rants on big business, and then you gladly take a pay check form [sic] one of the biggest. Funny, gave me a [sic] idea. Decided to cut and paste all your posts, your information and send to the head of marketing. Want to make sure they know how compassionate you are with the brokers you are supposed to be working with. Have fun.”
I literally got chills when I read this. Lordy, I may never vote Republican again. Seriously. There was just that one time, but still… 

On the plus side, I was happy to see another poster call this first poster out (in a very nice way) for behaving poorly.

Some People are Idiots
Actually, I’m mostly talking about myself here. And I’m an idiot, because I’ve been participating in the same LinkedIn circles long enough to know that there are certain people whose opinions I abhor, and yet I still find myself occasionally engaging in their discussions and getting pissed. Like I said, idiot. I should know better and just stay away.

You may be thinking, "Gee girly, if you didn't know this stuff before LinkedIn, I feel sorry for you." 

But here's the thingI honestly was surprised the first time I read a really nasty post on LinkedIn. I just didn't expect it. We teach kids to beware what they post on social media, and here you have adults, "professionals" no less, posting all kinds of junk.

So yeah, I knew these things about people before, but I relearned them on LinkedIn.

Of course, I’ve also met wonderful people on LinkedIn, but this list is about the awful truth, okay?

Do you have something to add to the list? Please post it in the Comments section!

Friday, November 15, 2013

What’s Wrong with Saying “I Don’t Know”?

I read an article the other day that advised employees to never tell a boss, “I don’t know.” Instead, the authors advised, the right response is: “I’ll find out right away.”

Well, any regular reader of career advice (I’ll plead guilty) knows that there is a lot of bad advice out there. A lot.

And while I wouldn’t consider the above to be the worst of the bunch, it’s close.

What’s so objectionable about saying “I don’t know,” if in fact, you don’t know?

I believe the authors are making the point that a good employee is always willing to find a solution to a problem. That’s great, and I’m totally on board with it.

But my issue with this advice is that it reinforces the stereotype that the only good employee is the fast-talking, quick-to-say-yes employee, which frankly I find offensive. There really is more than one way to be.

I know I’m not the only person who’d rather pause and say (depending on the specific query, of course), “I don’t know. Let me think about that.” Or “I don’t know. I’ll have to check that out.” Or “I don’t know. I’ll see what I can do.”

The writers’ advice presupposes that every problem has a quick solution, but that’s not true. The advice also presupposes that acting is always better than thinking, which also isn’t true. Sometimes it’s best to just ponder something for a damn minute.

Come on. What kind of a rotten boss can’t wait a few lousy seconds for an employee to think before giving a response to a credible question? (Perhaps one whose favorite expression is “chop chop”?) And what kind of boss requires that her employee be omniscient? That’s stupid.

Sometimes the proper answer is “I don’t know.” That may not be the complete answer or the final answer, but to suggest that it’s never a good answer is silly.

With all the talk everywhere about being “authentic” and “transparent” and “doing you” and whatnot, I find it amazing that employees are still being told that it’s always wrong to express a moment of doubt. Instead, it’s supposedly better to adopt the false mask of having a perpetual, peppy “can do” attitude (“I’ll find out right away. Right away, boss!) because … because what exactly? Heck if I know. The manager might have to provide guidance? The manager might be forced into conversation with the employee about potential work challenges? What?

Honestly, I think this advice is insulting to both managers and their employees.

And lest you think these authors are the only ones spouting this nonsense, check out "10 Things You Should Never Say at Work" as well as "Preparing to Answer Questions You Don't Know the Answer To," which delivers this gem: “Never say ‘I don't know’ right away; instead, rephrase the question until you are sure what they are asking.”


So tell me Candidate, what do you see as the biggest challenge to HR in the coming decade?

What do I see as the biggest challenge to HR in the coming decade?


Let’s see… If someone were to ask me what I see as the biggest challenge to HR in the coming decade, I’d say …


Hmmm … did you say ‘THE biggest challenge?’”

Interviewer (rolling eyes):

Well, thankfully not all the advice on this topic is bad. In "Three Little Words to Never Say in an Interview," Heidi Golledge, CEO of CyberCoders and jobs website CareerBliss, is quoted thusly: “Saying ‘I don’t know’ at the right time could give you an edge and show off a rare trait.”


No one knows everything, and managers shouldn’t expect that their employees do. It’s all fine and good to want employees to solve problems (presumably that’s why they were hired in the first place), but they shouldn’t have to pretend to be more than human in the process.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why Is The Candidate Experience So Dang Crappy?

This time last week I was on my way home from the 9th Annual Staffing Symposium hosted by the Staffing Management Association of Seattle (SMA Seattle), after giving a presentation titled “Recruiting for Quality: Hiring for Today AND Tomorrow.”

I think I was the only presenter who did NOT mention anything about the “candidate experience,” mostly because I’d gotten sick of talking about how thoroughly crappy it is. (“Crappy” is the word used by presenter Rayanne Thorn, and I’m on board with it.)

Yes, it is crappy.

And what I learned at the conference (which was a wonderful experience, really, and I came away completely impressed with SMA Seattle) is that many, many recruiters understand how crappy the candidate experience is, and they’re really not happy about it.

And yet, it continues to be crappy (and often ineffective).

For example.

A couple of weeks ago, I reconnected with a consultant friend who works with a lot of different companies.

We started talking about who had been doing what, and I told him that I’d been freelancing for about a year and had left my company more than a year ago. He responded, “Really? Shoot, I wish I’d known you’d left your job. XYZ company just hired some girl in HR, and she’s clueless.”

Well, I’d interviewed with XYZ company, but my friend didn’t know that.

(Mind you, I’d already gotten more than a hint during my interview with the CFO/hiring manager that he might not have it all together. After telling me that I’d come “highly recommended” by the agency recruiter who’d said I was “very dynamic,”— he'd paused and then added, “At least I think that was you.”)

And then when weeks passed and I hadn’t heard back from him, I sent a follow up note. A few days later, I received a form letter in the mail. Why not just respond to my email, dude, and save a tree stump?

But, back to my main question—why is the candidate experience so crappy?

We all know what a crappy candidate experience (CCE) looks like. I have my stories, obviously, and I’ve heard plenty more. Tim Sackett wrote a piece about broken hiring processes and why you really don’t need four interviews to know whether someone is good for your organization, so I know he’s got his stories. We all do. And yet, not much changes.

Well today I had a breakthrough about this.

Because I’d starting looking for a job during a “recovering economy,” I’d made a rookie research mistake of confusing correlation with cause. I’d theorized (and later came to believe) that the bad economy was making some companies downright skittish when it came to committing to talent, not to mention unwilling to spend good money on mere employees, and I still think there’s some truth to that.

But today I had another thought, and it’s so simple really I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me earlier.

The struggling economy hasn’t caused the problem so much as exacerbated it. 

Because the truth is, there always has been and always will be incompetent hiring managers, recruiters, and HR professionals.

Always. Has. Been/Always. Will. Be.

But this go ‘round, add a lot of people desperate for jobs, too many people performing functions they have no business performing (many as a result of job cuts), and the rise of social media, and well, more nonsense is coming to light.

I’ll also add to this list a general lack of respect about the skills needed to effectively source talent, because despite the lip service, if everyone agreed that sourcing talent takes talent, no one would thrust a recent college graduate into the job with hardly any training. (And, I also wouldn't have ever had another executive say—while interviewing me—that interviewing really wasn't "his thing." Good Lord.)

So there you have it. Some folks just aren’t very good at their jobs and/or don’t have the support and/or good sense to have someone who is good at it do it.


But what’s the solution you ask?

And again, it’s pretty simple. People who are bad at things shouldn’t do them, except as a hobby maybe, which sourcing for talent definitely is NOT.

Oh, and people need to start giving a fig about how they treat others.

We just need more people to believe these two things, and then some stuff might improve.