This Date in UCSF History: Men Offended

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Both letters were originally published on Sept. 15, 1988.


To the Editor:

Recently, the Rape Prevention Education Program mailed a flyer advertising our upcoming event, a showing of The Power Pinch, a video which explores solutions to the problem of sexual harassment. We used a cartoon by Nicole Hollander from I'm in Training to Be Tall and Blonde as a graphic for the flyer. The Women's Resource Center and the Affirmative Action Office have received complaints from some men about the cartoon on the flyer. The Women's Resource Center and the Rape Prevention Education Program would like to respond to those complaints.

First, we did not mean to imply by the graphic that all men harass, that all sexual harassers are men, or that only women are sexually harassed. Men can be harassed by women and by other men.

Women can be harassed by other women. It is true, however, that more often than not, in the workplace and on college campuses, men are the harassers and women the targets.

In 1976, a Redbook magazine survey of 9,000 clerical and professional women provided the first national data on sexual harassment 88 percent of the respondents had experienced overt physical harassment, sexual remarks and leering, with the majority regarding this behavior as a serious problem at work.

In 1977, Donna Benson, a social science major at UC Berkeley, distributed a questionnaire to one-sixth of the female graduate student population.

Of the over 50 percent who returned the questionnaire, 20 percent stated that they had received sexual attention, either as sexual remarks, touching, or propositions, from their professors.

Most responded that they were bewildered or confused about how to deal with the situation.

Perhaps the negative reactions to the cartoon stem from the mistaken belief that sexual harassment does not occur at UCSF.

Like rape, sexual harassment has been a hidden problem. Victims are afraid to report because they are embarrassed or because they think nothing will be done to stop the harassment or worse, that they will not be believed, possibly because the harasser is a respected member of the campus community.

The Women's Resource Center will conduct a survey this fall on the incidence of sexual harassment on the UCSF campus.

Finally, we recognize humor as a powerful tool for change.

Many cultures have demonstrated the value of humor in criticizing people who abuse power. Political satire in Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations, clowns in Native American traditions, and the San Francisco Mime Troupe examples of this instructive use of humor.

On the other hand, racist, sexist, homophobic and other humor which degrades oppressed groups is mean and dangerous.

Our intention was to use humor to draw attention to a serious problem. There are no simple solutions to the problem of sexual harassment.

Leslie Simon, Coordinator Rape Prevention Education Program

To the Editor:

I called on the UCSF Rape Prevention Education Program concerning the matter of the enclosed poster. The matter was not taken seriously.

It was suggested instead that I needed education and should come to their session on September 15 to share my views. It misses the point, however.

My coming to the session is an entirely separate matter. What is not perceived is that the attitude is patronizing, and the undignified, offensive cartoon remains posted all over our campus.

I would like to file a sexual harassment complaint against the UCSF Rape Prevention Education Program in the name of the men on this campus. Thank you for your help.

Robert Stern, M.D. Professor of Pathology