To Serve and Be Served

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If you will forgive my dampening of Chilton Williamson’s Schadenfreude slightly (“The Job of Sex,” Editorials, January), I feel a need to note that there were women in the workplace long before the feminist movement insisted on putting them there.  These women were usually in service roles—secretaries, stenographers, and the like.  The feminists hated this arrangement and scorned these women, notwithstanding their similarity to the Son of Man.  (See Matthew 20:28, for example.)  While I cannot say for sure, I would not be surprised to hear that many of these women were also the recipients of unwanted sexual advances by their male colleagues.  Long and heavy is the score against feminists, but I don’t think it includes putting women into the workplace.  Increasing their numbers and roles there, yes, but not putting them there in the first place.

        —John F. Fay
Mary Esther, FL

Mr. Williamson Replies:

Mr. Fay has caught me up on an error in terminology.  I should have written “traditionally male jobs” instead of “workplaces.”  The difference is a significant one.

It is a matter of hierarchy, and also of numbers.  When women were relegated  to service jobs in the “workplace,” they were separated from their male superiors by class and by education, as well as by organizational hierarchy and by numbers.  They mingled with them (at least as equals) neither in office meetings nor socially, after work.  Since 20th-century society in the West did not operate on the principles of serfdom, these distinctions did not carry the feudal exploitation of women forward to modern office life, the cliché regarding the secretarial dalliance with the boss (or vice versa) to the contrary.  In the business world of the 21st century, where men and women of similar upbringing and education work together as social and professional equals, the opportunities for, and the temptation to, romantic (or simply sexual) liaisons at the workplace are obviously much greater.  All the more so in the sexually hyper-charged atmosphere of the entertainment industry—based, as I noted, on the exaggerated importance of the physical attributes and attractiveness of both of the sexes.

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