BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Monday, 15 April, 2002, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Are women turning the tables at work?
Upset man being taunted by women
Men - are you feeling put upon?

Some men dream of being the only male in an office of women. But one bank worker has accused his female colleagues of sexual harassment and is waiting for an employment tribunal to decide his case.
When Anthony King got a job at his local Abbey National after finishing his A-levels, he was delighted.

Michael Douglas being harassed by Demi Moore in Disclosure
Men as well as women can feel vulnerable
As the only man working with six women, the 18-year-old tried to join in on the office banter.

Three months later Mr King quit his job, complaining that he had been sexually harassed. He says three of the women flashed their breasts at him and quizzed him about his sex life.

The women - who cannot be named for legal reasons - told an industrial tribunal last week that it was he who started making inappropriate remarks; his employers say they have investigated the allegations and found no grounds for complaint. The tribunal is expected to release its decision by mid-May.

The attitude is, 'Oh come on mate, you can take it'

David Thomas
His is one of the few cases of alleged sexual bullying of a man by his female colleagues to reach the tribunal stage.

On the rare occasions that a man makes such accusations public, the case always hits the headlines. Yet when the accuser is a women, the media largely ignore it unless the damages claims are unusually high.

Oo-er missus!

Although almost one in 10 men have experienced sexual harassment at work, only 5% of all victims make a formal complaint - and only a tenth of those make it to a tribunal, according to a summary of research compiled by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

Now I understand how women must feel to be whistled at by strangers

Christopher Hart of the Erotic Review
And just 5% of respondents to an EOC survey of people who had contacted them for advice on sexual harassment reported that they had been harassed by women.

Not only are men less likely to suffer sexual harassment by women, those who do may refuse to recognise that it was abuse at all. Their employers, too, may be less likely to take the complaint seriously.

Our culture does not allow men to come out as victims, least of all as victims of the weaker sex. The attitude is that not only should they be able to take it, they should be grateful.

Going to tribunal
Of the 34 successful sexual harassment cases in 1998-2001, three complainants were men
David Thomas, the author of Not Guilty: In Defence of Modern Man, says men are expected to be tougher than women even if they feel vulnerable.

"The attitude is, 'Oh come on mate, you can take it.' And men can't go off and cry in the loo if it all gets too much."

Pack mentality

When one sex dominates, it is that group that tends to set the tone in the workplace. Witness the "laddism and the City" culture of the Square Mile, where men still outnumber women.

Mostly-male workplaces can get very laddish
At the Erotic Review, the literary editor and solitary male, Christopher Hart, has joked that sexual harassment isn't a sackable offence, it's a duty.

His editor and her deputy frequently comment on his bottom as he busies himself at the photocopier.

"I've tried threatening them with an industrial tribunal, but I fear I'd be laughed out of court. Suddenly I understand how women must feel to be whistled and grunted at in the street by complete strangers - not good," Mr Hart has confessed.

Harassed at work
6% of men and 9% of women anxious about sex bullies
Work Foundation figures, April 02
Mr Thomas says women behaving badly at work is nothing new. Over the years he has received many letters from men working in female-dominated professions, such as the textile industry, who have complained of such treatment.

"The problem comes when the mood of the majority goes from good humoured to bullying or when they are seeking a scapegoat."

He adds that anyone who thinks women are immune to baser impulses is just plain wrong.

"No woman who has been to school should be surprised that when women club together they can be vicious."

And the days of many workplaces being male-dominated are long gone. By 2010, young, able-bodied, white men are likely to find themselves in the minority.

See also:

29 Aug 01 | Business
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |