Book by: Mink, Gwendolyn
Review by: JoAnne A. Edwards
University of Washington Landscape Architecture Dept.
Gwendolyn Mink has done a terrific job chronicling the evolution of sexual harassment law from its advent in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to Jones vs. Clinton Civil Appeal and the Monica Lewinsky Affair. Propositioned and verbally abused by a professor in graduate school, Mink uses this text to emphasize "quid pro quo" law (something for something - sex to keep one's job or for a better grade or to do well in graduate school).
The 150 pages of this text are packed with detailed information about several well-known cases including Jones vs. Clinton, Tailhook, and the allegations against Senator Bob Packwood. The author highlights the 1991 Anita Hill sexual harassment case, including Hill’s testimony at the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Mink maintains that Hill educated the public regarding "hostile work environment" and that a woman's work environment can be poisoned by "unwelcome pornographic talk and sex advances on her" (p. 82). However, Mink stops short of thoroughly investigating work environments "motivated by hostility to the presence of women (or men) in the workplace or at school" (p. 23).
Mink poignantly points out that the 1991 Civil Rights Act, which improved the remedies available to sexual harassment plaintiffs, did not alleviate the risks of pressing a claim. My favorite Mink quote is that "it did not protect targets from being blamed for their own harassment, ostracized at work or in the community or blacklisted in the job market. It did not defend them from revelations about their intimate lives or speculations about their mental health. Worst of all, it did not shield them from the inconsolable pain of not being believed" (p. 101). Mink is adamant that the law will not become strong unless "every sexually harassed woman gets to have her say in a scrupulously fair legal proceeding even if you don't like her friends and even if we like the defendant" (p. 118-119).
Unfortunately little attention was given to "hostile work environment" law that would be particularly applicable to advising women entering male dominated fields. I hope that in future editions the author will present a more thorough study of these situations along with any new developments in hostile work environment law. For instance, in 2004, Boeing settled out of court with twelve women who brought a class action suit claiming a "hostile workplace that devalued women; ignored complaints of unfair treatment, and allowed managers to retaliate against women for complaining" (Holt, 2004). In the same year and within higher education, former professor, Hillary Hight Daw, won a $1.06 million sex-bias lawsuit against Kennesaw State University (Georgia) citing that her father "paid a significant portion of the legal fees” (Raftery, 2004) thus reiterating Mink’s point that economically vulnerable women cannot afford to pursue their legal rights. Still, even its current form, this book can help advisors become better informed on the legal and psychological issues involved when work and education settings are not safe and fair.
Isolde Raftery, "Former Professor Wins Sex-Bias Lawsuit," Higher Chronicle of Higher Education, September 10, 2004
Shirleen Holt and David Bowermaster, "Financial settlement reached in Boeing gender bias lawsuit," Seattle Times, May 15, 2004
Hostile Environment - The Political Betrayal of Sexually Harassed Women.
(2002) Book by Mink, Gwendolyn. Review by JoAnne A. Edwards. 150 pp., $25.50 (hardcover). Cornell University Press. ISBN #: 0-8014-3664-3.