(I sent this to All Things Considered directly through their Contact Us page, but I figured I’d post it here, too.)
Dear All Things Considered,
I was appalled to hear Margot Adler’s piece on All Things Considered this evening, in which examples of sexual harassment were downplayed to the status of “problematic.” Even the title, “For Maids in Manhattan, Unseemly Sights on the Job,” minimizes the very real issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The man who left the door open so people working in another room could see him naked is guilty of sexual harassment. He was not being a mischievous old scamp. He was exposing himself to women who did not invite this behavior in any way.
Adler stated that “none of the housekeepers who called [Brian Lehrer's] radio program said these things happened all the time.” The implication there is that “therefore, they don’t.” I don’t believe two mornings of call-ins to a radio show count as a representative sample, especially when you consider that according to RAINN (The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. How much does that number go up if someone reporting a crime fears she might lose her job?
In the very next paragraph, Kathryn Carrington says that, when guests “planned to drop their towels” (which I’m pretty sure constitutes indecent exposure, don’t you think?), she asked her supervisor to send someone to the room with her: “I would like someone to be there with me, you know to escort me there.” You don’t ask for an escort if you’re mildly inconvenienced.
Renata McCarthy stated that “she came across only one serious sexual harassment experience during her years of work in hotels.” Any harassment is serious. No one should have to put up with harassment of any kind.
She goes on to say “‘when a housekeeper comes to clean your room it’s a personal experience. I mean, somebody is coming into your bathroom and touching your belongings, and making the bed, after you have slept in it. So for someone to open the door, and have a towel wrapped around their waist, I think the person is acting like they might act at home.’” Housekeepers are not family. They are not possessions. They are not there for any guest’s “pleasure.” They are there to do their jobs — yes, this includes touching your toiletries, but it does not include seeing you naked. Dropping towels and making unwanted advances is sexual harassment.
If you stay at a hotel, you do not have any right whatsover to harass the staff.
The amusement in Ms. Adler’s voice in her closing line — “So perhaps there is a little confusion about boundaries here” — was so insulting to me I had to turn off the radio. What confusion could there possibly be? We’re taught from a young age that our bodies are private, and that we shouldn’t expose them to people who don’t consent to see them. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how much the other person doesn’t have, whether you’re a one-time guest or whether you stay in the same room for a week out of every month.
Every example in this article was one of an unwanted sexual advance, plain and simple. I believed NPR would have taken the opportunity to examine the issue in a serious way.
Shame on NPR and Margot Adler for making light of this. I expected more.
-Lauren M. Roy