BEARING WITNESS: Sexual Harassment and Beyond -- Everywoman's Story by Celia Morris

BEARING WITNESS: Sexual Harassment and Beyond -- Everywoman's Story

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Interweaving compelling case histories with social commentary, political writer Morris (Storming the Statehouse, 1992, etc.) delivers a sobering study of sexual harassment in all its lewd and loathsome guises. Legions of women identified with Anita Hill when she testified against her former boss, Clarence Thomas, in 1991. And no wonder: according to Morris, one out of every 12 women will be raped or threatened with rape at some point in her lifetime. Morris, on tour to promote her previous book, set out to talk to victims of sexual harassment and record their stories. Although she admits that her survey is hardly scientific, the narratives she collects, from factory workers in Indiana to neurosurgeons in California, draw a disturbing portrait of a world where sexual harassment in the workplace -- from cat-calling to fanny-patting to rape -- is almost as common as chitchat around the water-cooler. The stories, in which the speakers are given ample space to tell their tales, are often moving: Maria, the Mexican housekeeper who was repeatedly raped by her wealthy chiropractor boss in his household in Petaluma, California, possesses the tragic dimensions of a John Steinbeck character; Dr. Frances Conley, the Stanford University neurosurgeon who threatened to resign when her colleague, Dr. Gerald Silverberg, a notorious sexual harasser of nurses and female doctors, was appointed chairman of the neurosurgery department, seems a kind of modern-day Joan of Arc. But when Morris grounds the problem of sexual harassment in a historical context, she stumbles: In jumping, in the space of one paragraph, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton's charges that the Bible is inherently misogynist to Shakespeare's allegedly sexist portraits of women in The Taming of the Shrew, she becomes intellectually careless, choosing the shrillness of polemics over the subtlety of careful analysis. Still, despite its flaws, a groundbreaking book.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1994
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: "Little, Brown"