Talking from 9 to 5: Chapter 8

August 6, 2014 | Diana Stancy

In Chapter 8, Deborah Tannen asserts that, in certain cases, sexual harassment is not intentional. Instead, it is a product of miscommunication – of using words or expressions that have different meanings to the opposite sex.

“Part of what makes sexual harassment so complex is that the same symbols can have one meaning in one context or to one person and a very different meaning in another context or to another person” (245).

Women are not the only ones affected by sexual harassment. While women fear violence as a result of harassment, men fear false accusations made against them.  Tannen explains:

“The aspect of sexual harassment that taps into women’s fears is the specter of assault, verbal or physical, by a man whose clutches they cannot easily escape…The aspect that holds power for most men is the possibility of a false charge.” (250-251).

Men and women often doubt the likelihood of these fears in the other sex. They regard these fears as possibilities rather than actualities. While “sexual harassment can be experienced at any level of power,” states Tannen, the harassment itself is at times a product of the desire for power. Tannen encourages both sexes to recognize the concerns of the other, and to understand how the fears tied with sexual harassment reveal themselves in everyday conversation.

Discussion Questions:

1)   How can men and women prevent these miscommunications from occurring?

2)   What were your first impressions regarding men’s concerns about sexual harassment?

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