Nothing characterizes the patriarchal society that we live in better than New York’s Parks Department on Randalls Island. Female sources say that along with being the targets of sexual harassment from male supervisors, they have been encouraged to strip and dance at the annual Christmas and New Year’s Eve party at the facility. The parties have dated back to at least 2009. The image below was captured at one of the parties with a female employee dancing on a strip pole.
I do not have a problem with employees willingly dancing on a strip pole if that is what they actually want to do. However, what compelled these women to strip and dance were incentives such as promotions and being consistently hired. Many of the women at the department are low-income single mothers who are desperate to keep the seasonal positions offered by their supervisors. According to one female employee, a male coworker once yelled, “If you want a job, get on the pole,” during one of the parties.
The city’s Department of Investigation is looking into the holiday parties and is also investigating sexual harassment complaints. Two female workers have already been transferred at their request. One source stated, “For the New Year’s party, it got really grabby. Some women stripped to their panties and bras, and men were slapping asses. It was out of control.” Outside of the parties, one female employee “alleged that a supervisor would pull her bra strap, and another said a supervisor who accosted her in an elevator lifted her shirt and ran his tongue across her stomach before shoving his face in her crotch.”
Declining sexual overtures often resulted in negative consequences. A female employee recounted that she was not rehired for two years after turning down her supervisor’s sexual advances. When she finally returned to the department, she strip danced at the holiday party and was offered a permanent position.
James Cafaro and Angelo Figueroa, two supervisors, were named by the female workers for sexually harassing them at work. Cafaro and Figueroa oversee which employees get asked back for seasonal jobs or get offered permanent positions. Investigations are still ongoing.
Can we blame women for going along and stripping on the poles? Some may, but what other choice do they have? Many are on welfare and have no other options. And clearly the option to work hard and avoid the sexual requests of their male supervisors is not plausible if they want to get rehired or promoted. The male dominance in high positions often results in glass ceilings for women in the work place. This is a problem that affects not only entry-level positions, but also high corporate occupations.
This story is not an isolated incident. Women and minorities have a history of experiencing this glass ceiling. Now that there are greater numbers of female college graduates than male ones, we can only see how long this glass ceiling will hold. I sincerely hope that it shatters on all that built it and believed it to be impenetrable.
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