Tara Profile picture
2 May, 47 tweets, 9 min read
I (yet again) don’t think this defense holds a lot of water. If you are on a work call, you are _working_ - no matter where you are at the time. & while you are working, & are understood to be working, there are certain behavioral expectations.
&, as noted, or suggested, by the final reply in the second screenshot: chalking consequences up to employer workplace surveillance obfuscates that it was his subordinates observing/reporting the incident. & we don’t hear from any of them in the LA Times (puff) piece...
No, we don’t hear from them there, but there was some commentary on Twitter (couldn’t find the example I was initially looking for, but came across this):
Similarly, I can’t remember who said it now, but I agree: if this hadn’t been a last straw kind of thing/people already hadn’t wanted him gone (likely for similar reasons!), it’s much less likely he would’ve resigned. I wouldn’t assume we’re officially getting the whole story.
Oh also: I think it’s a mistake to focus on location as a dividing line (or always should-be dividing line) between work/not-work; most people’s work involves relationships with other people (coworkers, etc) that do not magically evaporate when stepping outside the office.
If his partial nudity hadn’t been witnessed by - & so, hadn’t affected - the people he worked with, this would’ve been a non-issue!! But given that it did, & that it happened when everyone was officially working...
Lumping this in with general workplace surveillance concerns (most freq. re: individual productivity, or not organizing with your coworkers perhaps) obfuscates the essentially social nature of the incident &, typically, of work itself - as well as the power dynamics involved.
Speaking of power dynamics, I just saw a tweet (from a locked account) that put it well, & succinctly: basically, that the workers’ rights issue at play is the right not to see your boss’s genitals without your consent. & speaking of consent, & also gender for a second:
I’ve seen people say that this wouldn’t be as big an issue - in fact, hasn’t been as big an issue - if/when a woman accidentally exposes her breasts on Zoom. (Apparently this has happened!) Embarrassing, but not a resign-worthy (/fire-able) offense. Ok, here’s the difference:
If a man exposes his genitals - at least to a woman - without her consent, this is processed, is understood, as a potential threat of sexual violence. It is to some degree not just offensive or shocking, but fear-inducing. & this is a perfectly reasonable response!
& one wouldn’t immediately know it was an accident (if it was... I also think, as others have said before, that allowing people too much leeway to say, Oops! sets a riskier precedent than anything framed as employer surveillance-related).
& I feel like women not acknowledging the difference between a man exposing his genitals & uh anything else have never had this happen to them without their consent (unlikely but possible - it’s only happened to me twice) - or are just being intentionally obtuse.
For reference (apparently approx. 50% of women have experienced this - so no, not everyone. Why it’s important to get all sides of the story in cases like that at the top of this thread - bc not everyone has personal experience). thearticle.com/indecent-expos…
In particular:
& for something peer-reviewed (I can only view the abstract; I’ve seen the approx. 50% rate elsewhere too): tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.108…
Abstract (& “indecent exposure” almost always refers to men exposing their genitals, it appears):
& yes, in the case @ the top of the thread: he says it was an accident - but there’s no way anyone could know that in the moment. & uh, in my experience if someone can make any sort of claim that it was an accident, he will -
Even in cases where an accident is *highly* unlikely - much less likely than a Zoom mishap - & so no one really bought that excuse. Hence some people not being inclined to extend the benefit of the doubt too far...
So. Being quite unhappy (to say the least) about seeing your boss’s dick - heck, anyone’s dick - without your consent, & without warning, really has nothing at all to do with prudishness. At least for women.
But men often minimize it, don’t seem to get it - & sometimes, so do women. Even sometimes if they have experienced... bc the three times (I forgot to count one above) that something like that has happened to me, yes I was very freaked out in the moment -
But downplayed it when telling others later - even though, to their credit, they all seemed to take it seriously. & to an extent I’m just _like_ that (I’m fine! Don’t really want to talk about it!), about a lot of things -
But it wasn’t till the third time, when someone really engaged me in conversation about it, that I realized... I’m still a little scared. (Without going into detail, that was reasonable, & treated as such. Even though we heard the accident excuse - which was *highly* unlikely.)
But women learn to minimize... which makes pieces like the LA Times one on Shenk so insidious. We hear about how impressive his career was, & how very very sorry he is, reportedly - but not the other side.
When the other side may well be (judging from some stuff I’ve seen on Twitter, & just kinda how these things tend to go): he had a pattern of being sketchy & making his employees uncomfortable - & this was the last straw.
Funny thing about that piece: it doesn’t quote, or paraphrase, *any* of his subordinates at the magazine or the university (or anyone else he worked with at the university, for that matter), re: his behavior. Seems a significant gap in reporting. At least you should try?
You can’t just let Shenk & his agent frame the story! & if the reporter had tried - presumably the article would’ve said that staff refused to comment (& maybe people would’ve been more willing to comment if they were left unnamed, which in this sort of situation seems ok?)
Goes to show who’s voices are considered important & who’s less so... & really, the framing had me going for a bit, feeling bad for him - but that’s how the story’s written! & that’s a problem.
& re: feeling bad for him: you might not know, given how many MeToo-adjacent stories are framed - but it’s common for women to feel bad about (the possibility of) painful consequences being imposed on men who’ve harmed them - sometimes contributing to them not reporting at all.
That’s certainly been my experience. & sympathetically accepting the accused’s (something like that)’s narrative of events, without question, may reinforce that tendency & contribute to a longstanding societal shirking of even trying to hold powerful men accountable.
(Or holding any men accountable, for that matter: the whole flashing/indecent exposure/guy displaying his dick without your consent in an otherwise non-sexual situation is frightening no matter what other power dynamics may be at play.)
Postscript, or something: Found it! Thread with some other concerns about Shenk, apparently posted by people using their full names (who the reporter maybe could’ve talked to?)
& I just find it funny that other people (luckily just a couple) with apparent pro-labor political positions were so quick to defend the, um, boss
PPS: I said I find it funny, as in surprising, that pro-labor people would jump in to defend the boss... but maybe it’s not really, after all. Maybe we (most of us, white people at least) default to upholding white patriarchy if we’re not careful, no matter our professed politics
Even I was initially mostly sympathetic to him, to the exclusion of - & the framing of that story did not help. & sure everyone is at least a little sympathetic in the right light, maybe even deserves sympathy - but him being a pitiable dumbass (???) - is not actually the story.
Multiple question marks after dumbass bc we don’t know _for sure_ that it was an accident; but even if it was: taking a bath, naked from the waist down, while visible on a Zoom call - even if you’ve adjusted the background to camouflage the setting -
Is taking some serious, & seriously unprofessional, risks. & suggests someone getting a kick out of “getting away with it” - which is also not-so-professional. & so it’s unsurprising that other people had problems with his behavior before...
& as it happens, white men are not actually entitled to their positions of power! & people in leadership roles are typically held to higher standards. Or are supposed to be, at least.
But I initially felt more sympathetic, bc - at least he wasn’t masturbating? (Bar is on the floor, bar is beneath the ground...) & he framed the bath as disability-related, which - ok, even taking his word for it without question:
Do the call audio-only? Reschedule the call? Maybe even put off the bath for an hour or so? (& if it can’t wait - maybe the call should be rescheduled?) (Not saying anything that hasn’t been said already there, either)
Serious errors in judgment, or whatever, like that can & even *should* result in relinquishing/being relieved of a leadership role - especially when they affect other people. This... isn’t hard.
No, it shouldn’t be hard - & him effing up, in a vacuum, is not really the story. Or not all of it, at least. Especially from a labor perspective (which the story wasn’t really written from, but still). Questions arise; namely: What was it like working with - or rather, for him?
Seems an important avenue to explore - & seem to be people willing to speak to it. But people are so focused on this “cancel culture has gone too far” sorta thing - where’s our empathy & sense of proportion?? - that it’s the only lens they can see this through. Apparently.
(Oh, & I did just see, didn’t register before I guess - the article says three sources, staff that were in the meeting confirmed “the incident” occurred - but then relies on Shenk’s agent’s description of the incident. Did the reporter ask those sources anything else? -
Did they decline to comment further for fear of career repercussions - & did the reporter give them the option of anonymity? Or were there other reasons for them not to say more, or for what they said not to - matter? The way it’s written, there are serious unanswered questions)
(& I don’t mean to lay all the blame on the reporter. Seems editorial judgment should play a role. Also, early reporting on Toobin did not mention past sketchiness, & was perhaps overly sympathetic, foregrounding his apology - but made clear it relied on eyewitness accounts. -
But then again, since some less-than-savory stuff about Toobin came out after the initial reporting - wouldn’t it make sense to probe for that in a case like this? Especially since two witnesses were motivated to make Title IX complaints?
Especially since there have been recent stories - I’m thinking of one in particular - about bosses’ very bad behavior? & if these were lines of inquiry - it doesn’t show in the writing. To me at least)

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