Herman Cain, Clarence Thomas, and sexual harassment
The most blatant forms of sexual harassment - rape, violence - are the most rare, but also the ones most people can easily identify as wrong. The misdeeds alleged by Anita Hill, such as showing graphic pornography at work, are now easily identifiable as inappropriate actions.
But the Herman Cain case demonstrates that there is still confusion about what makes some behaviour harassment.
For instance, Politico reported that Mr Cain was accused of making a “non-sexual” gesture that made one of the eventual claimants uncomfortable.
Mr Cain, who calls the claims against him “baseless”, described that gesture as a comment on a woman’s height. His defenders cite it as another example of how anyone can be labelled a harasser if not careful.
“There’s a fear that: ‘If I tell a woman she looks nice, am I going to get sued for sexual harassment’?” says Caren Greenberg, a professor of management at American University in Washington DC, and an expert witness in workplace harassment cases.
“I don’t think there’s very many women that would just on the basis of that think that, oh my gosh, that must be sexual harassment,” she says.
“But if that were to occur in a context where other more egregious behaviour occurred, then there’s a problem.”