REVIEWED BY NAOMI BLACK By 1978, about half of the adult women in Canada were working for pay, and they made up more than two-fifths of the paid labor force. One of the results, to the surprise of many, has been the emergence into public view of what is now called sexual harassment. Ranging from pinches to innuendos to outright rape, this is a widespread and serious problem.

Constance Backhouse and Leah Cohen interviewed thousands of working women and 80 per cent of them reported encountering sexually oriented practices that endanger a woman's job - that undermine her job performance and threaten her economic livelihood. This is a definition of sexual harassment used by one of the two voluntary organizations formed to try to publicize and eliminate such practices. And these are the experiences of the women Backhouse and Cohen interviewed, corroborated by the accounts of personnel officers and the officials of unions and government human rights agencies.

The book begins with a series of representative interviews, showing a typical office worker, a government employee and a waitress, as well as a woman lawyer, a graduate student, and those less usual working women, a construction worker and a stripper. What happened to them differed.

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The stripper was raped, the lawyer intimidated to the edge of a nervous breakdown, the graduate student embarrassed and distressed.
But in all of the a many cases there were constants: the male initiator of sexual advances was the woman's superior at work, who refused to accept an explicit rejection. And lurking behind his refusal was always the threat of economic reprisals.

Backhouse and Cohen list - and document - what women may fear and suffer from their supervisors or employers: demotion, transfer, poor work assignments, denial of job-related benefits and promotion, unsatisfactory job evaluations, sabotage of their work, and dismissal without or with only poor references. Appalled by the pressure all this represents for women workers, Backhouse and Cohen conclude by recommending the artificial incest taboo suggested by the anthropologist Margaret Mead: You don't make passes at or sleep with the people you work with.

As you read this book, you understand the rage that produced such a suggestion. Backhouse and Cohen are persuasive in their demonstration of how widespread the problem is; indeed, every working woman knows this, from her friends' experiences if not from her own.

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