The S-3389 Harassment Bill being put forth has been something of a central preoccupation of mine. The more I think on it, the more I am bothered by it. The truth is that the rushing of laws to regulate an undefined problem, by creating an unrefined agency, bothers me as a practitioner of both reform and campaign work.
As Shakespeare said, “those stumble that move too fast.”
Watching this rush job to address sexual harassment and all the undefined pitfalls it causes in campaigns is sloppy and reads as a desperate grasp onto political narratives, rather than sincere concern for future women leaders and what they may go through. Beyond that, cobbling together a small division of an already strained agency to act as HR is unthorough and a bad foundation for what other civil rights and employment issues may exist within a campaign. What if we find that police are called on canvassers as a form of intimidation in GOTV? What if campaign offices don’t offer ADA accommodations? What about OSHA and people being bitten by dogs? An agency ready to address only one type of harassment seems… Biased? Ornamental? Like a pinch on the cheek?
The fact is that laws and policies exist regarding these matters already, and the actual question that should have been asked in terms of proper reform development methodology is this:
Is the problem that there are no laws in place, or is the problem that they aren’t being enforced?
Instead, we are creating redundant, fast and loose agencies with arbitrary metrics and insufficient resources. Beyond that, we are communicating an insulting legacy that says “we need to do this now – right now – because the young women who sacrificed so much to drag this into the light won’t get it right – can’t get it right.” A more revolutionary legacy would be to trust the women taking the lead on these issues now and to be thorough in laying the foundation so that they can address the real problem when it comes into focus.
Rather than spending $2 million to create an agency to address *some* harassment issues of a specific type of a specific and not particularly inclusive group of people, perhaps instituting what we *know* we need now is better … like providing trainings, or perhaps deeming a government employee who harasses while volunteering as proven in exhibiting conduct unbecoming, and removing their civil service title and benefits thereof, as a few examples. And in lieu of creating something we aren’t sure of because we haven’t actually defined the problem, how about we learn what we don’t know by conducting real and thorough and inclusive research defining the managerial structures of campaigns so they can be regulated in an *informed* way in one year.
Obviously, our culture is a problem, but I do truly believe that the change itself CAN lead to a change of heart.
This bill will probably pass, seemingly steered by campaign adjacent people to build a castle on the sand. It would have been nice if it was done right. It would have been nice if millennial women were more present. Or maybe look at what your neighboring states do.