Cover image for Hostile environment : the political betrayal of sexually harassed women
Hostile environment : the political betrayal of sexually harassed women
Mink, Gwendolyn, 1952-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
x, 150 pages ; 23 cm
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KF3467 .M56 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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According to some of President Clinton's feminist supporters, his alleged behavior toward Paula Jones did not constitute sexual harassment because he had taken "no" for an answer. Others insisted that Jones could not have been harassed because the president did not punish her for refusing him. During the impeachment debate, many feminists defended the president on the grounds that his alleged lies in the Jones case were "just about sex" and therefore insignificant. In the most publicized sexual harassment case to date, longtime proponents of sexual harassment law raised the political and legal thresholds for taking sexual harassment seriously.

In a passionate defense of the rights of sexually harassed women, Gwendolyn Mink warns that the president's supporters have undermined our sexual harassment laws. Hostile Environment is her provocative account of the harm being done to these laws and her warning that the laws themselves are worthless if few women dare to use them.

Correcting many common misapprehensions, Mink explains sexual harassment as a legal concept and charts its judicial and legislative history. She shows the many important contributions feminists have made to the development of sexual harassment law. She also, however, develops a stringent critique of feminist responses to the president's lies in the Jones case.

Sometimes scathing, Hostile Environment provides a fresh perspective on the recent politics of sexual harassment. It also provides a highly personal perspective. First-hand knowledge of the injuries caused by sexual harassment and its aftermath has left Mink with an abiding interest in this volatile issue and with a desire to safeguard the rights of sexually harassed women--especially the most economically vulnerable among them.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

On the surface, these two books would seem to have something in common--they both talk about the "M" word (Monica, that is) and President Clinton. However, they do so in two very different ways. In The Scarlet Thread, Dunn (dean, Grove City Coll.) looks at presidential scandals from Washington to Clinton and puts them into historical context. He argues that the president's morality both reflects and influences the moral mood of the nation. He pays particular attention to the last 70 years and concludes that except for the upright Reagan era, the country has been steeped in a moral morass since the Kennedy administration. While he does provide a historical context for scandals, his conservative bias, especially where it concerns the last 40 years, takes away from the impact of his argument. Not recommended. Mink's Hostile Environment is a case history of sexual harassment law. Mink (political science, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) wrote it, she says, to defend sexual harassment plaintiffs against the "all-too-convenient redefinition of what sexual harassment is and what the law guards against." She provides a case-by-case history of sexual harassment law and argues that Judge Susan Webber Wright's judgment that President Clinton's behavior did not constitute harassment because he accepted "no" for an answer does serious harm to the laws. She finds feminist support of the President equally troublesome. Much of the book focuses on explaining how sexual harrassment laws could, very soon, become worthless. A lucid and interesting history of sexual harassment law; recommended for academic and large public collections.--Roseanne Castellino, Arthur D. Little, Cambridge, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

If the 1991 Hill-Thomas hearings constituted a national seminar on sexual harassment, the events of the mid-1990s seemed to suggest that "the class" suffered from selective retention, perhaps owing to the confusing response of the feminist movement to the charges of Paula Jones against President Bill Clinton. Mink (Univ. of California-Santa Cruz), in a scathing rebuke to Clinton's feminist supporters, charges that they raised the political and legal thresholds for taking sexual harassment seriously and so undermined those laws that women may not use them in the future. Feminists did not take Jones seriously, nor did they fight so that she might receive a fair legal hearing. Using lay language, Mink carefully traces the development of the case law here. As one who filed one of the early sexual harassment grievances against a graduate professor and a well-known critic of Clinton's welfare reform plan (see Welfare's End; CH, Sept'98), Mink's objectivity can be questioned, but hers is a logical, passionate, and provocative answer to one of that era's most puzzling questions. In light of pro-Clinton books like Jeffrey Toobin's A Vast Conspiracy (1999), this is a valuable resource for all collections. J. K. Boles; Marquette University