From Weiner to Knight: Women are not the reason men behave badly

When will men learn? Women are not the reason men behave badly. Men are.
Photo: Melissa Nelson was fired for being too attractive. (AP photo)

CHICAGO, July 27, 2013 — The out-of-line sexual behavior of New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner are glaring examples of what can go wrong when self-control does not exist. Both men appear repentant, or want us to believe they have, and both say that they have now learned their lesson and are trying to mend their ways. 

But how did they not already know this lesson? How did two little boys, and so many like them, grow to become men who place such little value on loyalty, self-control and dignity? And at what point should little boys start being taught that while boys are boys and girls are girls, both have the same amount of cooties and both deserve to be treated respectfully?


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Recently this column highlighted the story of Maddy Baxter, a young girl in Georgia who was banned from her school’s football team because her presence might cause the boys to have impure thoughts. A question was posed about the lesson Maddy was being taught:

“Someday a co-worker is going to say something inappropriate to Maddy. Should she just go home and stop trying to play in the male-dominated business world?”

She need only to look at a recent Iowa court ruling to see the answer is a resounding Yes.

Melissa Nelson, a dental assistant who had worked for James Knight for over 10 years, was fired because her boss “feared that he would try to have an affair with her.”


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Nelson filed a gender-based discrimination lawsuit that found its way to the Iowa Supreme Court. The court’s opinion was that Nelson’s firing was not discriminatory because it was based on feelings, not gender.

The court did not address the fact that discrimination cases are always based on feelings, only stating that this particular case was not based on gender.

And they have a point.

Nelson based her claim on gender discrimination stating that had she been male, the relationship would never have happened. However, Knight only employs females, so had Nelson been male she would never have worked there in the first place.


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Knight and Nelson’s relationship had gone beyond professional, as noted in the Iowa Supreme Court opinion. The two, both married with children, had exchanged questionably appropriate text messages. Nelson had complained about her sex life, or lack thereof, and Knight replied “(T)hat’s like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.”

Nelson said she considered Knight, 20 years her senior, a father figure. Knight told Nelson she would know if her clothing was too revealing if she saw a bulge in his pants. Interesting father figure.

While neither Knight nor Nelson was uncomfortable with their relationship, Knight’s wife was. Mrs. Knight, who also works in the dental office, discovered the text messages and insisted Nelson be fired. She considered Nelson a threat to her marriage.

It was a probably a good move on her part, but Dr. Knight’s behavior indicates there may be other issues in the marriage as well. Mrs. Knight is wise to work in the all-female office with her husband.

While it is generally acknowledged that some of Dr. Knight’s texts were less than fatherly, Nelson did not complain. There were extremely inappropriate messages that she did not respond to, but she did not ask him to stop or tell him he was out of line.

Nelson’s non-action marks the relationship as being consensual.

Because Knight and Nelson’s relationship was consensual and Nelson made no claims of harassment or a hostile work environment, the court found no basis for gender-based discrimination.

The court acknowledged that Melissa Nelson did nothing wrong. Knight admitted that Nelson was the best dental assistant he employed. The opinion filed by the Iowa Supreme Court clearly asks if a male employer can “terminate a long-time female employee because the employer’s wife, due to no fault of the employee, (author emphasis) is concerned about the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employee.”

The answer is Yes.

The similarities between Melissa Nelson’s situation and Maddy Baxter’s are striking. While women are making inroads, dentistry is still considered a male-dominated field. Both Nelson and Maddy are acknowledged as being quite good at what they do. In both cases, it was made clear that neither had done anything wrong.

And both were turned away because of someone else’s impure thoughts.

There are also striking differences between Nelson’s situation and Maddy’s, first and foremost being that Mrs. Nelson’s family has lost a source of income. Nelson was not dealing with the potential of impure thoughts; they were right there in texts. Nelson did not respond to some of the most inappropriate texts she received from Knight.

Maddy Baxter is speaking up.

Maddy is also learning that sometimes speaking up doesn’t make a difference. Maddy’s school may not allow her to play football. Firing someone because of your own impure thoughts is perfectly legal. Maddy Baxter and females across the country can fight for a chance to prove themselves, but if the boss says he has impure thoughts, the female employees have to go.

It may not be fair, but it is now a fact.

But sometimes speaking up does make a difference. Weiner is falling in the polls. Filner is facing a civil lawsuit and a recall effort is underway to remove him from office. In order to get the recall vote on the ballot, however, over 100,000 valid voter signatures are needed in the next 39 days.

Filner’s victims spoke up, but it may be too little, too late.

Read more from Julia Goralka at End of the Day and Here, There, and Everywhere.

Contact Julia via Facebook at www.facebook.com/julia.goralka or through the Ask Me A Question link above.


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Julia Goralka

In addition to her work at The Communities, Julia Goralka is a free-lance novel editor and has served as a volunteer board member or committee member for several local charitable organizations. Prior to writing and editing, Julia was the Division Coordinator for the interest rate derivatives marketing desk at a large financial institution based in Chicago.

Contact Julia Goralka

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