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“$3.2M Awarded in Harassment Suit against Ex-Judge,” the headline said. A federal jury in Houston, Texas, awarded $3.2 million to three women, all county employees, who had accused a former judge of sexual harassment. Their suit said the judge had “hugged, groped, kissed and fondled them and had emailed them sexually explicit photographs,” according to a news report, and that county officials had ignored the judge’s behavior despite their knowledge of it. The judge had resigned his position three years earlier after pleading no contest to several charges of misdemeanor assault related to his physical contact with several women. His only criminal penalty was to pay a fine of less than $3,000.
After the verdict was announced, the plaintiffs’ attorney said, “I am very proud of this verdict, and hope it sends a message to all public officials that they are not above the law and should think twice before abusing power.” One of the plaintiffs recalled what it was like to have been harassed by the judge: “I felt alone, I felt small, I felt like he was the most powerful man in Brazoria County. I felt like there was nothing I could do. I felt scared.” At the same time, she was encouraged by the jury’s verdict and the fact that other women had come forward to speak out about the judge’s behavior: “You don’t have to go through it alone. You can stand up for yourself.”
Sources: Cisneros, 2011; Tolson, 2011Cisneros, C. (2011, July 15). $3.2M settlement awarded in sexual harassment case. KTRK-TV. Retrieved from http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=8253455; Tolson, M. (2011, July 15). $3.2M awarded in harassment suit against ex-judge. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7655717.html.
Thanks to the contemporary women’s rights movement that began in the late 1960s, much has changed for women and men in American society during the past half-century. Still, as this news story about sexual harassment reminds us, much more still needs to be done. Despite tremendous advancements for women since the 1960s, gender inequality persists and manifests itself in many ways. This chapter examines the major forms of gender inequality and the reasons for its existence, and it outlines various steps our society should take to help ensure equality between the sexes. Our discussion begins with a critical look at the concepts of sex and gender.