#metoo in cultural resource management archaeology 3

ending harassment in cultural resource management archaeologyI am one of the millions of American men who were shocked to discover that every single woman I know has been a victim of sexual harassment. Not just some of the women I know. All of them.

As a father, brother, son, and husband, this realization hit me with a mixture of complex emotions. I suddenly became aware that I was probably part of the problem. I realized I’d probably even done some of this while working as a cultural resource management archaeologist. While I have not perpetrated any assaults, violent acts, or “Weinstein Events”, I have probably committed actions or made statements that contributed to making workplaces less comfortable for some of the women with whom I’ve worked. All that “guy talk” that made women feel uncomfortable. Those statements that were “taken the wrong way.” Laughing at sexist jokes. All of that was harassment. Even when I wasn’t doing that, had I done enough to stop this sort of behavior?

Whenever I was called out on sexist behavior by a co-worker, I immediately apologized and took action to prevent this from ever happening again. Becoming aware of your behavior is the first step. This is why the realization of the widespread, pervasive nature of harassment against women is so shocking. The #metoo social media campaign opened my eyes to the prevalence of harassment in our society the same way #blacklivesmatter should have laid bare the pervasiveness of racism in the United States (we can argue about the successfulness of either of these campaigns another time). My past behavior (or lack of advocacy) came to the forefront of my mind.

Doing what you can to end unwelcoming behavior is the next step in addressing sexual harassment. Taking action against harassment in the workplace is not going to be easy, which is why keeping up the awareness campaign needs to be constant.

The #metoo campaign changed the way I see harassment. I have sisters. I have a daughter. I have a wife. I know what I’d feel like doing if someone approached my sisters or daughter or wife the way Harvey Weinstein did to so many women (FYI: What I’d want to do is not kosher for this blog). These obvious, overt “Weinstein Events” should be called out and prosecuted, but its the everyday acts that are so frequent they’ve been normalized by a large proportion of men that need to be brought to our attention as well.

(TRIGGER ALERT: This blog posts uses a gender binary to discuss sexual harassment in the workplace. I know gender identities fall on a spectrum. I also write as if all harassment is coming from men to women, even though I am aware this is not the 100% truth. This blog post generalizes to simplify my argument. If you have something to say, please post it in the comments section below or email me.)

The Weinstein in our Workplace

University of Arizona archaeologist Beth Alpert Nakhai was recently interviewed on Bloomberg News about sexual harassment in archaeology (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-25/the-harvey-weinstein-in-your-industry-j9742fly). The interview emphasizes the recent harassment research that has revealed what many of us already knew: archaeological fieldwork creates conditions where women might be harassed and that harassment is rampant in anthropology. https://megaphone.link/BLM2942145807

Doctor Nakhai also highlighted the measures she’s been taking with the American Institute of Archaeology (AIA) to address harassment and field safety in general. This is important research that dovetails with similar work being done at the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) and by Meyers et al. (2015) for the Southeastern Archaeology Conference (SEAC). These efforts build upon the widely read harassment in anthropology survey conducted by Clancy et al. (2014) that was reported in PLOSOne.

This research revealed that women in archaeology and anthropology are harassed in the field to varying degrees. Remoteness, isolation, and the #FieldParty mentality common in archaeology all facilitate harassment. Work conditions become so bad for some that they leave archaeology. Others internalize this behavior as part of the job. Power differentials force many of them to keep quiet about discrimination and harassment. Those who expose it risk getting “blacklisted” and forced out of archaeology.

As Nakhai states, there are so many complicated aspects of sexual harassment that archaeology organizations have been unable to provide much centralized guidance on the situation. There is no hotline you can call, no central office to handle complaints. As a result, archaeology is forced to self-police itself. This means we all have a lot of work to do.

How Pervasive is Harassment in CRM?

These studies highlight the ways harassment affect women in academia, but do they address harassment in CRM? Rather than being harassed for a single field project, or even several field seasons, what if you were subjected to these conditions five to ten days a week for multiple years? What if:

  • The “guy talk” on your crew got so stomach-churningly gross that you couldn’t stand working with certain people?
  • You found out that men in your company were arguing over their “claims” to new-hire female field techs?
  • Fistfights erupted because you danced with another guy after work?
  • Horrible stories started circulating because you previously had a romantic relationship with a co-worker?
  • Supervisors felt like certain projects were not suitable for women because they did not feel like females were strong enough to dig/survey such difficult terrain?
  • Women in your company constantly got passed up for promotions because they had a child of any age; whereas, fathers in the company were constantly given promotion opportunities?

I have witnessed or heard all of this behavior in my time working in cultural resource management. I’ve seen it at multiple companies. I also heard about these same things, and much more, from both men and women in cultural resource management at other companies.

Has the increase in women in archaeology reduced this sort of behavior? I believe it has, but we’re still a long way from eliminating it. We don’t hear archaeology manuals specifically say women don’t’ have any place in the field. Books like “Historical Archaeology” by Ivor Noel Hume (1968) are no longer written. This hallmark work said women were only suitable for lab work because their presence on-site would cause men to work twice as hard, lifting all the heavy buckets for women and doing their own work. We don’t openly say that anymore, but Historical Archaeology is readily available for sale on Amazon and other fine stores. We still cite these works.

While men are more reluctant to publish this sort of thing today, sexism is still behind hiring and field allocation decisions. I know mothers who were no longer sent to the field because they had a child, even after that child was in school and could be cared for by relatives or a spouse if the mother had to go to the field. I have worked for supervisors that did not like to hire women for an unstated (probably sexist) reason. Men may no longer say what they think but they still think it.

I have also witnessed immature men damage their careers because of real or perceived relationship with women at the company. When romance fades, something else takes its place. And, oftentimes, that something else is evil. Freakouts in the field over a broken relationship. Revenge against a former lover that turns into fuel for the rumor mill designed to tarnish the reputation of a female archaeologists is widespread. These incidences can damage both men and women; however, women have more to lose given the power dynamics at many companies and prevalence of malignant sexism within the field. Despite the increased number of educated, capable women in CRM, #metoo is still relevant for CRM.

Meyers et al. (2015) noted that, while the enrollment of women in SEAC had increased, female students leave the profession in disproportionate numbers. Additionally, SEAC leadership remained dominated by men. This suggests the increase in women has not weakened men’s power over leadership in SEAC. While this may not be the case with the SEAC, men are generally blind to the harassment women face in the workplace because: 1) we don’t experience it, and 2) sexist microagressions have been normalized in American male culture. Nearly all men know its wrong to be a Weinstein but we may not be aware of how other subconscious or seemingly harmless actions/statements effect the women with whom we work. More women in power has the potential to stymie #metoo in archaeology, but we have not yet reached parity between men and women when it comes to leadership in archaeology organizations.

This matters for prosecuting harassment cases through organizational channels. Recent harassment atrocities working their way through the National Park Service (NPS) are an example of how hard it is for women to prosecute harassment cases. While the NPS is a much larger organization than any CRM company, there are several parallels between the way the NPS has handled recent allegations and how they tend to be handled at CRM companies.

In the last couple years, several female NPS employees have come forward to discuss workplace harassment and how it’s been handled by the Parks Service. In 2016, several news outlets reported about misconduct between male and female Parks Service employees at the Grand Canyon and other parks (https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/12/park-service-harassment/510680/). Additional reports showed how widespread the problem was (https://www.hcn.org/voices/a-legacy-of-harassment). As the revelations continued to grow, Parks Service administrators took action by making statements against harassment—declaring their resolve to end these workplace conditions. However, those accused or convicted of harassment continued to remain in their positions; administering NPS operations and continuing to receive performance bonuses (https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/after-zero-tolerance-vow-a-park-chief-cited-for-sexual-harassment-gets-a-bonus-and-new-job/2017/08/03/bb7e01be-72e1-11e7-8f39-eeb7d3a2d304_story.html?utm_term=.15a4285b7244). The saga continues. NPS leaders continue to speak out against misdeeds but few lose their jobs over misconduct. The current head of the NPS, Ryan Zinke, has promised to end harassment in the National Park Service (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/13/us/politics/zinke-harassment-park-service.html), but, as his own supervisor has been caught on film committing atrocious acts of harassment, I remain doubtful.

This happens more frequently than many of us would like to admit. Harassment happens and, when its brought into the open, it is combatted with little more than lip service. Since many organizations and supervisors appear to be reluctant to address the problem, we will have to do what we can to root out the cause of harassment: men’s behavior in the workplace.

steps for addressing Sexual Harassment in archaeologyTaking action

American archaeology has its origins in a masculine ethos. Archaeology fieldwork has been likened to military deployment. The National Park Service, Forest Service, and the Antiquities Act were the brainchild of Theodore Roosevelt, a man that embodies the kind of manliness we consider toxic today. Modern archaeology was born from a time when fieldwork was a way a man could assert his masculinity. This can vividly be seen in archaeological reports written at the time.

The thing is: Our world has changed. Archaeology has changed. Unfortunately, some men in archaeology have not changed their sentiments accordingly.

At least half of all archaeologists are women. But, this demographic split is not represented in the upper management of archaeology companies. I blame this on the adverse workplace conditions women in CRM face. If this is going to change, the #metoo campaign has shown me that change starts with us. Men need to stop harassing women in the field. We need to join forces with women by 1) listening to their complaints with an open mind, and 2) changing our behavior accordingly. We don’t need to tell them what to do, how to think, or how to feel. We don’t need to ask if they think this is a problem before we start changing our behavior. They don’t need to know how we feel about this unless they directly ask. We just need to listen and change our behavior.

If you work for a CRM company, you probably know how the corporate culture is when it comes to sexual harassment. The way your co-workers talk gives you an idea of what is and is not okay to say. Workplace conversations give valuable insights into corporate psychology. Here are some things both men and women can do to evaluate the situation at their CRM company.

How do your co-workers/company feel about this? Are your co-workers interested, but afraid to do anything? Are they irreverent; they don’t think it’s a big deal or don’t care? Has your supervisor discussed this?

Corporate culture can be expressed by what your co-workers are saying while at work. It also helps you gauge how bad the problem might be at your job and assess the likelihood of turning your company into an anti-harassment organization. You might also be able to identify allies if you decide to push the issue further.

Are your co-workers aware of how widespread this problem is? Do men at your company agree that this is a problem, or do they make excuses? Are employees at your company aware of the various forms of harassment? Do they recognize their role in perpetuating harassment or that it affects everyone, even men?

Your co-workers may not know how widespread this issue is in American society. If they’re not aware, they may not know anything needs to be done.

Is your company already doing anything about it? Does your company have anti-harassment training? Are there protocols to punish harassment? How does your company address harassment claims?

What your company is already doing is probably the most important determining factor in successfully advocating against harassment in your workplace. It is easier to advocate against harassment if you work for a company that already has rules and procedures in place.

If company structures are not in place, ask your boss why this does not exist. This is the first step towards implementing something at your company.

This is not “women’s work.”

In the majority of harassment cases, women are not the perpetrators. They are the victims. As such, it is not incumbent upon them to end harassment by changing their behavior. Changing is what men who harass people need to be doing.

It is also not up to women to urge co-workers and companies to take a stand against sexual harassment in cultural resource management. They are not the ones harassing men. Men should think about their own behavior and make sure they aren’t guilty. Change needs to be initiated by men, with the help of women, because sexist women aren’t the problem. If advocacy is creating an uncomfortable workplace, it is because men are realizing that they need to exorcise the Weinstein inside and start improving themselves.

Men don’t have to go fully Weinstein to contribute to the objectification of women or making them feel uncomfortable in the workplace. It’s all those microagressions, seemingly small acts and statements that many men think are innocent, that add up to harassment. If you’ve ever been a teenaged American boy, you’ve contributed to harassment. Many men don’t grow up as adults, which is why #metoo exists.

Kudos to all those who are revealing the bad behavior in Hollywood, our national legislature, and elsewhere in our societies. I hope this is just the beginning. Because it’s illegal, ending blatant “Weinstein Events” is easier than ending sexist behavior that has been normalized. It’s addressing the seemingly small, instinctual behaviors that are the most difficult to eliminate. They are also the most important to get rid of.

Change is hard. It makes us feel uncomfortable, which is why we don’t like changing ourselves. If it’s hard to change ourselves, changing the rest of society will be much more difficult. But, I don’t think many of us want to live in a world where our mothers, sisters, and daughters routinely feel uncomfortable. Revealing how our behavior is affecting women is what #metoo is about. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, I suggest you think hard about where these emotions are coming from and what you can do to change.

Let’s keep the conversation going. Please, write a comment below or send me an email.


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3 thoughts on “#metoo in cultural resource management archaeology

  • Amy

    I am really glad to read this article, thank you. This is a massive issue that needs to be identified and stepping up as men and calling out micragressions that happen daily would do a world of difference. When I call someone out for something they say the most common reply back is a reference to me just looking to feel like a victim ( why would people want that?) or (my biggest pet peeve) laughing off my comment with a “reowr” cat noise to other co-workers as if I am touchy and shouldn’t be taken seriously. This has had the biggist determent of me speaking up.

    My favorite quote from the article is “They don’t need to know how we feel about this unless they directly ask”. Totally.

    The only qualm I have with this article is using the sister/mother/wife/daugher qualifier to create relateability and value. It hits me in the gut everytime I hear it and the links I am listing below explains it better than my rambling.



    • SuccinctBill Post author

      Thank you so much for reading and responding. And, thanks for letting me know how the sister/mother/wife meme makes you feel. I was completely unaware of how using that qualifier limits my work. Those references changed the way i think about this situation. I continue to learn. Thanks again, Bill White

  • Sigrid Arnott

    It doesn’t help that many of us work on construction sites and are openly harassed by engineers and other men in leadership positions. Lodging complaints makes dangerous site conditions even more physically treacherous and the perpetrators are rewarded by other men while the whistleblowers are professionally ostracized.

Comments are closed.