By: Glen Paul Hammond
We tell children it is impolite to stare at another person—and it is—though it is not always easy to explain why. In one way, we can say, unusual things draw attention and people are uncomfortable being seen as unusual, so we admonish against it. Yet, in another way, extraordinary things also draw attention and this kind of attention is not always undesirable. There are further complications: We are visually drawn to things that horrify and, oftentimes, we look at such things for much longer than we even desire; at the same time, we also tend to look at things that attract us and, if they attract us absolutely, we fall out of time and become unaware of how long we have been looking. It’s complicated; it’s natural; it’s impolite—but is it harassment?
Netflix’s alleged ban on employees looking at each other for more than five seconds as part of its new anti-harassment policy suggests it is on the verge of being codified as the latter (Timpf). If this is true, then who is the culpable party and how might this effect the way employees visually present themselves in the workplace? To give these inquiries a more specific focus, I will repeat a question that came across as outrageous when the much discussed public intellectual Jordan Peterson first posed it to a VICE interviewer during a discussion on possible rules for sexual harassment in the workplace: “What about high heels?”