Thursday, January 10, 2013

Unatractive Iowa.

I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but here we go none-the-less. The story I'm referring to is the one where an Iowa dentist fired his assistant of ten years for the crime of being 'too attractive'. The claim was that he found her irresistible, and was afraid he wouldn't be able to control himself much longer. Prior to this, he (James Knight) described her (Melissa Nelson) as a model employee. Then one day Knight fired her 'in the interest of saving his marriage'. It is important to note that Knight's wife also worked at the same office as well, and was becoming unhappy with her husband's interest in Nelson. End result, Knight told Nelson she was out of a job because she was too attractive. Seriously!? He claimed that she had dressed provocatively, and even told Nelson not to be surprised if she saw a lump in his pants. Yet Nelson has said that she only wore scrubs to work. If it were true that she was dressing in a revealing manner, then he would have been free to terminate her employment on the grounds of inappropriate dress. But he didn't. He fired her for the reason of being 'irresistible'. He also asked Nelson how frequently she experienced orgasms in a text message.Unfortunately, Nelson did not complain of sexual harassment at that point, as questioning her on orgasms, and referencing the erections he was getting from her are clearly harassment.

But lets remember that he terminated her employment because he found her irresistible. Knight claimed that he would have to act on his infatuation, that he was going to have to have an affair with Nelson, and even referenced Nelsons sex life by saying "That's like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it." Sadly, I also read a defense of Knight's actions that argued, "You can't put a piece of meat in front of a lion and expect them not to eat it." What!? Comparing her to a car and a piece of meat? Talk about demeaning! There is a huge difference between a car or meat and a person... in this case a woman. Unlike the car or steak, Nelson is a living being that is capable of making her own choices. Where a person can just drive the car or eat the meat, Knight can not unilaterally have an affair with Nelson (without raping her anyway). So, no. It's nothing like a car or a steak being claimed by whomever desires it. Add to the fact that Nelson is reported to be happily married and a mother. She even added that she only viewed Knight as a father figure, and never romantically. The way I see it, Knight is a primal male that was objectifying Nelson with only his own desires in mind. This is important to remember when we discuss the court's ruling. You see, Nelson did take her expulsion to court. Yet for some reason Nelson filed suit and claimed sexual discrimination. An odd and poor decision since Knight only employes women, and her failure to report the harassment was a mark against her case as well. Ultimately the (all male) jury in Iowa, ruled in Knight's favor. A big part of that ruling was the precedent of previous cases where employees were (rightfully) terminated for inappropriate relationships and flirtatious conduct. However, in this case, the only record we see of flirtatious conduct comes from Knight, not Nelson. If Nelson truly had no sexual interest in Knight as the information suggests thus far, I feel that the stated precedent is void, and that Nelson was wrongly terminated. I have heard that the case could be taken higher, and if the facts are as they seem at the moment, I hope they will find in Nelson's favor.

But what led to his deciding to terminate Nelson's employment? Knight reportedly agonized over the decision, so he and his wife decided to meet with their pastor. When they met with him, the pastor said that even though there was no affair, their relationship was a 'detriment' to both families and suggested that her termination. Talk about shifting responsibility! Him finding her attractive isn't a detriment to either family if she's not interested. Knight has even stated that he didn't want to fire Nelson, but that he had to to save his marriage. No, what you have to do to save your marriage is to control yourself! The proper course of action is not to remove the 'temptation' (that wasn't interested in you), but to be an adult and control your urges. Removing Nelson from his employ doesn't suddenly cure his ills. If he was considering an affair, his 'options' need not be employees. Knight could just as easily pick someone up at a bar, or hire a prostitute. If one is of the mindset that they are considering cheating, they will find a way eventually. When it comes to one sided attraction, sole responsibility falls on that party. In this case, that's Knight. Yet this pastor suggest that Knight eschew responsibility when he is the one ultimately responsible for if there is an affair or not. Not surprising to see such an opinion coming from a religious figure. Religions have a long history of shifting blame in all manner of directions. They claim that good acts are thanks to their deity, and not to your true nature. The claim is that you can't be good without God. That is an obvious load of rubbish of course. Same as when theists try to blame, so called, sin. In my opinion, this dodging of personal responsibility is a problem that has become pervasive in our society. Nothing is ever anyone's fault, but is somehow someone else's. But very rarely is this claim actually true. Knight is showing a perfect example of this when he blames Nelson's appearance for his worry of an affair, rather than his own inability to conduct himself in a responsible adult manner. So if he is truly worried about his marriage, I suggest he take a long look in the mirror before he starts blaming others for his own shortcomings.

-BH

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