Defining "Sexist" Assault

Updated: Apr 13

Since the #MeToo! movement, sexual assault in the workplace has been recognized and vilified. We have come to recognize the different forms that sexual assault and harassment take, and the depth of the damage they inflict on women and on society.

However, in many workplaces there remains an under-recognized and ongoing assault on women and their work through discriminatory practices based on gender. We could call it “sexist assault”. These are behaviors that signal that female and other-gendered individuals are less valuable than male workers, and that result in damage to their personal and professional lives.

“Sexist Assault” can be subtle or overt, including personal acts of aggression such as demeaning comments based on gender, as well as systemic injustices such as lower pay for female versus male employees. The tolerance of these acts of “sexist assault” creates an environment in which women are implicitly seen as being of lower worth than men - an environment where physical forms of mistreatment, such as sexual assault, are more likely to occur.

However, in a society that for so long has treated women as second-class citizens, these every-day forms of “sexist assault” have been normalized. They are somehow too familiar to elicit outrage or a sense of injustice. They are not considered crimes, and not considered worthy of punishment for the perpetrator nor compensation for the victim.

But our acceptance of sexist assault in the workplace has serious consequences. Working in a discriminatory environment is like constantly running against a head wind. It is a waste of skill, potential and life. Energy and intellect that could be spent on meaningful work is instead spent battling unnecessary obstacles, fighting for basic rights, and bracing against attacks on self-esteem, self worth, and emotional wellbeing.

Sexist assault is a crime. Not only because it destroys individual lives, but because it robs the world of women’s potential. Degraded, exhausted and hopeless from fighting a system that does not recognize our basic humanity, we are less likely to achieve the impact that we are capable of. We are less likely to invent that life-saving medical cure, create that genre-changing art form, write that influential article, or discover that life-saving technology.

It’s time to acknowledge and address gender discrimination for what it is – a sexist assault on women and their work in the world. It is time to acknowledge the huge cost of what is being lost - a loss that our planet can no longer afford. It is time to become outraged, to redefine our boundaries and re-set our standards, so that our workplaces are free of all forms of assault.

Action for Readers

· For more information about our case, visit

· Email Mount Sinai Board of Trustees member Don Gogel at, and Sinai CEO Ken Davis at and tell them that an independent, external investigator must investigate the claims in our federal case. In addition, an independent mistreatment hotline must be established so that Mount Sinai employees, trainees and patients can safely report discrimination and receive support.

· If you are a resident of NYC, call or email your local congressional representative or NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams (212-669-7200 / and tell them that you are concerned about gender discrimination at Mount Sinai and other NYC healthcare institutions.

· Contribute to Equity Now so we can continue advocacy and action:

· If you want to contact us, become involved, be added to our listserv, or share your own story, email us at

For more information:

1. The Federal Case filed against Mount Sinai Health System for sex, age and race discrimination by 8 current and past employees of Mount Sinai is located here.

2. Letters signed by approximately 1000 employees, students and alum of Mount Sinai Health System asking Mount Sinai leadership for urgent action against discrimination are located here.

3. A recent New York Magazine article about the case of Aja Newman.

4. Open letter from federal case plaintiffs to Mount Sinai.

5. The National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine report on Sexual Harassment in the workplace.

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