Discussion Biscuits

Aner Voloder is a lawyer and project manager of the Gender Equality Office of the City of Zurich as well as a member of the counselling team belaestigt.ch. He kindly agreed to comment on the statements that were baked into discussion biscuits.

Five questions and statements on the topic of “Closeness and Distance”

Can I ask my fellow students or work colleagues about their relationship status?

Aner Voloder: "Relationship status is part of a person's privacy. Depending on the context and the relationship, such a question can certainly seem invasive. If in doubt, it is advisable to wait until the person in question reveals something about their relationship status themselves, for example during a shared coffee break."


Can romantic relationships between supervisors and their subordinates be unproblematic?

Aner Voloder: "These are fundamentally problematic because in these constellations private and professional interests get in the way. Conflicts of interest and loyalty can hardly be avoided due to the hierarchical relationship (superior function, authority to issue directives, duty to assess performance, etc.) and can lead to tensions – even within a team - and even to abuse of power."


Is it appropriate to hug fellow students or colleagues on their birthdays?

Aner Voloder: "Here, too, it depends on the existing relationship between the participants. Are warm greetings with physical contact already the norm? The subjective feeling of the person concerned is always decisive. Everyone defines their own personal boundaries, which the others have to respect. Taking these considerations into account,, a hug can also feel like crossing the line."


In my opinion, supervisors and employees should not go out for a beer together.

Aner Voloder: "In principle, having a beer together is unproblematic, unless the motives for this event lie outside the professional or purely collegial context. In hierarchical relationships, there is always the potential danger of a conflict of interest. Accordingly, the « framework conditions » are to be definied clearly."


Do people we think are beautiful want to know that?

Aner Voloder: "It is difficult to give a general answer to this question. The decisive factor is the subjective perception of the recipient of such a statement and whether they take it as a compliment or not. The relationship between the participants also plays a role. If undesirability is signaled (e.g. through facial expressions), you should of course stop immediately."


Five questions and statements on the topic of "Nudity, Sex and Pornography".

Are there any unproblematic jokes related to sexuality?

Aner Voloder: "In general, sexually or sexist language, jokes or similar behaviours do not belong in the work context. Supervisors have a role model function and it is up to them to set limits on how and what is talked about in the workplace. We should also be aware that jokes with a sexual undertone, remarks or the likes are often a demonstration of power."

Can I hang nude art in the office?

Aner Voloder: "Material with sexual connotations does not belong in the workplace unless it is directly related to the activity being performed. Nude art, for example, would therefore be unproblematic in a gallery or in an art academy. However, even in this constellation, it is questionable whether there are definitive reasons why it must or should be hung in an office."


If I watch porn silently on my mobile during the break and no one looks at my screen, that's okay.

Aner Voloder: "Pornographic material in the workplace is generally prohibited under the Gender Equality Act GEA. It does not matter whether another person is watching, witnessing or not."


X. is pansexual/asexual/... I have many questions about this. Can I ask X the questions?

Aner Voloder: "Direct questions about sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity can not only be transgressive but also violate personal rights, especially if the information already available does not come from the person concerned. However, if the person has already talked about it, it is advisable to ask directly if a few more questions can be asked about it if you are still curious. If the person refuses, this should be accepted without reservation."


Can I ask my fellow students or work colleagues about their sexual orientation?

Aner Voloder: "Direct questions about sexual orientation can be perceived as intrusive and as an infringement of personal rights. It depends very much on the relationship and the context. It is advisable to wait until the person reveals something about it, e.g. when talking about private life in a casual setting or when they tell about their holidays with their partners during the coffee break."