Sexual Harassment – A Sign of Power Play

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Ever since women have entered the workforce in large numbers, the problem of Sexual Harassment has gained a momentum of its own. Though women may be highly educated, have the requisite qualifications and work shoulder to shoulder with men, almost 60% are subjected to unwelcome sexually determined behavior by the opposite sex. Even women doctors are not exempt, and many are sexually harassed by senior doctors, consultants, interns and male patients. In educational institutions, about 55% of students complain of sexual harassment by teachers or fellow students. One cannot walk on the roads or travel by public transport without being harassed by bullies or even teasers. Sexual harassment cuts across all socio-economic barriers.

At every level of the entertainment world, starting from the very beginning of silent movies to the current stage of the theatre, sexual harassment is a source of stress and shame for women. With a spotlight being blasted on Harvey Weinstein being fired for his unlawful deviant behavior, the entertainment industry union SAG-AFTRA which stands for Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has issued a code of conduct in an effort to protect its members from sexual harassment in the workplace. The code published Saturday (2/10/18) says that employers are obligated to provide a harassment-free workplace and must have mechanisms for reporting it without fear of retaliation.

As you might have guessed, this initiative was spurred by the disturbing number of sexual misconduct allegations that have come out of Hollywood in the past few months.

Gender discrimination and role stereotypes are the reason for such behavior. Some men feel that the biological roles of wife, mother and home maker are violated by women who step out of their homes for employment.

Women too have come out with extreme ideas of playing “super woman.” Some aspects of Feminism make men feel distinctly uneasy and paranoid. They try to get even through sexual harassment. After all, they too are victims of stereotyping. Most men think that “good women” don’t get sexually harassed. But “bad women” invite trouble by their behavior and dress and this is totally a misconception.

In the context of this rapidly changing socio-economic scenario, more women are likely to seek employment outside their homes. It is therefore time for society to remember that women are human beings too, and must be allowed the dignity of their rights.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Everyone is entitled to their own private space. When that space is violated by verbal, non-verbal or physical forms of sexually suggestive behavior, it amounts to harassment. This covers a range of behavior starting from unwelcome comments about a person’s body to sexual abuse and sexual assault. The harasser may be openly sexist in his/her remarks or present a veneer of respectability, but make sly passes or propositions when the victim is alone.

Sexual harassment can take many forms in the workplace. It can include physical harassment, verbal harassment, visual harassment and written harassment.

Verbal harassment is the most common form of harassments and may include whistling, telling obscene jokes, making comments about someone’s anatomy, or making offensive comments. Excessive badgering another worker for a date may also be considered verbal harassment.

Visual harassment includes ogling, leering, staring and making obscene gestures with a sexual connotation to another individual in the workplace.

The perpetrators of sexual harassment can be as widely varied as the offensive behaviors themselves. There does not need to be a supervisor-employee relationship for an action to be considered harassment. An individual can be sexually harassed by someone of the opposite sex, or of the same sex. It can occur between two employees of an organization, or can occur between an employee and an independent contractor, or an employee and a customer or client of the organization. It does not matter who is perpetrating the sexual harassment for the Company to be liable for the individual’s actions.

Types of Harassments.

  • The most common type is the quid pro quo harassment in which sexual favors are expected in exchange for jobs, promotions, grades or recommendations. This is gross misuse of power by employers, teachers, politicians or film directors with ‘casting couch’ requirements.
  • Predators get their thrills by humiliating women either by innuendos, crank calls, teasing or phone sex. They make sexually colored remarks or unwanted physical contact by pinching, pawing, kissing or groping.
  • Some men establish a mentor-like relationship with the victim by pretending to offer professional or academic counseling. But soon their sexual intentions surface.
  • Serial harassers are masters at the game. They strike in private so that there are no witnesses. It is just the victim’s word against theirs.
  • Some use harassment as an ego boost. Victims are subjected to porn films, nude pictures and suggestive language.
  • Harassment can be used as a revenge tactic if a person feels rejected or snubbed. These bullies make physical or verbal advances, use obscene language, crack vulgar jokes and create an unpleasant environment.
  • There are stalkers who watch, follow, flash or bombard the victim with letters or e-mails.
  • Many operate in groups, harassing women in buses, trains or on the roads by pulling their clothes, or touching their breasts or buttocks.

Effects of Sexual Harassment.

Psychologists are of the opinion that chronic sexual harassment has the same effect as rape or sexual assault. The message that harassers send out is that “You are a non-person. You don’t matter. Therefore I am free to harass you because no one will believe you if you tell.”

– Many victims begin to show poor performance at work or in studies
– Some relocate to another city or job or college.
– The victim feels humiliated and is frustrated that she has no control of the situation.

How to Deal with Sexual Harassment.

This is a punishable offense and there are laws to protect you. Every woman should be aware of her rights under the law. Sexual harassment should be recognized and not ignored. The victim must put up resistance and show her distaste for such behavior. She can have an open talk with her harasser and tell him to lay off.

This may lead to unpleasant repercussions especially if he is the boss. He may start picking faults with her work, send her memos, or withhold recommendations and make life miserable for her.

The victim should not give into self-doubt and lose confidence in herself. By failing to challenge sexual harassment she can undermine her position. She should continue to go to work or college. But she should also document incidents of harassment, date, time, place and people involved and witnesses. She should make a complaint in writing with specific details, to whoever is in the supervising cadre.

It is good to talk to women who have been similarly harassed and form a mutually supportive group. There are many women’s groups and NGOs who will take up the victim’s cause if the management does not come to help her.

If harassment of a serious nature takes place in a public place, the matter should be brought to the attention of the police.

Responsibility of the Employer.

– Employers both in public and private sector must take steps to prevent sexual harassment.
– There should be a definite policy on this matter, which should be published and circulated to all employees.
– A procedure for filing complaints should be mapped out. This should be time bound, and the victim should be assured of confidentiality and protection.
– A Grievance Committee with a woman at its head should review the complaint. The committee should be comprised of 50% women members where possible.
– Disciplinary action should be taken against the harasser. If his behavior falls under criminal law, he should be reported to the police.

Any woman who complains about sexual harassment must steel herself for a backlash. She risks hostility, isolation, denigration of character or even physical harm. Because others in the company will turn their backs on you.

It must be society’s aim and responsibility to eliminate sexual harassment at all levels and in all situations, to preserve the dignity of women.

I would love to hear your comments or experiences on sexual harassment.

 

 

70 Replies to “Sexual Harassment – A Sign of Power Play”

  1. It is quite frightening how much this still goes on isn’t it. It is enough to make women prefer to stay at home so I am pleased to see you list the laws and rights to empower women. it is also a very useful post for men, and to remember that not all men treat women this way.

    1. Yes it is frightening that sexual harassment is still going strong. And I agree that there are some good men out there that knows how to treat women.
      xo

  2. Every woman should read this article to be aware of their rights when it comes to harassment. I can only imagine how hard it must be for those who have experienced any form of it to come forward.

    1. Yea April that code of conduct was really needed. There should be a zero tolerance for sexual harassment. Thank you for commenting.
      xo

  3. Sexual harassment should always be a punishable offence regardless of whether it happens online or in the workplace it is really not ok. I and many others have been victims of sexual harassment and the effects can be damaging on your mental health. One of the things that aggravates me the most is the attitude that what you wear has an impact on the way that men or women treat you when that should not be the case at all!

    1. Hi Anna, I totally agree with you and thank you so much for commenting and sharing. I too was a victim and it does damage your mental health. Women should be able to dress as we please and men should be able to control themselves.
      xo

  4. Ohhh i really hate people who did the sexual harassment. No moral at all. They are not only breaking other people’s mental health but they also ruining their own. As a woman we also need to take care ourself from them.

  5. This is a very interesting and informative post that both men and women can learn from. I love the way that you explained what sexual harassment is. I can’t believe that this is happening to women in the workplace, but I know that it is. Thanks for sharing such an educational post.

  6. Very informative and unfortunately need post in today’s world. I wonder if sexual harassment is more prevalent or do we just hear about it more. At any rate, it’s unacceptable. Thank you for providing effective tools to deal with it.

  7. I’m so glad you are shining a light on this topic. I can’t imagine what it would be like to deal with this in your workplace. Legal responsibilities aside, I think employers need to treat women with the respect they’d want their daughter to receive.

    1. Hi Sarah, It is a lot to deal with, plus you have to get your work done. Respect women like you would your daughter in the workplace would be a good policy.
      xo

  8. I’m really proud of the women coming forward to share their stories. As someone who has faced similar situations, it can really do so much damage to the self-esteem and life. Here’s to making change.

    1. Hey Jennifer, thank you for sharing. I am also proud of the women who were brave enough to speak up. And yes I agree that it can damage your self-esteem. I too was a victim and here’s to making a change. Thank you so much for sharing.
      xo

  9. This #MeToo movement is putting sexual harassment on the forefront. More women should speak out more so it doesnt continue to happen in silence!

  10. I truly believe every woman has at least 1 experience of sexual harassment in their work history or even personal life BUT the spotlight being placed on it now helps to take away to fear of coming forward.

    1. Hi Dee, Thank you for sharing. I can relate because I experienced sexual harassment as well and it was very difficult. I told but it appeared that everyone hated me for telling.
      xo

  11. So many women just stay in the shadows when it comes to sexual advances put on them in the work place. Not to say it can’t happen the other way around, but anyone that feels that they have been harassed should speak up.

  12. My niece is going through a sexual harassment case. I’m proud of her for standing her ground and doing something about it. Back in my day, we didn’t say anything but times are changing for the better, for women.

  13. I experienced this when I was just 19 working at my first desk job as a receptionist. Only a much more severe case. Looking back now, I wish I would have been brave enough to say something instead of finding another job. I was so young and didn’t know what to do then.

  14. I find it sad that this still happens. I feel like people are entitled to there own space, I’m glad you chose to blog about this, it is super important in today society that women are not looked at as objects. I always read great things on this blog!

    1. Hi Lavanda thank you so much! I am an advocate for women and children and I work hard to bring awareness. Yes it is sad that this behavior is happening.

  15. Great article. Women have been silent about this issue for so long. I’m glad this movement started and exposed so many of those who got away with it for years.

    1. Thank you Georgia! This is a sensitive subject and so many women were not speaking up because of various reasons.But finally that is changing.

  16. This is a really great article. Unfortunately these things are usually prevalent in the workplace and it is definitely super important that we know how to handle these kinds of situations. Thanks for sharing!

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