Sexual Harrasment

Sexual Harassment

By Shoeb Amin

Sexual harassment and sexually inappropriate behavior is constantly in the news these days. Everyday we hear one more celebrity knocked off his (so far no her)  high perch. Some call it a “watershed” moment because women now feel more empowered to come forth with their complaints and are now more likely to be believed.  That is the way it should have been long ago and that’s how it should continue to be. But I personally have some questions about this issue, along with some difficult answers that I’ll share; hopefully some others will enlighten us with their thoughts.

Disclaimer: 1)  The opinions expressed here are mine and not those of the Thinkers’ Forum.

2)   This write up excludes serious sexual assault and rape

1) Will this “watershed” moment mean the end of sexual harassment?

Both males and females are tugged by evolutionary forces to attract each other and to be attracted to each other. In some species like the birds, males do almost all the adornment and the hard work to attract females. In our own species females do most of the adornment and the hard work to attract the opposite sex. Whether they are thinking consciously at the time or not, everything they do, from exercise to stay in shape, colorful clothing to provocative dressing to jewelry to make up and other accessories, everything is geared toward getting the attention of the opposite sex (even if it be their own mates). Men too strive for female attention but do not put as much effort and time into it. What both sexes are hoping is the attention of a desirable mate; unfortunately it also attracts the attention of undesirables and creeps.

If that first step of attracting is successful it leads to a sexual advance. This could be anything from a complement regarding the appearance to  “what is your zodiac sign” to “can I buy you a drink” to all the way to groping and grabbing, the last two by people who don’t follow social norms nor legal jeopardy or by people who are in a hurry to get to third base without bothering to touch first and second bases. It is the crude advances of undesirables that  constitutes sexual harassment. As long as men – and women – are tugged by evolutionary forces, as long as men and women work in close proximity and as long as women feel they can wear whatever they want and act however they want (even though they legally have the right to do both, at least in Western countries), the answer is not likely. It may become much less in the upper echelons of society because people who value their reputation and careers and have deep pockets will be less likely to indulge in such behavior and will more likely control their impulses.. I doubt it will deter a male waiter in a restaurant from behaving badly with his female co-workers.

2) Do women contribute to their own sexual harassment?

Even just asking that question can get you in the doghouse. Just click on one of the links below and read what happened to Donna Karan when she spoke on this subject.  I am sure I will get a lot of heat for approaching this subject.

Most of us, when asked that question wanting to be politically correct,  would say: absolutely not. That women have the right to wear what they want, go where they want and act however they want without worrying about harassment. And legally they are right; no argument there. But to those folks I would ask a question: Women (and men) also have a right to jog in Central Park after dark, they also have a right to go into a subway at midnight flashing $20000 worth of jewelry and not be robbed. And if anybody did go into the subway at night wearing all that jewelry, and was robbed and beaten, besides feeling angry at the perpetrator, would you not say; were you out of your mind going into into the subway with all that jewelry? That you were asking for it ?(getting robbed and beaten up). And we do advise both men and women to avoid wearing jewelry prominently any time of day and if using the subway at odd hours to stay in the car next to conductor. So why can’t  women be told not to attract the wrong kind of attention for their own safety?

That suggestion should not even come from men but from women themselves for their own protection. Something along the lines of  Black Lives Matter asking Black teenagers to practice “Hands up, don’t shoot” for their own protection. I suggest a slightly less catchy slogan “Less attention, more respect” for women. Now I am not suggesting that all harassment will go away if women dress modestly. No,  men being men, some will always act like Neanderthals. And I am sure sexual harassment happens even in cultures where women dress more conservatively. Some of those cultures may even have more harassment , but mostly because of absence of law and order.But relying exclusively on men to change their behavior is impractical.  Evolution is a slow process and it will take time when ALL men evolve into decent, honorable human beings. Waiting until then is like asking Black men to wait until the police become more racially sensitive while more of them get killed.

That brings up the $64000 question as to what is inappropriate dressing. There are no easy answers; I certainly don’t have one. Wearing a burqa is not the answer. I guess each woman has to decide for herself how much attention she wants, including the attention of creeps. Again this is a women’s safety issue and they should be the ones figuring out those answers.

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4 thoughts on “Sexual Harrasment

  1. Thanks for writing on this subject. It is a complex issue, and I think the dress is a minor occasional side issue. And it does come across as blame the victim, especially when most of the cases in headlines, except Al-Franken, involve abuse of power over victim for sexual gratification or to satisfy power hungry ego. Although there are other situations of sexual harassment, but it is where the predator is the boss, or superior and victim stays silent to keep the job, major problem.
    Unfortunately we men have been conditioned to feel superior to women and do lot of things without even thinking that it is prejudicial against women. Women are still paid less for the same work that men do, This superiority complex spills over to our attitude of sexual entitlement.
    This mind set needs to be changed to achieve long lasting results.

    • I agree with you on many of your comments. Yes, it is a complex issue; yes, sexual harassment in the workplace is legally, morally and ethically wrong and yes, women should get paid exactly the same for the same work (I have never understood though why women tennis champions get the same money, for playing best of 3 sets, as men champions who play best of five. But this is a side issue for this discussion).

      But I don’t agree with two of your statements. First, the easier one. Why is Al Franken an exception? A sleaze ball is a sleaze ball, Democrat or Republican. The same rule should apply. His actions may not have involved “abuse of power” but it was totally inappropriate, and he did it not just once.

      The second disagreement is that women’s dressing and behavior is a “minor side issue”. Minor may be but definitely not a side issue. I know the extreme feminist elements have given us the mindset that talking about women’s dressing and behavior as even remotely related to sexual harassment is blaming the victim. This is the same mentality that gets you called as a racist if you say anything negative about blacks and as an anti semite if you say anything negative, or even positive (like they control most of the media or the money centers) about Jews. My intention was not to “blame the victim”; my intention was to make women to accept reality (in spite of the contrary narrative they have been fed all these years), which could then give women control over making themselves safer. It’s the only thing (even though may be of minor importance) they have control over in changing men’s behavior. Even women celebrities have now announced they will wear black at the Golden Globe Awards and not talk about “frivolous things like their designer dresses”. Oh really! Please read some of the articles from the link below. Even though it is touted as a solely as a protest against harassment, there is indirect acceptance that the usual Red Carpet affairs portray women as sex objects (as do beauty pageants and a lot of publications) and those are the things that need to change and that was what I meant in my original writing; it was not to blame the victim.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..2.48.4670.0..0j35i39k1j0i131k1j0i20i264k1j0i131i20i264k1j0i22i30k1j33i21k1j33i160k1.0.1kwIbE67hTk

  2. Yes, Al-Franken should face the music for his actions. I did not give him exception for his actions, but just mentioning, as you pointed out, that his actions did not involve abuse of power, which in my opinion is the major problem especially when about half the work force is women. Of course, there should be zero tolerance for sexual harassment in its all shapes, forms and without any exceptions or excuses.
    On the issue of dress, there are some sticky and difficult questions? (I am not commenting on Dr. Shoeb’s comments, but something for participants to ponder on). For example;
    Does a lady with Hijab has the right to be free of harassment on road, mall or place of work? Is it her fault that she wore the Hijab and attracted harassment or fault lies with preparator of harassment? Should she stop wearing Hijab or the preparator should be punished/admonished and educated?
    Is above situation similar to sexual harassment of a woman who likes to wear attractive clothes? Does she have the right to wear as she wishes? Just because she wears attractive clothes, does it give any preparator the right to harass her?
    If a woman feels that wearing modestly will protect her, she has all the right to do so. On other hand if a woman wants to wear attractive dress, she has the same right and it does not give anyone the right to harass her. The liability of harassment entirely lies with preparator.
    It is interesting and important subject. Maybe we should discuss it in our next TFUSA meeting.

  3. I agree with Shoeb Saheb that women do contribute though not by immodesty or putting themselves at increased risk, but in many cases, they are complacent advertently in order to advance their careers or social status.
    Despite the fact that in recent cases perpetrators were in higher position the women involved were not slaves or destitute either.
    Their silence for years and then coming out of the woodwork with a smug smile after reaching the top of the ladder make their intentions questionable and look more like opportunists than victims.
    Crocodile tears of Golden Globe are a day late and the dollar short.Everything was going right under the noses of the very same people for the last 30 to 40 years and they just woke up, wow. Can’t-miss another opportunity to advance career even further.

    In a capitalist system, remunerations are determined on a utility basis. I don’t see any reason to pay more to one gender over the other for the same return. Many factors are ignored while calculating equal work. 93% workplace death’s are men, many other obvious reasons nobody wants to discuss for political correctness.

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