Women’s Issue: Sexual Harassment

We live in a world where society itself is an act of sexual harassment towards women. Women are living in accordance to values and ideas and standards that push them and push their motives to act within the terms of men’s sexual desires. There is no place on this earth where sexual harassment is not the standard lifestyle that women live by. Yet, as men love to do, our world has tried to put-off any progress in society at large by approving laws to protect women at the “work-place”. This divisional correctness is beneficial for many reasons. First, this correctness is beneficial in order to create the illusion of equality in the workplace so that women who hold high positions and make money are not aggravated by the conditions found in society—where these women are feeling the sense of equality they desired when they first decided to hold a job and a career. The second benefit of doing this is as an attempt to redefine what “sexism” means and to redefine what “harassment” means to be something that women are protected from only within a certain sphere. The third benefit of doing this is that it creates a division between women who have jobs and careers and women who are marginalized in order to continue the advancement of sexism in such fashion that is “behind closed doors” while leaving women who can do something about it in a different reality. Fourth of all, the attachment of sexual harassment laws to the job sphere and professional sphere plays onto the sexism that women have experienced where they feel that finally they have earnt their right not to be harassed by getting a job and being professional as their choices have “earnt them” the right not to experience it. Hence, it places a level of responsibility on the woman; and, indeed, in such atmosphere a lot of responsibility is being placed on the woman already. Fifth of all, such divisions create two layers within the same society so that sexism can continue to grow through the minimization of women’s resistance of it. Meaning that black women and brown women can continue the advancement of sexism by the way they are treated all while still placing women in an area within that advancement as they are also placed in an area where they are “kept away from it”—and by placing them in an area where they are kept away from it, men are safe from these women retaliating against the advancement of it . Sixth of all, sexual harassment laws are there to give another reality for white women who are there to lead the way for the rest of women in society. In that, white women, who are usually the first one to protest a wrong within society, are not protesting much past equal fair wages and equal employment opportunities. Seventh of all, the professional sphere is mostly a sexism-fixing-sphere where most people hold jobs that are there to attend to the problems that sexism has created. Hence, it is important to protect the professional women from sexual harassment since if they experience it on the job, it can have magnified mental affects on the woman as no other safe haven exists and since if she was to quit her job, she would be exposed to more of that sexism in her everyday life. And when a woman quits her job and she is greeted with sexual harassment, she may attribute the way she feels with her own uselessness or as being something that is related to how one feels after holding a job for so long.  Essentially when living outside of the professional sphere, society itself is an act that , at the least, sexually harasses women to live by men’s standards and by the problems that sexism has created for both men and women since every single aspect in society has been founded by sexist men and every single aspect in society has been “improved” by the creation of another sexist aspect outside of it.

Sexual harassment is defined as, “bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. In most modern legal contexts, sexual harassment is illegal. As defined by the United States’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex.” Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. ” (wikipedia) In many parts of the world, a woman’s culture is a form of sexual harassment that further denies her the right to seek a job due to her sex. And in essence, the promise of having “no sexual harassment” in the workplace is a promise made towards the men in these culture in order that they may allow some of their women to work all while the men can continue to live by the standards found in those cultures behind closed doors. In that, such cultures can claim to have advanced in their human rights when it comes to women by stating the fact that women are allowed to have a job although such proof becomes only true due to sexual harassment laws. And it is indeed true that women from such cultures are more likely to experience such harassment at the work place and fail to report them.

Men who work in the professional sphere alongside women may be able to adhere to sexual harassment laws. Yet, with women joining the professional sphere comes the creation of a “professional” sex-sphere industry to cater to such men. What this means is that when women have seeked protection from sexual harassment in the work place, the “work place” of many women has become only “sexually based”. And in terms of women’s rights, it turns out that women in general have not been protected from sexual harassment at all—but, in fact, the acceptability of having professional sex industries has been on the rise and approved of by professional men and women alike. If one was to translate this to “another words”, this would be similar to saying that some women accept sexual harassment in the work place while some women do not accept it in the work place where those who accept it can “Screw off” and go in their own little area so that men can come and sexually harass them as THEY like.

Just as in laws concerning domestic violence, sexual harassment laws are there to protect both men and women. This “unforgiving” nature of treatment from men towards women is insulting in and of itself. For while women have forgiven men and the way they have treated them for thousands of years, it appears that men are not even willing to do the same for any woman who dares to express the way men have treated her in the work-place. Let us not forget that when men sexually harass women, it is as an expression of a superiority that is still found everywhere else in society. Yet, if a woman engages in sexual harassment, it is almost a response related to the forced approval of sexual harassment that women have experienced throughout history until today. Meaning that if women are sexualized in society and they are treated as a sexual object, some women may feel that sexual harassment is within the terms of “self-expression” and that is the precise reason why many women do not report sexual harassment when they themselves are subjected to it in the work-place. In that, take a look at women today: the way some women walk, dress, and carry themselves is very very sexual. If men were to be subjected to the same standards, then by merely being around a woman, a woman would feel sexually harassed. Yet, women are supposed to be able to separate sexual harassment from society’s demands and standards where in feeling that wearing a short skirt is within the terms of “self-expression”, then whether she comes on to a man or a man comes on to her, she is supposed to see that as a whole separate act that she/he is protected from. This dynamic makes a “boyfriend” out of society, a “friend” out of the work-place for the sake of keeping the “husband” as a “husband”—in a world where it is difficult for best friends not to be sexually involved with each other.

In essence, if women asked men to not sexually harass them in this world at large, men have said, “okay…but only if you get a job that I see as respectable enough”. This, in turn, has lead many women to lead a life where they are consumed by their jobs without having much to do outside of it. Meanwhile, women who have “chosen” to work in jobs that are not respectable enough, have been consumed with the use of drugs and alcohol in order to cater to mostly-professional men who, instead of harassing women on the job, take their lunch breaks harassing these sex-workers legally. These sex-workers are lower to upper class White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Russian, European, and Spanish women who have either experienced sexual abuse in their life leading them to having no choice but to work in the sex-industry or they have translated society’s sexual objectification into an empowerment that they feel is part of their choice to do. When sexual harassment is illegal in the work-place, then I must ask, why do these laws not apply to the sex-industry? And when such laws are not applicable to women in the sex-industry how can a woman leave that industry and acquire a professional job given that the two areas create vastly polar environments that many women will have a hard time adjusting to? It is no wonder that when a woman joins the sex industry, she is more likely to work in it for the rest of her life. And such fact should be very alarming given how that industry entices 18 and 19 year old women to join it with the promise that they can earn cash in order to be on her way to college and on her way to a professional job.

To me, sexual harassment is any act under which men insist on carrying the terms of sexism as to subject women to it and to the problems that come from it; where this insistence is expressed in such manner as to grant women one right only in exchange for giving men another right that benefits them within the terms of sexism itself… An example of this exchange is the right to be protected from sexual harassment in the work place in exchange of creating a sexual-work-industry AND the right to a raise and work-benefits in exchange for sexual favors. This definition of sexual harassment does not dismiss the experience of women in society where otherwise one can just dismiss it within the professional sphere. In addition, this definition of sexual harassment heals some of the disconnect and separation that is happening between professional women and marginalized women. Sexual harassment laws creates the same dynamic as “white”-black race relations. In that, one side is put in poverty in order that the other sides (white, Middle Eastern, Jewish, Indian, Asian) benefit. In that same regards, professional women are put in a place that is “sexual harassment free” while other women are placed in a purely sexual industry. Hence, it becomes important for professional women to give marginalized women an opportunity to be hired at a job within the professional sphere if even such opportunities present themselves since the condition of these two women rely on each other to be used to continue sexism in our world. The opportunity that men have found in these two women (two sides) is within the terms of a broken-down relationship amongst professional and marginalized women where sexism has made them not trust each other and not be so fond of each other. Hence, this relationship has been a great place for men to continue to take advantage of women and carry on their sexist agenda. 

It is indeed through this sexual-harassment-protection dynamic that sexism has found a solution—not in men changing their ways—but in women getting an education and a “decent job for crying out loud”. Yet, for education to be a form of victim-blaming is for education to be ignorant in its motivation. And for education of women to be the solution for sexism is to blame those who are not educated for the abuse they have endured. And when looking at this from the perspective of the past, it is similar to saying that women were abused because men found them to be stupid. This statement is further backed by sexual harassment laws that attempt to make a “better treatment” for those women who are not “stupid” or “ignorant”. And while sexual harassment itself is distracting and unbearable for a woman and her job performance, the factors behind what protects women from sexual harassment at the work place also affect her job performance by making her bear the responsibility for parts of her experience and herself that she should not bear and by distracting her from the sexist reality that would benefit her to pay attention to since it is part of the world she lives in. For if I was to summarize the experience that unites all women from around the world, I would say that sexual harassment is the ONLY issue that ALL women agree to have experienced and agree to having had to deal with in their everyday lives. Where Muslim women have chosen to wear the hijab to deal with it and some women have chosen to take it all off to deal with it, it is within men’s choice to continue that harassment that these women have dealt with it these ways as it is within men’s choice to continue that harassment that women are protected from it in the work-place. But, when these Muslim and Christian and Jewish women are done with their job for the day, can we even begin to claim that sexual harassment has slowed down or that it has disappeared from society? Yet, isn’t safe to say that sexual harassment has indeed been on the rise in all parts of the world today?

When fighting for women’s rights, the lack of connection between professional women and marginalized women has contributed to the creation of the sex industry as being something within women’s rights and as something that empowers women. For those on the professional side of the coin look at such issue from a career perspective and most of women on the marginalized side have never worked a professional job to know the difference since society seems to blend in more with the marginalized side of that dynamic. Meaning that marginalized women are less separated from the reality of how women are treated—hence, in working in the sex-industry, they do not feel the “worst” in treatment that they are receiving. Yet, the women on the professional side are treated better by everyone in society due to how much they stand out from it. Meaning that people can tell that they are professional and they do not behave the same way around them thus keeping them in the dark. And when these professional women have seen signs of sexism—such as when they stand in line at the grocery store and be greeted with sexist magazine covers—they have indeed objected to it in the professional sphere and beyond. Hence, I will conclude this paper by stating that all women are experiencing sexual harassment today since the professional sphere is a trade off where one side is protected for the sake of having another side more sexually objectified–although this “protection” requires that the professional woman dismisses her experience in society before she has gotten a professional job. Due to that, sexual harassment in the work place may have a more magnified affect on the women who experience it despite that same behavior being seen as okay and within the terms of everyday life for other women. And due to that, women may accept and fail to report sexual harassment experienced in the work place as it is more in line with her experience in life—making sexual harassment laws not-so-useful for many women. Furthermore, by stating that women are just as capable of sexually harassing a man as he is towards her, one has put a confirmation on the idea that women are just as responsible for sexism as men are.

About the Author
Liliyan Hassan

Liliyan Hassan

Founder: Go for Women

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