Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment will only disappear when men take an active role in ending it. Most men don’t harass, and most don’t condone it. But sexual harassment is largely a problem of men’s behaviour, against women and other men. Four of every five harassers are male, according to a recent national survey. Two thirds of incidents involve a male harasser and female target, and another fifth involve male harassers and male targets.

Sexual Harassment

Most men think sexual harassment is unacceptable. But too often we turn a blind eye, stay silent, or laugh along, if only to cover our own embarassment. And too many senior male leaders have offered token platitudes rather than real action.

I support the White Ribbon Campaign, which focuses on the positive roles men can play in preventing men’s violence against women. The campaign recognises that this violence – whether harassment, domestic violence, or rape – is a ‘men’s issue’. It harms the women and girls we love, gives all men a bad name, and is perpetrated by men we know. A minority of men treat women with contempt, and it is up to the majority of men to help create a culture in which this is unthinkable.

TSR ADVICE: Sexual harassment can affect your profession because when a person rejects a superior's sexual onslaughts, the senior official is liable to lay you off, demote your rank, delay your promotions and harass you in every other possible way. Report the incident as soon as it happens to your employer. Some people resort to sexual harassment as a means of entertainment but it could jeopardize careers and result in murder or suicide. It could take any one of several forms: stroking the private parts, rape, sexual assault, jokes and indecent pranks. If you are unable to avoid sexual harassment in your workplace, the possible options are: (1) *Talking directly to the person who embarrasses you (2) *Complaining to superiors and management who are liable to protect you and (3) *Get the assistance of legal authorities and in severe cases, law enforcement officials. Generally, the human resources (HR) section of your workplace is in charge of sexual harassment complaints. But if you are not content with their handling of the matter, then legal recourse is the next bet. Before you approach the law, obtain some reliable witnesses and evidence. The verification of the heinous act can be in the form of photos, videos, audio tapes, etc.

Men’s sexual harassment of women often reflects sexist social norms and gender inequalities in power. It is part of a continuum of abusive and coercive behaviours, including sexual violence.

Ending sexual harassment will mean shifting entrenched cultures of sexism and chauvinistic bonding in which women endure a daily ‘dripping tap’ of unwelcome sexual behaviour. It will mean tackling the homophobic abuse, bullying, and violent initiations involved in men’s harassment of other men.

Men of goodwill can play a key role. Treat women with respect. Challenge peers who practise or condone harassment. Speak up when mates are making jokes or comments supportive of harassment and abuse. And support victims, female or male.

Leadership from men at the top is critical. Senior male leaders must become committed advocates for reforms to build respectful workplace cultures.

We’ll also need education campaigns to undermine the dodgy gender norms which feed sexual harassment of women: women are sexual objects and men are women’s superiors. Men are less likely than women to perceive incidents as harassment and more tolerant of harassing behaviour, particularly if they have traditional attitudes to gender.

Women have led the way in challenging sexual harassment. It’s time for men to step up and join them.

– Dr. Michael Flood, Australian Institute


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here