I never thought I would be writing about sexual harassment! I don’t know why I thought it happened to others but not me. I am a product of the 70’s & 80’s where blatant sexism was pretty much the norm, according to Harvey Weinstein.
It is an age-old problem that is still with us. Despite policies, despite the lawsuits recently won by some high-profile women against some very powerful men…it continues.
The Equality Act of 2010 defines sexual harassment as ”unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.” But it also includes what appears to be vague legislation that suggests it is hard to tell the difference between humiliating remarks and banter.
The new ABC News-Washington Post poll made the point that over half of all American women - 54% - have experienced “unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances” at some point in their lives. According to Fortune magazine, “ thirty percent of women have endured such behavior from male colleagues and 25% identified men with sway over their careers as the culprits.”
I have always thought of myself as a strong, independent woman.
And yet, I am one of those 54%.
When I think back to my early professional career and over the years, I remember instances now where I ignored, or didn’t recognize, clear signs. But as I read the stories of other women under the banner of “Me, too” I realized that there were at least three instances of straight up sexual harassment and over the course of my professional life, many, many instances of sexism.
I guess I thought it was something you put up with, as you needed that male supervisor’s reference and advocacy to move up the ladder.
As women, we all have learned to minimize situations that make us uncomfortable. We have all laughed at offensive remarks, comments or off color jokes about women. Or we have taken ourselves out of the situation so we didn’t have to deal with it.
It is uncomfortable, but that is how sexual harassment continues. How many times have we swallowed a sharp retort when we were belittled? “Laughing it off” was a way to de-escalate the situation.
I once heard it said, “It is the reality of being a woman in our world. It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other choice.”
After all that has been written this week and the past year regarding sexual harassment, I now know I can’t watch from the sidelines. I have to take a stand and make a big deal about it.
That is what it means to be a woman today! We need to help each other and really listen to what is happening to other women around us.
When you read an article about another woman who has been belittled for calling out sexist remarks, don’t belittle her for her remarks. Empathize with her, and support her. Speak up for her and stand up with her.
We have all heard those sexist remarks.
Believe women when they tell their stories!
After all the dialogue and hashtags and stories this week. After reading all the responses on your news feed to “Me, too” and joining in. After all of this, it is now time for all of us to do something about it!