The debate over sexual harassment has always been popular. The majority of campaigners were women, who presented their arguments. Sexual harassment is gender-based. The most common sexual harassment cases involve women as victims. The modern woman would like to be respected in any situation. The problem with it is that she is viewed as a sex object, especially when dressed inappropriately. According to feminists, this is a sign of disrespect. It could be verbal or physical harassment.
Harassment is a behavior that intends to upset or disturb a person. It causes discomfort due to its offensive nature and repetitiveness. Legally, it is intentional behavior that is threatening or disturbing a particular person. Thus, sexual harassment is persistent advances of a sexual nature with the use of unwanted or unwelcome deeds, words, gestures, actions, and symbols, making the target victim uncomfortable.
There has been a long history of women being sexually harassed, but sexual harassment against men was not highlighted. Both genders are subjected to exposure to unwanted sexual behaviors that include use of derogatory terms with a sexual connotation, persistent unwanted attention, consistent telling of “dirty” jokes or stories, making sexually suggestive remarks, making requests for sexual favors, posting of pornographic or obscene materials, especially in public places, and frequent unwanted physical contact.
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Sexually harassing an employee or a workmate by someone who holds a higher position is very unwelcome. It is a form of abuse (psychological and sexual) and bullying. It is unlawful and creates issues in the working environment. Clarence Thomas was accused of harassing Professor Anita Hill when he was her supervisor by persistently making sexually explicit remarks. Men and women differ in their views. This was the first time that a woman came out and publicly accused a man of sexual harassment leading to the great public interest. Many more women have undisclosed their harassment complaints. Interestingly, the public supported Hill; especially since the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee dismissed Hill’s accusations angering women politicians and lawyers. It created public awareness with open discussions on the issue.
Women being the most affected, view harassment as a negative behavior while the men view it as a positive way of life for their own satisfaction. Men ask for proof of harassment claiming that what they do is just sexual flirting while women share their experiences claiming that such actions are indecent.
Harassment also refers to situations when the victim suffered any unwanted discrimination that was intentional, any severe negative effects on the conditions or privileges of her environment. There is advocacy for tolerance, just the promises of improvements. This has been a standard held by the male gender for a long time as the way of life.
The late Senator Ted Kennedy advocated for punitive charges on employers that are involved in sexual harassment. Although this was viewed as ‘too little too late,’ his regrets about the issue were evident. However, the existing laws that prohibit sexual harassment do not deal with offhand comments, simple teases or minor isolated comments. These do not consider the sensitivity levels of individuals imposing an idea of being a ‘reasonable victim’.
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According to McCarthy, the pressures of the work environment could also bring about the advent of inappropriate behavior whether knowingly or unknowingly. This occurs with the jokes, names or flirting quotes used among the employers, employees or even with the clientele. It is regarded as illegal only when it is frequent and/or severe, creating an offensive hostile workplace or resulting in adverse employments decisions like getting fired, quitting or demotion. This will depend on the offender being the employer, employee, supervisor or client/customer.
The greatest responsibility lies with the employers as the decision to deal with the offenders is on their shoulders. Somehow, it has made employers cautious when hiring personnel, as they are afraid of whatever may happen, depending on the sector that they work in or the job’s gender context, e.g. hotels, entertainment, etc. It could lead to lawsuits against them that lead to punitive charges, increased team conflicts, resignations/firings, decreased job satisfaction and productivity, decrease in discipline levels, consequences of retaliation cases. With such choices, women are getting fewer chances of job opportunities. This has led to organizations and businesses making legal decisions to protect their employees from sexual harassment. Dr. Orit Kamir states that an employer is supposed to adopt a strict policy in the work place, prohibiting sexual harassment in order to avoid it and to influence a state of mind of the public and the employees.
The major effects of sexual harassment vary depending on the particular victim and the type of harassment. This depends on the sensitivity level, which cannot be measured. Some are affected directly by the offender, others by being witnesses of such behaviors, and others may not even be aware of the offense, e.g. children. The victim and offender could be of any gender leading to the cases of men being sexually harassed by either men or women and women being harassed by women.
The effects on the victim can vary socially, economically, psychologically or physically. They could be in the form of social withdrawal (isolation), stress, alcoholism, shame, guilt, health impairment, sleep and eating disorders, loss of self-esteem/confidence, loss of trust, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, humiliation, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, retaliation (bullying), etc. Special techniques for the victims to cope up with the problem in order to regain their normal ways of life have been developed (McCarthy 56). These include cognitive-behavioral therapy, family and friends support and stress management therapy. These will help in addition to the legal justice system that may not be adequate, depending on the consideration of severity.
On the other hand, the accused ones could defend themselves by claiming that the victim has been seducing them, whether knowingly or unknowingly, the victim could also have been interpreting simple complements and teasing comments made towards them as harassing comments, the accused could have been genuinely interested in the victim and was just determined to be with them, and the accuser would say that the victim ‘wanted it.’ This could all be understood according to the explanations given for each.
First, the accused may claim that the victim expressed some body language or verbal seduction that made them act the way they did and they expected a different response. Secondly, the accused may just be the type of person who gives sexual complements to everyone, but the sensitivity level of the victim made it seem like harassment. Such explanations would make it easier to understand the accused rather than empathize with the victim.
Not only the victims suffer from the consequences of the offense, but also the accused individual. This could be by defamation of reputation and character, loss of trust, loss of a job, loss of references/recommendations, loss of friends and peer support, loss of spousal partnerships, relocation to other new places, shame, guilt, stress, and depression, etc.
The feminists have been accused of causing retaliation with encouraging messages of such acts to the victims, the women. This has caused rifts that will eventually take a long time to seal, especially between men and women. The fun that existed in flirting has become viewed as a criminal act with women having a ‘price tag’ on their heads to pay for simply flirting. Yes, they are fighting for the rights of women but eventually leading to a harsh stereotype against them too.
To conclude, it is a shame that grown men and women would act in ways that cause many issues in society, taking advantage of their statuses, or dominance in certain areas or fields. Freedom of speech and expression has been used as an excuse to do and/or say things that cause discomfort to others and thus viewed as morally wrong. It could be that one has good intentions but one should not force those on someone. The outrage that comes into light from the activists creates grounds for serious matters like hostility towards each other in the future. Understanding each other and respecting opinions will improve the situation. People at higher leadership positions should lead by example and act according to the law, created to protect each and everyone, male or female, from the intentions of those that want to cause harm to them. Discriminating people because of their sex is an inappropriate gesture that should be over and done with as soon as possible to ensure peace and harmony in every environment.