This essay considers the affect harassment has on women’s identity in the West. The inspiration for this chapter is derived from the recent accusations of sexual harassment made by women in Hollywood against powerful men in the industry. This source of inspiration led to an exploration of the topic of sexual harassment in the West and its effect on women. These explorations resulted in the selection of terms such as sexual harassment, street harassment and workplace harassment for deep analysis. These terms will be explained in greater depth later in the assignment.
This discussion is important as it offers a background on harassment and how and why women suffer from it. From there, the assignment looks at how such behaviour affects women, the man-women power dynamic, what causes women to come forward and report such incidents or not and how to fight back against harassment (based on the film North Country, 2005). The final section of this chapter considers modern examples of this issue such as the Harvey Weinstein case, the aftermath and the #MeToo campaign. These considerations are important has they address how twenty-first-century women are dealing with harassment and offer prospects for the future of this issue.
Defining different types of sexual harassment
The concept of sexual harassment is a widely contested one and its definition remains unsettled. As explored by Margaret A. Crouch, Thinking about sexual harassment: a guide for the perplexed, 1956, there are two reasons for this. On one hand, the original definition of sexual harassment includes the notion that it is an abuse of power that involves gender, but such definition has had many different interpretations since it doesn’t determine which behaviours fit the category, and which do not. On the other, is the controversy of the role of the law in sexual matters, as some people believe the law should keep out of the “private sphere”.
Most discussions about this subject presume that the harasser is male and the harassed is female, and that, at least the male is heterosexual. Sexual harassment cannot simply be accepted as something men do to women. There are cases of sexual harassment involving race as well as gender. Since Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, African Americans have written extensively about sexual harassment involving race (e.g. Margaret A. Crouch 1956, Thinking about sexual harassment: a guide for the perplexed, New York: Oxford University Press c2001). And there are, as well, cases of women sexually harassing men.
Even though perceiving sexual harassment only within gender distorts its meaning this essay will focus on male harassment of women since it is
inspired in the recent events of women coming forward and reporting male harassment in Hollywood.
Therefore, and now focusing on workplace harassment, as mentioned in Berdahl’s work (2007; Berdahl and Moore 2006) most existing literature seems to suggest that women are more likely than men to be sexually harassed in the workplace.
Workplace harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment (e.g. United States’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). In workplaces, sexual harassment by supervisors over subordinates is common; in education, by faculty over students (e.g. Margaret A. Crouch, 1956, Thinking about sexual harassment: a guide for the perplexed, New York: Oxford University Press c2001).
This topic will be developed further in the chapter “Men-Women power dynamics”.
Street harassment comes from the same mentality, men affirming their power over women. Street harassment occurs when one or more strange men accost one or more women… in a public place which is not the women’s worksite. Through looks, words, or gestures, the man asserts his right to intrude on the women’s attention, defining her as a sexual object, and forcing her to interact with him (Micaela di Leonardo, 1981, Political Economy of Street Harassment).
In conclusion, so that actions can be taken against such types of behaviour clarification on this subject is necessary. Unless consensus on the meaning of sexual harassment is met laws against it are unlikely to be effective or to endure, since they might be considered by some as insubstantial or unfair.