Women and Harassment





          For years and years women at work have been abused sexually, shrewdly, and cunningly.    Women have been harassed and humiliated. If a woman is dignified but gets the “pat-on-you know-what” she’s likely to be left feeling she’s nothing but a broom. The crude sly gesture can provoke anything from shock to anger to dishonor.  It happens in countless firms, factories, classrooms and corridors. Who does it? It can be the President of the corporation all the way to the janitor sweeping the floor and then brushing well … go figure. Over the years I’ve seen it provoking a variety of responses, including the man’s apology which is nothing but a strategy.

          Actually, it can be shrugged off by the male, but, as women rise in self-confidence, some are ready to wag the finger, which will only provoke the claim that it was just an awkward and unintended gesture. That’s a possibility but, through the years, women have told me that they, and their female friends, find it not just obnoxious but fearful that things will get worse. I was reading a passage when I came upon a comment by Gretchen Carlson, an American media commentator, who a few years ago, took the opportunity and said, “Sexual harassment can really affect you for a long time, and I want more women to come forward.” Indeed. I’m certain that “more women” are coming forward and on many issues.        

         The major issue is, of course, sexuality. But there is a huge problem if we leave the subject as “just sexuality.” Why? Because much if it is not consensual. Both male and female are, in certain situations, involved in a physical relationship which is sexual. Nonetheless, one of the couple may well be reluctant or unwilling yet going along. That’s not okay.  According to a document issued quite recently by the Ontario government, where it reveals its viewpoint headed ‘Let’s stop sexual harassment and violence…’   It includes what sexual violence is, what facts define consent, what about survivors, sexual assault in centuries past and so on.  (Obviously we’ve have heard of a man named Harvey Weinstein.)

           The most engaging section is titled: “How you can intervene.” I have some knowledge about that having studied clinical psychology in both university and graduate school. Obviously, if you’re in your early twenties, I’d say stay out of it entirely leaving the issue to reasonably mature people who are both sensitive and attentive. That helps the individual to rationalize, to dissent, and follow both up with reasoning and moderation. If in fact, teenagers see sexual harassment as rather routine, they are in trouble. Yes, it appears simple, but it’s not. It can wreck character, nature, and aspects of the future.  An elderly man in theatre once said: “Simple can be harder than complex…” That applies to teenagers engaging in what they imagine or hope they can suppose, conjecture, or even assume.

          In too many cases, the option of sexuality is never the choice. If it is, it’s only theatrical or affectation. Thus, even when the cadence is awkward, Samuel Johnson — a highly gifted creative person — said in an essay that no matter the culture, doubts are always doubts. He put it in the late18th century: “Admonition and applause are by no means to be counted among the necessaries of life. Therefore any indirect acts to obtain them have very slight claim to pardon on compassion.” This specific perspective of Johnson was very relevant in his day, but today is not his day. But we can justify it 100 percent in the culture of the era we are in: Edward Everett Hale put it neat and clear: “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success..” Well said.

         All of this implies that sexual intrusion or verbal harshness, is clearly crude and graceless, thereby it should – indeed must – be halted. The document, mentioned earlier:  Let’s Stop sexual Harassment and Violence – is effective and true. Those who fashioned the work deserve our gratitude. Toward its conclusion and in its evidence, we don’t have space to reveal its perspectives in full. (Surprisingly, the document reports that “1 in 3 women are affected by sexual violence…” It must be dreadful and thereby the male individual committed a wrongdoing that will live in memory forever.)

         The document, issued by the Government of Ontario, concludes with common sexual assumptions, apparently selected by the producers. In all, these are more than a dozen allegations. Yes, while they can be doubted as being true and substantial, I believe them. We’ve chosen a few as windows on the increasing and frightening routine maxims that tumble from the common mouth:

(1)Myth: “sexual assault can’t happen to me or anyone I know…”

    Fact: Sexual assault can and does happen to anyone. People of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are victims of sexual assault. Young women, Aboriginal women, and women with disabilities are at a greater risk of experiencing sexual assault…

   (2)Myth: “If a women doesn’t report to the police, it wasn’t sexual assault…”

    Fact: Just because a victim doesn’t report the assault doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Canada wide, fewer than one in twenty victims reported the crime to the police in 2014..”

(3)Myth: “If a woman does not have obvious physical injuries, like cuts or bruises, she probably was not sexually assaulted…”

        Fact: Lack of physical injury does not mean that a woman wasn’t sexually assaulted. An offender may use threats, weapons, or other actions that do not leave physical marks. She may have been unconscious or been otherwise incapacitated.

       (4) Myth: “It wasn’t rape so it wasn’t sexual violence.

            Fact:   “Any unwanted sexual contact is considered to be sexual violence. A survivor can be severely affected by all forms of sexual violence, including unwanted fondling, rubbing, kissing, or other sexual acts. Many forms of sexual violence involve no physical contact, such as stalking or distributing intimate visual recordings. All of these acts are serious and can be damaging…”

        Well, so be it. Yesterday, while writing my blog, I mentioned today’s subject and that I was wondering about a conclusion. My friend who by then had been told the subject, smiled and shook his head then said, a woman should have the final word. He even mentioned her name and you’ve all heard of her – Helen Keller, a wonderful woman who lived a painful life which made it all a quiet triumph. As the evening of her life came in the late 1960s, she told a friend what I believe we all should know. It’s just this: “The best and most beautiful things of the world cannot be seen or touched – they must be felt with the heart.” So be it.



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