Harassment happens for a variety of reasons:
- A lack of education about gender expression, similarities, capabilities, and differences, on the part of the harasser
- A lack of education about what harassment can look like to someone else
- Poor communication skills between the harasser and the survivor of the harassment
- An assertion of dominance or control because of fear, hate, or uncertainty about a woman pursuing work that has traditionally been considered “men’s work”
It’s important to note that statistics show that over 90% of sexual harassment ends once women have confronted their harassers personally and directly (Petrocelli & Repa, 1992). While it may send a mixed message to meet a harassing coworker in a secluded place or at a location outside the workplace, it makes sense for a woman to have a direct conversation about her disapproval of the harasser’s behavior or speech in a relatively private place. Taking the discussion to a corner of the room or to one’s private office (with the door slightly ajar, not closed) reduces the likelihood of retaliation due to embarrassment in front of coworkers. Chances are the harasser really didn’t even realize that what he was saying or doing was harassing (Petrocelli & Repa, 1992).
Men an women often have different perceptions of what harassing behavior looks like. In a Los Angeles telephone survey of 1,200 people, 67% of the men said that they would view being propositioned by a female coworker to be flattering, while only 17% of women said that this would be flattering. Additionally, 75% of men thought that they would be flattered if a coworker made sexual advances to them at work; more than 75% of women thought that same behavior this would be offensive. Furthermore, eyeing someone up and down appeared to 24% of the women surveyed as harassment, while only 8% of men thought this.
Hannah Stringfellow is a freelance blogger and world traveler. She holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and cross-cultural competency.