Change the Sexual Harassment Conversation

Men and media — for crying out loud, stop asking what we should do to about Al Franken, Charlie Rose, and the myriad politicians who commit sexual harassment.  Like millions of women, I was a victim of sexual abuse as a child and sexual harassment as an adult, and I’m sick and tired of the discussion focusing on whether to punish the accused. Finally, an issue that’s been part of most women’s lives is getting some public attention — and wouldn’t you know it, the focus is on the men. Instead of focusing on whether men’s lives and whether harassers should get punished, fired or reprimanded, can we please talk about women?

Sexual harassment pervades our society — nearly half of American women report being harassed in the workplace. Our national discourse needs to stop limiting the conversation to how to deal with perpetrators and victims and start talking about the problem. 

I’m not interested in plucking out individuals accused of sexual harassment and debating what the consequences should be — aside from standing firmly that we should not fucking elect them to public office.  We need to talk about how ubiquitous this behavior is, and how our sexism and the objectification of women pervade our culture. We don’t need Band-Aids, or surgical strikes. As a society we have to talk about why these behaviors persist, why they are ignored or supported, and why in the 21st century men still haven’t received the memo that women are people.

For those men who wonder what it means to see women as part of the human race, let me help out:

  1. If we want to see your penis we’ll ask. If we’re just dying to see you masturbate, we’ll weave that into the conversation. If we want to relinquish autonomy over our bodies to your sexual advances or your laws — we’ll let you know.
  2. Believe us. If dozens and dozens of women accuse Bill Cosby of rape, don’t act like it’s up for debate. If nine women accuse Judge Moore of molesting them, if a mall kicks him out for trolling young women, don’t take his word against them.
  3. You know how your mothers and daughters are individuals–you know, with feelings, goals, ideas, perspectives and lives? Other women are too. We don’t exist to serve you, entertain you, or provide you with cheap (or not-so-cheap) thrills.

Guys, I can see why this might be news. In music videos, movies, ads, porn and everywhere we look, women are objects  or props that primarily exist to serve men’s narratives. History, religion, politics, our cultural myths– they’re all stories about men. Women pop up every now and then, but usually as sweethearts, mothers or Amelia Earhart.

Simone de Beauvoir wrote about women being “the second sex’. Yoko Ono recognized that women are “the ‘n-word’ of the world”. Religion tells us women were afterthoughts, sprung from Adam’s rib so he’d be less lonely. I, for one, am sick of being #2. And speaking of number two, I’m tired of being treated like shit. When men like Trump and Roy Moore grab and grope, and then attack their victims a second time by vilifying them and denying the truth, I feel like I’m being abused again too. When people support men like Trump and Moore, nine-year-old me is being violated once again. They’re telling me, again, that my feelings and my body don’t matter. That I don’t matter.

If our country wants to let half its citizens know that they matter, stop asking about whether harassers should get fired or those harassed should receive compensation. Start talking about how we can stop harassing and start treating half the human race with the respect and decency we deserve.

(And stop electing pussy-grabbing, yearbook-writing misogynists to public office. That would help too.)

Dixie Laite - Dame Town Writer

Author: Dixie Laite

I'm Dixie Laite -- a writer, speaker, and branding consultant in New York City. For over 40 years I've been a bullshit-slaying, classic movies-obsessing, animal-loving dame. For over 40 years I have been working on figuring out how to be a woman. Some of it I nailed, a lot of it I'm still trying to get a handle on. Let's figure this shit out together!

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