Sexual harassment and assault have been much in the news lately. It’s unfortunate that it’s become a hot discussion topic based on some really obscene comments, but in a way we should be grateful that it is being talked about. Michelle Obama’s brilliant speech where she talked about harassment, providing some eye-opening and heart rending descriptions of harassment, should be but the beginning of a long needed dialogue on this.
It sounded to me like she was speaking first hand. I can’t speak authoritatively to that, but I am pretty sure she was talking about herself. How do I know? Long experience.
I had a conversation years ago with my mother and sister. We had been watching something on TV and the subject of sexual harassment came up (which sadly shows this has been an issue for decades). At any rate, I wondered how many women actually had been harassed.
My mother and sister looked at each other with a look that said ‘do you want to go first or should I?’ It was quite an education. There’s nothing quite like hearing your sister had been harassed and subjected to unwanted touching. But it really becomes painful when your mother tells you she also had been harassed on the job (she was a nurse for 50 years), not to mention harassment outside of the hospitals where she worked.
But what was even more chilling was my sister’s comment – supported by my mother – that every woman has been sexually harassed at some point and to some degree or other in their lives. Think about that a minute: Every. Single. Woman.
Is that exaggerated? I’ll let each man talk to the women in his life to confirm for himself. I think it’s safe to say that yes, they all have experienced some form of harassment.
It’s time for all men to open our eyes. Harassment goes beyond touching and overt behavior or words. Like Mrs. Obama said it can be that lingering (lecherous) look. It can be the handshake that lasts a bit too long.
Sociologists and psychologists call that kind of behavior ‘microagressions‘ but, by whatever name, it’s harassment. And it happens to every woman at some point in their lives and happens every day, far more often than we might want to acknowledge.
I waited to write about this topic because it is too important to let become some sort of white noise, something we’re vaguely aware of in the background but don’t consciously think about. We need to understand this at a deeper level. So please, men, talk to the women in your lives: your mother, wife, girlfriend/fiance, sister and/or friends. The answers you get will be enlightening. And not a little depressing.
If we know what our loved ones have gone through, maybe, we can finally end it.