Sexual Harassment: Why it is “normalized” and Why Women are Numb to it (Part I)

Sexual harassment is the making of unwanted sexual advances towards someone especially in the workplace. This is the dictionary definition. However, sexual harassment is mainly directed towards us women in every single setting NOT just the workplace.

Sexual harassment has been around since antiquity and comes from the thought that women are not men’s equals and therefore “must” be degraded in every way possible.

The funny thing is, some boys and men will harass a woman—someone’s daughter or sister and feel nothing about it. However, as soon as they notice other men checking out their sisters or other female relatives, they throw a hissy-fit or suffer their “jealousy” in silence.

This is not to say a man’s respect for a woman is contingent on another man respecting his own female family members but you get the irony.

As a young, 25-year old woman, I can tell you that I have experienced some form of sexual harassment from the very first day I got initiated into puberty. I won’t lie to you, 13 years down the line, I still get disgusted, annoyed, and angry! However, I find that I have now become numb to all the sexual harassment and I know I am not the only.

When my female friends and I are talking about such matters (which happens to us every single day), it’s almost like we telling the stories to get some comic relief thereby getting it off our minds.

After all the anger, we just laugh and brush it off and that is sad. We’ve come to accept sexual harassment as part of our lives just as we have accepted that getting hit by a car is a real possibility. The risk of being hit by a car increase exponentially as soon as you set foot out of your home but you do still go out right?

For lot of women, they’ve been so accustomed to getting harassed that many think of men as being perverts.  We know that is not true; some actually do know how to behave with women.  Our experiences with the bad elements that we constantly come in contact with however help shape our opinions on all men. This is why some of us get very snappy when approached by gentlemen.

The phenomenon has desensitized us to the point where we cannot tell the difference between a man who has good intentions and a man who doesn’t! I personally have snapped at guys who just wanted some information or direction but honestly, I don’t feel bad about it.

So why are we numb to sexual harassment?

Honestly, a lot of women “have to” deal with their bosses, colleagues, classmates and even the odd “uncle” who do not want to understand that their advances are both perverse and unwanted!

That is why, most workplaces hold seminars to teach men, most especially, what is and isn’t appropriate. Isn’t it stupid that some men have to be taught such things?

I know you too have thought about where these men learned such behavior. Yes. I said “learned”. This behavior—much like racism—is a taught behavior. Social scientists call it social learning skills. Think about it, since sexual harassment is a derivative of misogyny and misogyny is a taught behavior……the dots are beginning to connect, no?

Well, much like everything else we learn, such men learnt it in within the home. If all a boy sees growing up is his father, uncles or brothers catcalling and using derogatory language against women, by the time he reaches puberty, he would most definitely be hanging out with them and since most don’t censor their conversations, the kids learn such bad behaviors from the grownups.

How long before they teach him how to catcall a girl?!

In Part II of the article, I will relate to you a real life story and discuss ways to tackle the problem

Thanks for reading and follow the blog for the final installment of Sexual Harassment: Why it is “normalized” and Why Women are Numb to it.

Please let us hear your comments or experiences on the subject.