When children are very little, they possess no judgements–tall, short, skinny, fat, young, middle-aged and well-seasoned. Kids think everyone is kind, understands their view of the world and seeks their attention.
Little boys and girls don’t harass each other until they are taught such behavior. In a way, it’s like smoking. All the cool kids are doing it. No one likes smoking the first time but eventually they become addicted and it’s part of their routine.
Sexual harassment is exactly the same. It’s learned from people around us. Left “untreated” it becomes the norm and is viewed as acceptable. Even when it’s never, ever appropriate.
As kids progress in school the cycle continues. Teachers and parents try to squash it but the reality is that sexual harassment happens at increasing rate. Movies, reality television, the news and other outside influences directly and indirectly make sexual harassment seem OK.
Sometimes it’s subtle ways like commenting on someone’s sports uniform, choice of clothing for the day or discussing if a woman should be president. Remarks about one gender being more competent at some talents while another is not as gifted.
Enter the workforce and you have to un-learn these ridiculous youthful behaviors. It’s not appropriate to remark about almost anything regarding another person’s appearance without being cautious. I think it’s easy to not sexually harass someone but still be friendly, polite, personable, professional and approachable.
Earlier this year, CNBC published an article 5 ways men can address–and help prevent–sexual harassment at work. This is not to say men are the only perpetrators, sometimes women are too. I found this article to be pointed and direct when dealing with such behavior.
My favorite way is to be an upstander. If you see or hear sexual harassing behaviors or remarks, say something in the moment. Stop the person making the comments and correct their behavior. Do not allow a group of people to toss comments back and forth in the name of fun. Disrupt the situation and make it known their behavior and remarks are not acceptable.
As I’ve said before, “If you can’t say something nice, just keep your mouth shut and mind your own business”. Yes, it’s direct but no one deserves to feel uncomfortable, demeaned or disrespected at work, in public or in their personal life.
It’s our responsibility to put forth more effort than the harassers in this world to stop their behavior and treat everyone equally and with respect.
Please join me by being an upstander against sexual harassment. We cannot allow anyone to act as if sexual harassment in the workplace is ever acceptable or the norm.