It is time we pointed out the obvious and stopped blaming women for being sexually harassed.
Hey guys, I have a request. It isn’t that complicated, but it’s important.
Stop sexually harassing women.
Seriously. Stop. It’s embarrassing for the rest of us, completely unacceptable and incredibly offensive.
This week, state representatives in Missouri suggested including a dress code specifically for interns in their recommendations on improving the internship experience at the Capitol. Internships at the Capitol are getting a lot of attention lately because within the last six months, two representatives, including the former Speaker of the House, have stepped down due to issues with sexually harassing female interns.
So obviously, one important solution to prevent sexual harassment is to make sure interns don’t show too much skin…after all, even if a woman is twenty years younger, she can’t expect men to treat her with respect at her job if she isn’t dressed in a paper bag. This is blatant victim blaming and is embarrassing behavior for any adult.
The money quote; from one state representative’s email: “We need a good, modest, conservative dress code for both the males and females, removing one more distraction will help everyone keep their focus on legislative matters.”
Wait…so you can’t stay focused on your job because you are worried about what a college age intern is wearing? You are in the wrong job buddy.
The response to this story on Twitter has been amazing to me. I’ve heard from several female friends how harassment is a regular and ongoing issue they face. This state Capitol stuff is an example of what is everywhere. It is apparently, just part of the everyday work environment. And the women I talked to work in a wide variety of professions.
Even more stunning to me than the specific stories was the lack of surprise from other women. The stories included:
-asked to wear pants to a meeting that was all men
-banned from visiting a client’s office because she is a “distraction” to the male employees.
-told they could never have a specific job because they were “too pretty”
The only way this changes is if men refuse to accept this as normal, step up to point it out and shut it down.
Sadly, the response in far too many of these situations is to blame the victim. Whether it happens in the workplace, walking down the street, at the gym or even worse, leads to a sexual abuse investigation. Far too often the questions are turned to the victim. Did she provoke this? How many people has she slept with? What was she wearing? How much did she have to drink?
Here’s the fact though: none of those things matter.
I’m dumbfounded that in 2015 we have to point this stuff out.
The way a woman dresses doesn’t authorize you to comment, touch, degrade, suggest…anything.
The sexual experience a woman has with another person doesn’t authorize you to assume you’re next.
If you choose (emphasis on the fact it is your choice) to sexually harass someone then it is 100% your fault.
Recently, I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion at a conference focused on empowering young women. The panel was titled, “Advice to young women from a father’s perspective”. The conversation covered several topics and ranged from setting and achieving goals to how to identify potential mentors.
But the most important message was very clear. Be careful and protect how you carry yourself. Some behaviors can lead to men getting the wrong impression. However…and this is key, no matter the perception, inappropriate comments, contact or messages are not earned or deserved. No woman is inviting this treatment. She wasn’t asking for it. She didn’t deserve it. She didn’t force you and, for damn sure, the way she dresses doesn’t justify it.
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Photo Credit: flickr.com/randombydefinition