A new poll reveals that one in four women say they've been sexually harassed on the job; one in ten men say the same. But sexual harassment doesn't start or end at Nice Ass & Tittlesworth, LLC. And it can't be stopped if it's continually addressed as a problem that's specific to workplaces.
The poll, conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, surveyed more than 1,000 Americans and found that the majority of people (64%) think that workplace sexual harassment is a serious issue. Among women who have been sexually harassed, the figure jumps up to 88%. Those women. Always complaining!
The good news is that sexual harassment is less ubiquitous than it was 20 years ago. In the early 90s, about a third of women reported that they'd been sexually harassed on the job. And it's certainly less common now than it was in the 1960s, when a man could practically get fired for not properly harassing his secretary. Encouragingly, the survey also found that only 10% of men think they have done something at work that constitutes sexual harassment, and in the 1990s that figure was closer to 25%.
Corporations have been proactive in trying to foster a less-pubey work environment for women and men alike, especially since Anita Hill testified on Capitol Hill in 1991. But a million hilarious anti-sexual harassment videos won't cure a problem that starts years before we all land in cubical zoos. Half of American teenagers report being sexually harassed, and schools aren't doing enough to teach their students that sexually harassing each other is not awesome. Anti-bullying initiatives like the It Gets Better Project work to try to convince victims of bullying (which usually overlaps with some degree of sexual harassment) that they won't be bullied forever, but national programs that teach kids not to act like little jerks hasn't gained as much traction.
We still live in a country where, until recently, the highest paid actor on the number one comedy on television was a serial domestic abuser who got cheap laughs for acting delighted with himself and the exploits of his mischievous penis. Girls are encouraged to advertise their ineptitude with their sartorial choices, too; JC Penney and Gymboree have both come under fire for marketing clothes that reinforce the idea that girls are somehow less intelligent than boys. It's no surprise that people who grow up thinking that girls are dumber and less capable than boys would treat women as the lesser sex in the workplace, and it's no wonder that a culture responsible for elevating Katy Perry and Odd Future to the top of the music charts would also have some kinda fucked up attitudes about how to treat women. If we wait to address issues of respect for the boundaries of others until we're all adults with 401(K)s and cubicles, we've missed the opportunity to foster an environment of respect.
On-the-job sexual harassment is the symptom of a wider cultural problem, and it can only be eliminated through widespread cultural change. Or martial arts training. This isn't to downplay progress that's been made in the fight against crying in a bathroom stall at work. We've come a long way, baby, but we've got a long way to go.