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Student Opinions: Harassment in the Workplace

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Student Opinions: Harassment in the Workplace

Photo used with permission via Flickr under Creative Commons

Photo used with permission via Flickr under Creative Commons

Monik Markus

Photo used with permission via Flickr under Creative Commons

Monik Markus

Monik Markus

Photo used with permission via Flickr under Creative Commons

Shruthi Mohana Sundaram, Contibuting writer

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“Horseface”. “You never get to the face because the body’s so good”. These comments have been made in political settings in recent years about women. It’s unsurprising, in a land built under the principle of all men are created equal, that women are discriminated against. However, this discrimination has led to the ultimate dehumanization of women through normalized sexual harassment, specifically in the workplace.

Since the agricultural revolution, society has progressed from egalitarian to patriarchal. Time confirms workplace harassment is not a new issue. Before WWII, the role of a woman was in the home,doing household chores. Men were seen as stronger and thus more valuable in factories. However, with the increased demands of WWII, women were recruited to factories to increase production. In an essay called “How Tough Is It to Change a Culture of Harassment? Ask Women at Ford”, during WWII, women worked to manufacture M8 armored cars, and many of the comments men made were somewhere along the lines “women should never have been hired”. Since WWII, male dominance in society increased. The harassment did not disappear, but instead warped and magnified. Suzette Wright, a worker at the Ford Company describes that as she was settling into work one day, men were calling out “peanut butter legs”. He demurred, but when she insisted, he stated, “ Well, peanut butter. Not only is it the color of your legs, but it’s the kind of legs you like to spread.” The oppressive nature of gender roles of the WWII era are still shoved down women’s throats, regardless of their manifest content. According to Pew Research Center, in 2012, only 20% of mothers stayed at home, compared to in 1967, where it was almost 50%. Despite this increase, the majority of Americans believe children are better off if a woman stays at home. Prior to WWII, the role women played was that of homemaking. However, now, it is that of lovemaking. Nonetheless, the gender inequality is ongoing, and has resulted in the standardized dehumanization of women in the workplace throughout society.

Women have always been treated as inferior compared to men. Society has deemed what is socially acceptable for a woman to do. For example, if a man wore a low-cut shirt, then no one would blink an eye; if a woman did the same thing, her morals would be called into question. Even if a man were caught for an unduly action, then there is often a cushion given to him so that his life won’t be ruined. This was the mentality women of tech were tired of recently. Google recently faced severe backlash from the media due to a walkout of its employees from over two dozen of its offices over the world. With posters like, “My Red Lipstick at work isn’t for you to ‘sexy’ comment on!” in a place like Google, it’s undeniable that it occurs throughout society. While Google did make adjustments to its protocol, employees were still not satisfied with the changes. This is the issue, for women’s opinions are not taken seriously enough. According to the Center for American Progress, women make up 50.8 percent of the population and 60% of undergraduate and master’s degrees. However, women lag behind men substantially in terms of leadership roles in the workforce. For example, women make up only

4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 14 percent of senior management positions in Silicon Valley startups. People are under the assumption that women are too emotional to have the responsibility of running a successful company. However, if women make up most of the population receiving a higher education, this claim is directly disputed. This prevalent notion has caused women to be looked down upon and be reduced to a sum of their parts, and thus sexual harassment is ongoing.

Granted, women in areas such as the Middle East experience far worse discrimination, with despite their education, unemployment rates being higher. Women in the Middle East are severely underrepresented in politics, labor force, etc., despite being 48% of the population. However, simply because one person’s struggles are greater than another’s, that does not discount the other person’s struggles. Additionally, due to the greater discrimination Middle Eastern women face, men believe that women in America are needy for wanting equality. However, this toxic mentality only leads to further justified harassment. In addition, women speaking up for their rights in as privileged a nation as America can inspire women around the world to speak for their rights. We need to take some steps towards equality: by accepting gender inequality as an issue. But most importantly, seeing women as people and not objects. Hopefully, in the future, this leads to gender inequality being learned about in textbooks, and to girls in the future, sexual harassment is a figment of the past.


Works Cited

Chira, Susan, and Catrin Einhorn. “How Tough Is It to Change a Culture of Harassment? Ask Women at Ford.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Dec. 2017, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/19/us/ford-chicago-sexual-harassment.html.

Cohn, D’Vera. “Stay-at-Home Mothers on the Rise.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project, Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project, 6 June 2014, www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/04/08/after-decades-of-decline-a-rise-in-stay-at-home-mothers/.

Conger, Kate, et al. “Google Faces Internal Backlash Over Handling of Sexual Harassment.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 31 Oct. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/10/31/technology/google-sexual-harassment-walkout.html.

“Middle East and North Africa: Women in the Workforce.” World Bank, 10 Mar. 2010, www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2010/03/10/middle-east-and-north-africa-women-in-the-workforce.

Warner, Judith. “Fact Sheet: The Women’s Leadership Gap.” Center for American Progress, 7 Mar. 2014, www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2014/03/07/85457/fact-sheet-the-womens-leadership-gap/.

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Student Opinions: Harassment in the Workplace