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In recent weeks, the commentary regarding active and passive gender inclusion has embittered the very definition of sexism and sexual harassment at the workplace. Men objectifying, disrespecting and harassing female colleague remains widespread across professions and around the globe. What’s striking is that how often women are also the perpetrators while men are on the receiving end of it. As disturbing as it is, we’re willing to gloss over cases involving female on male workplace sexual harassment.
In 2016, 6.758 of 12,860 sexual harassment claims lodged with the EEOC and the Fair Employment Practice Agency partners, a 16.6% were filed by men. Starting with a 1998 ruling from the United States Supreme Court that held that men are protected from workplace sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, male on male workplace sexual harassments claims are becoming more common.
There is a common thread through all of these facts. First, both men and women are objecting harassing, demeaning and disrespectful to colleagues. Second, both men and women are silent bystanders in the face of unbridled sexism in the workplace.
“When I was in my late teens, I worked an office job predominantly older women and they were all shameless when it came to flirting with me, making sexual jokes, or patting my ass. It made me super uncomfortable and I was afraid to come out as gay because I was
worried that my job would be in jeopardy if I wasn’t seen as a cute, young boy they could flirt with.” An exclusive focus on the senior management as culprits often causes us to miss a problem that is far more serious. At the end of the day, strong leadership can set the tone right for gender inclusion. But, the tacit silence over any individual or group of people receiving favoritism over another is diabolical and cheap. Clearly it is.
We are not daring our workforce to become active watchdogs for respect and inclusion. We feel heartsick and demoralized by news of companies tolerating a culture of unbridled sexism and sexual harassment. At the same time, we condemn the sexual harassment and disrespect men receive at work. We are tongue-tied when it comes to having the moral courage to stand up to such behavior.
How many of us remain silent on this issue?
There are few studies that focus on the way men are treated at work. When men suffer from sexism and sexual harassment at the workplace, they do so in much the same way as women do. We have men and women fighting sexism against women for a long time. If only we could do the same to fend off sexism against men, it will be to everyone’s benefit.