Most women tend to look at sexual harassment at the workplace as a mere occupational hazard and not as a violation of their dignity. Why is it that most of us react to the threat of facing harassment, by trying to either let it go, or merely sidestepping it? The “hota hai” attitude leads many women to not just keep quiet but also normalise harassment.
We have long internalised the blame for facing misogyny in our society. Hence, harassment has become a normal part of our existence. We accept it and we rarely look at it as a violation.
Time to feel offended ladies
Sexual harassment is a violation of women’s dignity and their right to have a safe work environment.
It is a crime to abuse your position and power to seek sexual favours. It is also a crime to force a survivor into silence by threatening them of professional consequences. For ages, sexual harassment is a part and parcel of our lives. It is not as if women realise that they are at risk of sexual crimes only when they enter a workplace. We understand it very early on in our lives.
- Women often look at the workplace sexual harassment as an occupational hazard and not as a violation of their dignity.
- This may be because in the depth of our consciousness, we still believe that women must face consequences of choosing to have a professional life.
- Women are conditioned into thinking that men are habitual offenders. And that it is their responsibility to stay safe.
- Now is the time to put the onus of correct professional conduct on men and stop enduring harassment.
Mostly even before Indian girls enter puberty, they become well versed with the gender dynamics. They get a first-hand experience in harassment via unwanted touching, cat-calling or abuse at the hands of both strangers or toxic male family members or acquaintances. But not just that, families and peers begin whispering warnings into their ears, once they are old enough to go out to play on their own. The onus of keeping their bodies safe is duly placed on their tiny shoulders. As a result of which, it is etched in their minds that men are habitual offenders and it is their responsibility to stay safe, long before they enter the workforce.
Now is the time to put the onus of correct professional conduct on men and stop enduring harassment.
So in offices, women merely see sexual predators as a workplace hazard. Men they are supposed to steer clear of. Men whose misdemeanours need to be duly neglected. But now women need to take offence. While harassing women is wrong in every context, men should realise they are liable to facing disciplinary actions for unprofessional conduct, if they resort to uncouth behaviour at the workplace. In a post #MeToo world, hopefully it will be easier for women to hold men accountable for their actions.
But for that to happen women need to let go of this defensive attitude. Now is the time to feel offended if someone makes a sexual pass at you or touches you inappropriately or doesn’t back down from making advances at you despite your loud and firm “No”. Now is the time to put the onus of correct professional behaviour on men and stop enduring harassment. Remember, violation of a woman’s dignity at the workplace is unacceptable on personal, professional and legal fronts. It is men who must mind their conduct, not women.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own