Sunday, 19 November 2017

Sexual harassment - a victim's tears.

I have daughters (two in fact) and I would never want them to have to suffer in silence for a year from being sexually harassed by their bosses. 

This is the story of Mary, 28, (not her real name) who is a lawyer and she had to put up with such nonsense at work. 

It started innocently enough. 

On one occasion, her boss "summoned" her for a two-hour "breakfast meeting" and he spilled his beans about sex to her. He had the gall to share with Mary his sexual fantasies about her.

Mary said: "What he said was very graphic, very disturbing and very creepy. I was holding a glass of water and I was so freaked out and shaking so badly that all the water spilled out."

After her repeated rejection of his sexually charged advances, her boss turned into a workplace bully and assigned her to do menial and administrative tasks. She was effectively denied her training as a lawyer. 

Although she complained to the other founding partner and the latter spoke to her boss, who "admitted to taking an interest in Mary", the founding partner also said to her this: "such things happen when you are a pretty girl."

When Mary made a complaint to the firm's human resource department, she was told to "not make a fuss."

It reports in the papers that "for a year, (Mary) cried almost every day, feeling trapped and afraid to go to work. She finally confided in her father, a criminal lawyer, who told her she could go to the police as her boss was harassing her."

And when she decided to lodge a police complaint, the firm paid her a year's salary in compensation and she was asked to leave.

Before that, she was made to sign a non-disclosure agreement and was "told that she could not report the matter to the police or talk about it at all." (Of course, such agreements are never binding and enforceable for justice would not allow one to exploit the law to exculpate an offender).

Lesson? One, and I am reminded of these words, "such things happen when you are a pretty girl."

The lesson here is a simple one: It's not your fault that you are pretty. 

Your looks should never be why you deserve to be made a victim of sexual harassment. In other words, never think for a moment that your looks give others the right to make you a target of their own perversion.
Men are no doubt attracted to beauty as we are visual creatures (and more so in this highly sexualized culture). 

But I choose to believe that there are two kinds of attraction here (for lack of a better word). 

One is based on respect and admiration. Primarily, your looks is your genetic inheritance and you should never be judged by it. More relevantly, you are not thought lesser just because you are prettier. 

This first kind of attraction (more appropriately called affection I guess) is similar to the kind that a doting father has for his daughter or a loving husband has for his wife. 

Call me biased, but as a father, I find my daughters beautiful (the photo of one of them is shown here). I guess that is every father's prerogative to see his daughter in her most favourable light. 

And this kind of attraction protects rather than harm, respects rather than abuses, nurtures rather than stifles, and takes pride in rather than exploits.

The second kind of attraction is the destructive kind. It judges prettiness in many ways that is demeaning to the person, or in its most unfavourable light. 

In the perverted eye of this kind of attraction, if you are pretty, the natural presumption is that you can't be that bright, you can't be that virtuous, you can't be that discerning, you can't be smarter than the beholder, you can't be that strict on morals, and worse of all, you can't be that dumb to want to forego opportunities to get promoted, rich and famous just because you treasure and protect your modesty and chastity. 

This kind of attraction always mix sexism and chauvinism together, and put the opposite sex in the most discriminated way or the dimmest of opinions. 

That is also the reason why women are often being objectivised as nothing more than a means to a man's sexual satisfaction. Their worth in this form of perverted attraction is seen as a fulfilment of their own sexual fantasies. 

As such, their performance at work is sadly adjudged by their superior in a different category - that is, not for what they can do by virtue of their industry and passion, but for what they can offer to satisfy an insidious and unspeakable goal just because they happen to look pretty (or happen to be easy target because they are in the lower rung of the hierarchical power structure).

Let me end with the words of Mary who started a website called "for people to share their experiences of sexual harassment anonymously."

She said: "I am not someone who is shy and not someone who doesn't speak her mind. But when I spoke up, I was told I was a liar and I made things up. So I hope (that) more people can speak up even anonymously, so they don't have to feel all alone and they can find some support." 

I return to my daughters here, and pray that they will always stand up for what is right and have the moral courage to speak up for injustices in their workplace, or anywhere they happen to be in their station in life. Cheerz.

No comments:

Post a Comment