Sexual harassment is incredibly prevalent in many countries around the world, including Canada. It can take many forms (physical and verbal) and can take place between strangers and non-strangers and in essentially any environment. This happens in public, the work place, and in schools with kids as young as 12 (yes, 12 year old girls are being sexually harassed by their male classmates and sometimes much older boys/men).
There is a lot of focus on the experience of women being sexually harassed, and they are the primary target, but the truth is, anyone can be a target, and anyone can be a harasser. In addition to women, other common targets are effeminate men or really anyone perceived as abnormal.
This is a really important topic to talk about because of its prevalence and its effects. Individual’s who are sexually harassed experience many negative side effects including self-objectification, poor self-esteem and fear of being in public. In this case, it really seems that education is key. Men who are uneducated are likely to continue sexually harassing women and encourage their peers to do so as well. Women who are uneducated are likely to be more severely affected and be unable to respond to or cope with the experience appropriately.
To learn more about how sexual harassment is a gendered phenomenon, check out a literature review I wrote this past semester for my sociology of sexualities class – https://docs.google.com/document/d/1z66MIvTgW7dCke_avaqX_iERcid6PTZQroQIAY8t0-s/edit?usp=sharing (feel free to read and share your thoughts).
The paper talks about how men and women perceive the impacts of sexual harassment much differently due to their experiences and then how sexual harassment is used to reaffirm gendered identities – men sexually harass women to assert their masculinity and establish a hierarchy of power.
While doing research for this paper, it became more and more evident how much we still need feminism. In a place like Canada, known for being progressive and equal, it is not nearly as bad as the situation is some other places. But we still have men who are treating women as animals just to prove that they are ‘manly,’ not to mention to establish that they are superior to women…
Educate yourself. If you witness sexual harassment, do something about it. This is especially important for men – call out your friends who are acting inappropriately. Maybe you think it’s a joke or a compliment, but chances are, the women does not appreciate it.