Sexual harassment: It’s men. Don’t shift blame to women

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Your recent edition of The Citizen carried the article entitled “How to tackle sexual harassment” by William Murchison. In his article he argues that the loss of the old codes in place prior to the feminism movement is the cause of the bad behavior of men toward women in the work force and indeed in society in general.

He also points out that the codes “reminded men of how the dignity of women was a civilization essential” and that those rules were in place as an “acknowledgement of the respect due women as bearers of life and cornerstones of the home.”

I would like to applaud Mr. Murchison for acknowledging the sad lack of respect shown women in today’s society and for recognizing that the moral compass of men is terribly off course.

However, I would argue that the feminism movement is not where a finger needs to be pointed when seeking a cause for the poor and often criminal behavior of men toward women.

The women’s liberation movement sought to give women the same rights as men; to vote, own property, receive an education and equal pay for equal work. I fail to see how any of these things diminished the dignity and respect due women.

If in fact respect was due them for being the bearer of children and the cornerstone of the home, we should expect no less respect since women continue to fill those roles (unless I’ve missed some monumental announcement where males are bearing children) in addition to helping provide monetarily for their families.

What Mr. Murchison’s article did was to shift the blame for bad behavior from the men onto the women. Murchison said, “A major reason that the old codes lost ground was disparagement of rules some feminists saw as patronizing, symbols of a male desire to dominate.”

So are you saying that men threw the baby out with the bath water? If men didn’t need to give up their seats or hold a door, there must be no need to listen when a woman said no or when she thought only her job description was what was required of her at work?

Men need to accept responsibility for their own lack of moral code and conduct themselves as gentlemen and treat women as intellectual equals. This alone would solve the harassment issue.

The deference shown women in the past by offering them a seat on the bus or holding the door wasn’t the outward showing of an inward respect. I can bow my knee and clasp my hands to my face but this doesn’t mean I’m praying. It was the social norm/expectation placed on men if they wanted to be publicly viewed as gentlemen.

This outward action, however, didn’t necessarily reflect some inner reverence men held for women. I would argue that men’s respect for women has remained the same, with some pockets of exception, throughout many ages.

What we see now with the many sexual harassment accusations are merely women willing to speak out about the lack of respect and intimidation that’s been in place for generations behind closed doors.

Let’s not pretend that because it wasn’t openly discussed or acknowledged, it didn’t exist. It has always existed. Pretending otherwise merely makes us complicit.

I agree there needs to be a moral do-over. And it needs to start with teaching our boys that “no” means “no” and that if they are in leadership roles they should treat their female colleagues with the same respect due their male counterparts.

This seems like a foregone conclusion but based on the vast amount it’s been reportedly ignored, I’d say it bears repeating.

Additionally we teach our daughters they have the right to say no and should do so plainly and with nothing left to ambiguity. No vague maybes with hindsight regrets, but a firm and intelligible no. And if necessary, they should join the crowd of Me Too and tell their story in hopes men will recall their moral decency.

Women deserve respect, not because we bear children but for the same varied reasons men deserve it. When we work together, our unity uses both gender strengths to create a better and more productive work force and society.

Paulo Coelho writes, “Those who think the mountains don’t change are wrong; they are born out of earthquakes, are eroded by wind and rain and each day are slightly different even though we do not notice.” If mountains can change, human behavior can change too.

I’m often observed holding a door for a man (or woman) if I’m entering or leaving a store and I’ve certainly been the recipient of someone giving up their seat to me. These are not old rules for the reverence of women but kindness and polite behavior shown our fellow men and women out of mutual respect in a modern generation.

Susan Sigmon
Peachtree City, Ga.