I received overwhelming feedback following my article last week on why we must tackle sexual harassment in the workplace.
Interestingly, most the feedback was from men — which is understandable since it is the men who are behind most of the sexual harassment cases.
Some of the feedback made a lot of sense, for instance, that men also experience sexual harassment in the workplace. A lot of men have encountered sexual harassment from either female colleagues or female bosses, albeit heavily under-reported, a fact which I acknowledge we must address.
Then again, it occurred to me that if men were the majority victims of sexual harassment, they would already have had an “anti-sexual harassment” law in place.
The most surprising thing from the feedback was that many of them were blaming the victims.
“What do you expect when a woman wears a very tight skirt to the office? She is literally asking for it!” said one reader.
“She is inviting us to the party,” said another. (I must say for this comment, I had to tone it down considerably).
Another said: “When a woman wears a tight, short skirt to the office, she is the one harassing the men.”
I was requested by another male reader to advise women reading this column that they should “position themselves so as to avoid sexual harassment by dressing well.”
These victim-blaming comments not only reek of misogyny, but also borrow straight from the chauvinistic playbook that allows men to get away with such medieval tactics to justify violence against women, be it physical or psychological.
From reading your responses on email and Twitter, it finally made sense to me why this society does not take sexual harassment any more seriously than we take comedians.
The men think that a certain kind of woman deserves to be sexually harassed.
We live in a society that assumes when a woman wears a nice form-fitting, sheath-like dress or skirt, she is doing it for self-advertisement and for the attention; therefore, any form of sexual violence against her is justified, because, wasn’t she asking for it?
This is the kind of thinking that informs some of the pointless questions we ask battered women: “What did you do to make him hit you so hard?”
It is 2017 and we are living in a society that reduces sexual harassment of women by their bosses or colleagues to trivial things like a skirt, and not address the real issue here, that the offenders are narcissistic people with no respect for women.
Now, before you dismiss me as one of those rabid, man-bashing feminists, let me remind you that our great grandmothers used to wear far less than we do today. In some communities, they walked topless and their skirts were short, yet the men in those days dared not grope or grab them because they respected them as matriarchs of the society.
So what changed? The men or the dress code?
What has changed is that men today have become so carnal, that a woman is damned if she wears a dress covering her from head to toe and damned if she wears a short, tight skirt.
For your information, being inebriated is not an excuse for a man to make unwarranted sexual advances on a woman. Men should stop justifying their waywardness by blaming it on the bottle.
You just cannot do something regrettable and think that you can get away with it by just saying, “Oh I am sorry, it was the alcohol.”
Nonsense! If, when under the influence, you can remember your name, where you parked your car, your way home and your M-Pesa password, it means that your brain is properly functional. So, saying that you were too drunk to control yourself is a sorry excuse.
Oh, one more thing. I think we need to have a special department in the Judiciary where women can report sexual harassment at work and not leave these issues to an insensitive board of directors.
Ladies, take note. If there is a man in your office who has a penchant for sexually harassing you, don’t just come forward with a claim. It will be reduced to a “he said, she said” case.
Gather evidence. Record that offender if you can. Take a video if possible. Record those phone calls between you and him and the conversations of him making threats. Keep those text messages and emails. Take screenshots and store them safely. Let us nail a sexual predator and make an example out of him.
In today’s society, it seems that respect, like power, cannot be freely given to women. At this point, I am reminded of what Michelle Obama once said; “The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.”