What is the driving force behind sexual harassment?

May 26, 2021

Author and talk show host Candace Owens was left with a bad impression by the performance of ‘WAP’ by rap artist Cardi B at the 63 annual Grammy Awards. Cardi B and Owens had a dispute on Twitter about what empowers women following the performance and came to the answer from different perspectives.

“You are in a position to empower young women to aspire to something more than taking off their clothes,” tweeted Owens to Cardi B. “But you don’t feel you can be more.”

I have noticed intrinsic worth alludes to many modern women today, yet it determines the expression of self and what others expect from them. A woman is a woman, and she need not prove her equality to men. I believe her worth and empowerment are found neither in what she provides or takes from society, but in who she is.  

What empowers women has been an ongoing discussion for some time and there are many, from experts to the common person with varying answers on the issue. The idea of women taking control of their sexuality or taking control of their minds and pushing forward has been difficult to balance.

In today’s culture, it seems each woman must make a choice and stand to either one side or the other of the line drawn in the sand by society. Whatever choice is made, there is no definitive answer as to what gives women their power be it their body or mind.

In any industry today women can be seen thriving and achieving great success and are in high praise and respect from peers. Some women have made their choice and are either expressing the ownership of their own sexuality or on the other hand, women engaging with the world intellectually. Still there are those who choose to be wives and mothers. The social norms of women being only homemakers have been all but removed.   

Whenever women empowerment is mentioned, sexual harassment and abuse of women are not far behind. It seems to arise to try and change the conversation and puts the focus on a different issue altogether. Perhaps what must be done is to take a hard look at women empowerment to find what the cause of a plague such as sexual harassment is.  

Pretending sexual harassment does not happen to anyone is foolish, and pretending it happens to everyone is foolish as well. The essence of women empowerment could be the key to revealing a clear answer as to what makes part of society believe sexual misconduct is acceptable in any way, shape or form.

According to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs website, women are one of the demographic groups which are victimized more frequently than others. The statistics show that 80 percent of women are being victimized before the age of 18 and only 25 percent of these women will seek medical attention after the assault and only 33 percent of them will seek counseling.    

Bitterness and resentment have crossed generations in the battle against harassment. There are many theories as to why such a vulgar thing keeps happening, and there seems to be no end in sight. Anyone can be caught in the battle whether they signed up for it or not and it seems there is no particular thing one must do to be a victim other than just be present.

James Campbell Quick, Ph.D., a professor of leadership and management at the University of Texas thinks the issue lies with how power is used by people in authoritative positions. “Sexual harassment is really not about sex. It’s about power and aggression and manipulation. It’s an abuse of power problem.”

There must be a clear dominant person with the power to do what they wish with another person. When these parameters are met, there is one that possesses power over another and exerts it with disregard to consequences.

Now, the awareness of consequences alone seems to not be the answer as to why sexual harassment keeps occurring. The fear of consequences has been proven to not completely stop anyone from engaging in cases of sexual misconduct in the workplace or other areas.

Such behavior and even emotions may carry through to the next generation and then pass to the next. Thus the cycle can continue, and no escape be provided for future generations if the mentality toward women cannot change and the adjustment of how to look at women as people does not take root in society.

Certain measures may be taken such as women not assuming that every action from a man is a sexual act. And on the other hand, men must stop thinking everything a woman does is for sexual attention. This could be a start for the bitterness, resentment and hurtful social norms that keep sexual harassment and the mistreatment of women around to cease.

Women taking control of their sexuality or women taking control of their minds in their field of work are the dominant approaches to empowering women. The other choice and less observed by culture is seeing women with intrinsic worth and willingly leaving this dignity intact.

Author, political activist and lecturer Hellen Keller in her book Optimism Within wrote about what she thought brings balance to the world. “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.”

Quick, J. C., & McFadyen, M. A. (2017). Sexual harassment: Have we made any progress? Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 22(3), 286–298. https://doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000054

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