“In some ways this suggests that sexual harassment is such a widespread problem that women have figured out ways to deal with it so it doesn’t interfere with their psychological well-being.”
We came of age in the ’80s, when we suited up with shoulder pads and looked to movies such as 9 to 5 and Working Girl as our plucky career-gal paradigms. Innuendo in the workplace became a tale of a bygone age, thanks to our mothers and grandmothers who fought ugly battles for the corner office, to wear pants to work and to be free from slaps on the ass and tit-for-tat promotions, so to speak. It was no longer acceptable for men to sexually harass women at work. There were rules about this sort of thing.
Jump forward to now and I think most of us can count on one or two or more hands about times we’ve been at work and had to make a split second decision about an off remark, a lingering lascivious look, perhaps even an “accidental” touching of the blouse. Do we say something and make a scene and get HR involved? Or do we suck it up and let it pass?
According to a new study, probably the latter.
“When women view sexual harassment as bothersome, it doesn’t seem to be associated with distress,” said Isis Settles, associate professor of psychology in a Science Daily article. “In some ways this suggests that sexual harassment is such a widespread problem that women have figured out ways to deal with it so it doesn’t interfere with their psychological well-being.”
I don’t know what the answer is. Logically, I know we need to call people to the carpet, to kill the remark and its intent immediately and I know there are probably effective and graceful ways to do that. But in reality, the last time an executive made a sexually suggestive joke at my expense, I went along and laughed with everyone else, and died a little inside.