Have you ever been in a class having a discussion and someone just says something so infuriating that all you can think about is all the different ways you want to yell at them?
I recently felt this in one of my Justice Studies courses here at James Madison University. I’m in a course called Gender and Justice. It has quite a few heated discussions. One discussion we had recently was on identifying sexual harassment. We were given 8 scenarios and in each situation we had to identify if sexual harassment was occurring. If sexual harassment was occurring we then had to decide what type was present.
I always want to learn a little bit more about the lines of what counts as sexual harassment, what doesn’t, and what situations I need to really invest some time to get changed. So I was really interested in this discussion. The first situation we were given went as follows:
Justine works in a predominately male department. She has tried to fit in, even laughing on occasion at the frequent sexual jokes. The truth is, though, that she gets more irritated by the jokes each day. It is well known in the department that Justine has an out-of-town boyfriend whom shes sees most weekends. Nonetheless, Franklin, one of Justine’s coworkers, has said he has the “hots” for her and that – boyfriend or not – he’s willing to do almost anything to get a date with her. One day, Sarah, another of Justine’s coworkers, overheard their boss talking to Franklin in the hallway, “if you can get her to go to bed with you,” the boss said, “I’ll take you out to dinner. Good Luck.” They chuckled and went their separate ways (From the consulting firm of Jane C. Edmonds & Associates, Inc., Boston Globe 10/24/91).
After we went through this first situation everyone labeled it as obvious verbal sexual harassment. No one disagreed or made any out standing points, so moving forward I had a lot of hope that during this very sensitive conversation about sexual harassment everyone would be on the same page. We made it up until situation 7.
Then exactly what I feared happened. Some of the more masculine presenting individuals in the room really let me down. The seventh situation that we were introduced to was about a woman wearing a more revealing outfit. However it wasn’t even “scandalous” or too revealing. It wasn’t anything that someone wouldn’t typically wear on a daily basis. She was just wearing short shorts, and a more low-cut blouse. However the gentleman in the situation says something along the lines of after seeing what she “has to offer” she now has to let him have some. The woman clearly states she is not interested. She then continues to say no, and he continues to make passes at her. The woman calls over her supervisor and tells them the situation. And the gentleman says “Hey, can you blame me?”
Really disgusting, right? Well it’s about to get even more disgusting.
The majority of the class very clearly stated that it was sexual harassment. The sexual harassment being that the male is very obviously harassing the woman. A what I assume to be male identifying individual raises their hand, and states, “I definitely agree that the guy is sexually harassing the woman, but i also think the woman is sexually harassing the man.”
Audible gasps. One girl threw up her hands and yelled, “IT HAPPENED.”
Everyone confronts it, and he continues to go on to state, “Yeah. She is distracting him in the work environment. She shouldn’t be wearing such a revealing outfit”. People continue to argue, and then lastly he states, “It’s not even a sexual thing, it’s just distracting.”
I proceed to interrupt whoever is talking, and say, “LITERALLY in this paragraph the male says ‘Now that I can see it, you gotta let me have some.'”
- It’s not your place to say what someone should or should not be wearing.
- How can you take this any way but sexual???
- What the actual fuck? Are you serious?
THIS ISN’T EVEN THE WORST PART. After I said my piece, another, what i assume to be male identifying individual, raises his hand, and proceeds to say, “It would be even worse if she was ugly.”
Stunned. Absolutely Stunned. ShoutOut Blogger, RoseHasAThorn is in my class as well, and she literally couldn’t speak because she was so angry.
Please, please, please for the love of everything good in the world please stop victim blaming. People need to be more educated on when they should and shouldn’t open their mouths. The person being harassed is not at fault. Are you kidding me? Sorry I’ll get off my soap box, but in all honesty people need to not victim blame or so help me i’m going to scream in the middle of class during our next discussion.