The sexual harassment of women is more than just a mere nuisance that occurs across cultures and countries.
In an online study by stopstreetharassment.com, 95% of respondents said they had been victims of leering, honking or whistling; and a large proportion have been groped or grabbed in public. (BBC News Magazine)
This dehumanizing behavior has been a problem in most countries and cultures for a very long time.
The first step toward decreasing the frequency and intensity of sexual harassment against women is to first label it as a ‘ real problem’ and then for the masses to become aware of it as a ‘societal problem’ that can affect one’s own mother, sister, daughter, wife, or neighbor.
We are all responsible for the health of our local and global community. Change is preceded by this awareness.
|Men who harass women inappropriately have not outgrown their childish and immature approaches to interacting with females.|
Why Do Men Behave in Such Manner?
Cultures that imply an acceptance of this kind of disrespectful behavior toward women by hesitating to put an end to the humiliating experience, create environments where women develop low self-esteem.
This in turn deprives society of the many gifts that women are born to bring to the world of humanity. With the increasing awareness of this sad cycle, many women ask, “why do men do that?” In other words, what on earth teaches men that sexually harassing women is ok? Why do men engage in this kind of behavior? What are they thinking of?
The answers to these questions are complex and there is no one simple answer that will lead us to a more healthy society. However, we can begin to unravel the mysteries and work together toward becoming a more enlightened, aware, and respectful human society.
Among the maze of causes exists forces of culturally accepted behavior, passed on through generations (cultural acceptance), “evolutionary” influence, and self-image issues of the male in a changing society, and the basic behavioral reinforcement that occurs when the male is “rewarded” with a reaction from his victim.
So, how do innocent boys become men who sexually harass women? The two factors that most strongly perpetuate the phenomenon of men harassing women are likely to be the reinforcement of getting a reaction from their victims, which they experience as attention; the second factor is related to the culture that fails to condemn the behaviors as unacceptable.
From a natural perspective, we know that young boys are very curious about women. This is normal. How this curiosity is satisfied depends on the culture that the boy is reared in. Young preadolescent boys will often tease girls because they don’t feel confident around girls, or they want to get girls’ attention. If this young boy is going to learn to value and respect women, he must first be taught socially acceptable behaviors that he can use to get the attention that he desires.
Men who harass women inappropriately have not outgrown their childish and immature approaches to interacting with females. We also need to create a cultural environment that shapes human behavior and fosters a positive self-image for both men and women that has mutually respectful behavior as part of the very fabric of societal norm.
If we teach our young men to value themselves first as human beings, and then as men, they will have self-respect and won’t want to compromise this self-respect by becoming a perpetrator.
The key to societal change, after the awareness and ownership of a problem is established, is in shaping and developing cultural norms that will promote mutual respect between men and women.
Modeling respectful behavior to our youth is probably the most powerful tool that we as a society can use. Of course, this first requires an understanding of what respectful behavior really looks like. Thus, adult men and adult women must examine their own behaviors to see if they are indeed in compliance with what might be considered respect.
Additionally, activists who are especially committed to this change can make a powerful effect. They can encourage parents and schools and religious organizations to coordinate efforts and collectively influence the media to create television shows, public health announcements, and movies that appeal to young adults that both model and address this issue.
Opening the youth to the idea of change and putting tools and power to make these societal changes into their hands can possibly be the most effective way we have to make long, lasting societal and culture change at the root.
When such change for the benefit of humanity and future generations become our youth’s idea and goal… then, when they set the world on fire, the change will be profound.
|Rather than receiving attention for harassing women, men should be getting attention for protecting women.|
Women Are the Leaders
Women should be aware of what they can do to teach their own male family members and how to respond to inappropriate behavior so that it is discouraged at this personal level.
For example, if a young woman sees her younger brother laughing at women in a derogatory manner with his friends, she can gently take him aside and have a heart to heart talk with him. This will leave a lasting impression in his heart. Knowing that reacting to public verbal assaults actually has the potential to increase the probability that the perpetrator will exhibit this lewd behavior again in the future is also important.
If women make it very clear by refusing to respond or react to inappropriate behavior, by reducing the attention that immature men receive, and by encouraging their local communities to take the attitude that these kinds of behaviors are not degrading to women, but rather degrading the perpetrator, this will go a long way to correct the situation.
More serious offenses, as that of inappropriate touching, should always result in police intervention. A community that takes this seriously is a community that will reduce the incidents.
Most of the perpetrators behave in these juvenile ways because they crave attention, have low self-esteem, and want to be accepted and noticed. They may also be struggling with their own confidence as men. Understanding this at the local community level can motivate local organizations, religious group, schools and families to provide productive and constructive ways in which the men in the community can make a positive contribution to their community and be recognized as men of the community.
All human beings need attention. All human beings need to feel like they belong. All human beings need to feel that they are making a positive contribution to society. And men need to know that they are needed and appreciated by women.
Thus, local communities, agencies, and organizations and families, need to adapt to our changing world that has left many men without traditional jobs and ways in which to feel this connection and to get these basic human needs met.
We need to provide appropriate functions for men for which they can receive attention, praise, and appreciation for their good behavior as men by the women in society. For example, rather than receiving attention for harassing women, men should be getting attention for protecting women.
When local communities along with the larger society and culture begin to recognize women’s contribution as a basic valuable feminine contribution to society beyond the limited role of sex, men will take notice of this, also. In the industrial age, we forgot the importance of the feminine energy and contributions that women provided to culture and society, yet, we are suffering now severely because of the loss of this feminine energy active in the society.
With that said, if we teach our young women to value themselves first as human beings, and then as women, that will set the tone for our young men to value the women in their society.
Likewise, if we teach our young men to value themselves first as human beings, and then as men, they will have self-respect and won’t want to compromise this self-respect by becoming a perpetrator.
Related Links:How to Respond to a Sexual Harasser
Media Workshop on Sexual Harassment in Egypt
On Sexual Harassment, Husband Abuse and Waswasa
678: Fight Harassment Your Way