We are constantly reminded that we live in a man’s world. Because males have the upper hand in society, they control the rules and the shaping of society’s general perspective. It is difficult for women to maneuver or even prosper in this world. Women do not get taken seriously because of what they let men get away with. An all-too-common issue among working females is sexual harassment, especially when the job is in a male-dominated workspace.
Sexual harassment includes unwelcomed sexual advances, whether verbal or physical. Most women who fall victim to this end up leaving their job to find another one.
Why do we continue to let men in powerful positions take advantage?
Let’s be honest, some people are just trying to be successful. When any woman tries to work in a male-dominated industry such as finance, construction, or even in the information technology fields, women tend to face many uphill battles. During the last 50 years, it wasn’t normal to see female CEOs. Now that we see more women in powerful positions, the workplace has become diversified by a new perspective. The article Woman in Management (Quick Take) shares statistics.
“In 2021, 26% of all CEOs and managing directors were women, compared to only 15% in 2019. The Fortune Global 500 reported an all-time high of 23 women CEOs in 2021, including six women of color.”
Even though we have made some progress over the years, the ratio of women to men who hold powerful executive positions like CEO is slim to none. Women continue to deal with falling short on promotions and more opportunities for progression than men do. It is no surprise when a man gets a position over a woman because society has programmed us that women are supposed to stay home while men go out and make money.
Even though more women have careers nowadays, certain industries women and men thrive in is based on the gender roles each of them plays. For example, in the nursing industry women are seen as more of a liability because women are usually seen as caretakers. Not a lot of men are seen in the nursing industry because of the stigma they have. Compare nursing to an industry like computer programming, a more hands-on and technical field which has made men more successful in this area. Because men are seen as intelligent and in control, the industry tends to favor them for these types of jobs and put women at a disadvantage.
Also, many places prefer to hire men more than women. With jobs that involve finance, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing, businesses make it clear it is better to hire men than women. Even if the woman and the man have the same qualifications, hiring managers will often select the man to do the job. Why is that the case? In the article Why Employers Favor Men, Dina Gerdeman explains the thought process behind decision-making based on research done by Katherine Coffman, Christine Exley, and Muriel Niederle.
“With statistical discrimination, you have certain beliefs about men versus women and what they can do, and given those beliefs, you choose the person who you think is the best person to hire. You are simply acting in a way that you think will maximize your profits,” Coffman explains. “With taste-based discrimination, you know a certain person will be productive, but you’re sacrificing that by not hiring that person. We did not find so much of that at all.”
According to the study titled “Are Women Less Likely to Get Hired?”, women are 30 percent less likely to be called for a job interview than men with the same characteristics. Examples of these characteristics include being a team player and being persuasive. In a research experiment, there were 1,372 job offers in Madrid and Barcelona. Almost 5,600 male candidates were called in for an interview. Nearly 10.9 percent more men were called than women.
Women are fighting for their lives to survive. The odds are already stacked against women. Having to tolerate perverted bosses daily in order to keep doing a job is absolutely outrageous, especially when people have bills to pay and kids to raise. Consider bosses like Harvey Weinstein being attached to such horrible crimes but able to retain so much of their power. Examples like this explain why it is possible for sexual harassment to happen more than once because some bosses know employees need the job to survive.
According to the research article 17 Distressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Statistics by Chris Kolmar, between 54 and 81 percent of women report experiencing some level of sexual harassment at work. Even when this happens, many women do not speak up. Statistics show that between 58 and 72 percent of victims do not report instances of workplace sexual harassment.
Why do victims of sexual harassment fail to report their experiences?
A lot of women do not benefit from speaking out about their harassment because it can cost them their job and reputation. In Chris Kolmer’s article statistics show that almost 50 percent of women who were victims of sexual assault and spoke up said it hurt their careers.
These concerns explain why the case of Anita Hill hit home with so many people because many women could relate to her situation. Because most women never put their experiences of sexual harassment out there, seeing someone speak out gives women hope.
It all started when both Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas graduated from Yale Law school. While having promising legal careers in Washington D.C, their paths crossed again once Mr. Thomas hired Ms. Hill in 1981 to be his assistant in the Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights. In time, Ms. Hill began to feel uncomfortable when Mr. Thomas started to sexually harass her.
These actions continued until she moved in 1983 to Oklahoma to become a law professor. Like most women, Anita Hill decided to keep her experience to herself and move away because that was the easiest option for her at the time. She did so until late summer 1991 when members of the Senate Judiciary Committee contacted her about Mr. Thomas being inappropriate with a female employee in his past.
On October 11, 1991, Anita Hill testified before the committee describing her sexual harassment experience. She claims Mr. Thomas had asked her out repeatedly and had gone so far as to talk to her in graphic detail about their potential sexual altercation. At the time, Ms. Hill’s testimony was unlike anything heard at a Senate hearing.
An all-male committee interrogated her on live television. Viewers around the world tuned into the trial. The trial grew so big that even Saturday Night Live decided to poke fun at the incident. The term sexual harassment was not used as much then because it was not brought up in everyday conversation. Because sexual harrasment was becoming a hot topic, more people started to pay attention to the trial. In the article How Anita Hill Forever Changed the Way We Talk about Sexual Harassment, Julia Carpenter talks about the term’s origin.
“In 1975, a group of women at Cornell University created the term “sexual harassment” to define these same behaviors they saw in inappropriate work environments. But the term still wasn’t widely used in everyday conversation,” Carpenter continued.
For two more decades, civil rights lawyers pushed cases through the courts, but women were unable to sue for damages, crucial for many who were risking their jobs to come forward. All eyes were on the members of the Senate as they came together to make their final decision. The Senate decided to acquit Thomas’s charges by a 52-48 vote.
What did the Anita Hill verdict lead women to achieve?
Even though nothing was solved, the exposure this trial received influenced more women to realize that Thomas’s actions were not right. Think about it, women had been experiencing several kinds of harassment for years before this judgment happened. There was no space for women to come out and they suffered this battle by themselves.
But once Anita took to the stand and told her story, she not only represented this embarrassing experience with courage but became the voice for mistreated women. Even though Anita lost this fight, the decision added fuel to a fight that will stand the test of time. The article How Anita Hill’s Testimony Made America Cringe and Change by Sarah Pruitt speaks on women’s momentum after the trial.
“I think women saw it play out, in the most human terms, Anita Hill credible and very much reflecting the experiences of so many other women being demeaned, being dismissed and being mistreated by an array of male senators,” says Marcia Greenberger, founder and co-president emerita of the National Women’s Law Center. “And when they reflected upon it at the end of the hearings, their anger began to rise, and their determination to do something about it began to increase.”
Even though women have a right to be upset at this scenario, they still cannot only blame men for those actions. They need to blame it on how society teaches men to treat women. It is no secret that society cares about men more than they do women. Whenever it comes to the media, everything is shaped in a way to cater to the male point of view. Society does not value women as much as it should. Society treats them as objects for men to use instead of valuing them as a person who deserves respect. Males are on a pedestal. This viewpoint places males in a powerful position to feel as if they can do whatever they want. The article Sexual Entitlement by Arthur Perice explains my point.
“While we are clearly living in an age of unparalleled romantic and sexual agency for both men and women. The patriarchal structure of contemporary society means that the male sexual agency is placed at a higher level of importance to that of women. The causes of this, whatever they are, may be manifold. But many subconsciously accept this, thus continuing, without realization, this level of gender inequality.”
What does this mean? Women are placed in a position where their needs are at a disadvantage. This action causes the male audience to be misinformed and act in ways that can harm females sexually with very little control. Because society caters to men, society tends to forget how some men’s mindsets do not have women’s best interests at heart. This type of thinking continues to encourage men to commit horrible acts against women. Depending on what resources a man has, men are allowed to not take full accountability for the trauma they cause.
Many women in different industries are speaking up about the issues going on behind closed doors. It has come to a point where women are fed up with the unfair treatment and missed opportunities because of their gender. Now, because of the sexual abuse women have always put up with for the sake of their jobs, enough women have gained the momentum needed to start a movement. The article The Women in The Entertainment Industry Say Times Up for Workplace Sexual Assault, written by Sameer Rao, showcases a letter written for the New York Times that discusses the stance on workplace sexual abuse.
“To the members of Alianza and farmworker women across the country, we see you, we thank you, and we acknowledge the heavy weight of our common experience of being preyed upon, harassed, and exploited by those who abuse their power and threaten our physical and economic security,” the letter reads. “We also recognize our privilege and the fact that we have access to enormous platforms to amplify our voices. Unfortunately, too many centers of power from legislatures to boardrooms to executive suites and management to academia lack gender parity, and women do not have equal decision-making authority,” the letter continues. “This systemic gender inequality and imbalance of power fosters an environment that is ripe for abuse and harassment against women. Therefore, we call for a significant increase of women.” .
With all the inappropriate experiences these women have faced, it is understandable why they are now using their powerful positions to speak up on this issue. Let’s be honest, bringing awareness to these situations is needed. Though not all industries have this issue, sexual abuse can happen more often than not depending on the environment.
Where is the influence coming from?
The entertainment industry is one area where sexual assault has occurred the most. In an atmosphere where sex sells, men have the last say, especially because the media operates off of the male gaze, where women’s bodies become objectified for entertainment. Even though being sexual is very common in Hollywood, people sometimes forget which actions cross the line. We cannot only blame the actors for this behavior, we must blame the culture surrounding us. The article Sex and Harassment in the Entertainment Industry by Abhimanyu Shekhar explains my point.
“Hollywood, the $10.2 billion industry of glamor, sex, and money, is the biggest propellant of sexual harassment and rape. An article in the Los Angeles Times suggests that the primary reason behind this is the nature of Hollywood, its films, and its culture. Hollywood is a place to explicitly discuss sex, finding new ways to sell erotic-natured films, and inventing all sorts of new-age relationship paradigms.” Shekhar continues. “If Hollywood is making money, it’s because people are buying into what they sell. And for that, people are responsible for making Hollywood movies openly endorse sex as an integral part of the lifestyle. Such an environment isn’t conducive to women’s respect. The position of the “normal” female is always threatened. She’s made to feel uncomfortable at some point.”
Having sex is a huge part of our society and how we live today. As such, the movies that represent our culture as a whole will continue to showcase that. We as an audience must take responsibility for supporting a culture that participates in sexual behavior while keeping in mind the consequences. Because the media is the number one source to be influenced by, it is not surprising how these men get their ideas.
Movies such as the Wolf of Wall Street showcase a hypersexual work environment that degrades women. A man sexually assaults two females at work, but the issue is not taken seriously because it is perceived as a joke.
How are we supposed to get people to take sexual harassment seriously when movies and television tell them not to?
In Shekhar’s article, she discusses what she has come across with an analysis made by Buzzfeed writer Ariane Lange. In the analysis, she discusses the findings of how movies impact sexual culture.
“Movies routinely push the boundaries of realism, but no matter how otherwise farcical these 11 movies are, the filmmakers behind them decided a world without sexual harassment would be too implausible. In a sense, they’re right, but I wonder how much turning sexual harassment into a throwaway joke in movies contributes to the banality of sexual harassment in real life.”
If we think about it, movies have a part in influencing our everyday lifestyle. People make choices based on who and what surrounds them. Even though we make our own decisions, some people base their conclusion on what they can get out of the situation. The entertainment industry has a business to maintain. Since making money is their priority, they don’t take into consideration how toxic jobs can be.
The Creative Coalition, Women in Film and Television, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center surveyed 843 women who work in the entertainment industry.
Results of the survey revealed almost 94 percent of respondents have experienced some type of harassment or assault by an older individual in a position of power. Almost 21 percent have said they have been forced into doing something sexual at least once. This puts people in uncomfortable positions they cannot control. Even if they need help, that doesn’t mean they always get it. In the article called How Common is Sexual Misconduct in Hollywood? Maria Puente and Cara Kelly reveal the results of people who have reported their harassment experiences in Hollywood.
“Of those who did report their experiences, most say reporting did not help them; only 28% say their workplace situation improved after reporting.”
What is making women and men not consider reporting their sexual harassment cases?
In some scenarios, there is always one person who is too friendly with the boss. Whenever women are in a desperate situation, there is always one individual who will do anything to get ahead. For some people, sleeping with the boss gives them more chances to advance in their field. Because this is not an option for everybody, it affects those who do not go that route. If bosses receive sexual pleasure from others, then they are going to expect that from any women that crosses their path. These expectations lead women to receive a sexual interaction they did not ask for in the first place.
Research from The Center for Work-Life Policy explains the statistics of people who use sexual advances to get ahead in their job. Almost 34 percent of executive women know someone who has had an affair with their boss. However, only 15 percent of women who were executives admitted to having affairs themselves. According to these statistics, 37 percent claim that they were rewarded due to a sexual relationship. Sadly, for some people sexual affairs helped advance their careers.
This information explains why executives and those in power tend to expect sexual prospects because it is guaranteed to give good results. These sexual advances are very inconsiderate to those who are trying to step away from this type of association and want to be taken seriously. If you think about it, the option to sleep your way to the top doesn’t always go in their favor. Eventually, it will catch up to you to the point where it affects your work. In the article, 15% of Women Have Slept with Their Bosses and 37% of Them Got Promoted for It, Alyson Shontell explains the outcome of trying to sleep your way to the top.
“61% of men and 70% of women lose respect for a leader involved in an affair. Most poisonous of all, when a junior woman is having a sexual dalliance with the boss, 60% of male executives and 65% of female executives suspect that salary hikes and plum assignments are being traded for sexual favors. This can have a disastrous effect on morale and productivity. 48% of men and 56% of women feel animosity towards the involved couple, and 39% of men and 37% of women see a fall off in productivity as the team splinters. Talk about collateral damage!”
Is it really worth it to put yourself out there like that? We all need to be aware of the choices we have. When women use sexuality for personal gain, men are going to take advantage of the situation. Men who are attached to this type of power tend to benefit from it the most. Because these sexual acts are consensual, they only contribute to their ego. The article How Female Sexual Liberation Led to Male Sexual Entitlement by Van Badman explains my point further.
“The only sexual rule today is ‘consent’, and men have been taught that women are potentially always sexually available because that is what ‘liberation’ means.”
How does all this affect a man’s sexual entitlement?
It starts off with the type of education a man receives. If you think about it, society tells men that the world revolves around them. From college campuses to the workplace, it seems like a woman’s body is put on display for a man to take advantage of. We live in a world where some men feel sex is owed to them on their terms. Society makes women feel they have to fix their appearance and rearrange their world for a man’s approval.
It leaves certain women who do not want to follow these rules, to be put in unfair situations and mistreated as such. In the article What is Male Entitlement? Graham Goulden discusses his experience with male sexual entitlement and how it affected his daughters.
“As a father of daughters, I’ve also been exposed to the impact of male sexual entitlement. In her first year at university, she was attacked by a man. At first, I found myself minimizing this, saying, ‘thankfully she was with a friend, and they managed to get away. However, I’ve learned this response was driven by my own male entitlement. Male sexual entitlement is the belief that men are owed sex on account of their maleness. Society normalizes this message all the time. While the idea of going out on the ‘pull’ or ‘picking up’ women may be OK in a consensual situation, we know that, if we’re honest, for many young men, it’s considered a game. But often games involve winners and losers.”
Society has made it a requirement to make sure men succeed in having this large body count to brag to their friends. It is being taught to young boys of all kinds that if you have this under your belt, you are considered worthy. In that case, men use women in a way where it makes them look good and feel good about themselves. With how society is set up, men use this as if it is a game to compete with each other, and unfortunately, women are not benefitting. Instead, they are seen as disposable objects placed on cardboard. In the article Male Entitlement is Killing Women, Ruby Hamad talks about men expecting a prize at the end when it comes to women.
“We were told this by every movie, TV show, novel, comic book, video game, and song we encountered. When the Karate Kid wins the tournament, his prize is a trophy and Elisabeth Shue. Neo saves the world and is awarded, Trinity. Marty McFly gets his dream girl, John McClane gets his ex-wife back, Keanu “Speed” Reeves gets Sandra Bullock … Hell, at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, Richard Gere walks into the lady’s workplace and just carries her out like he’s picking up a suit at the dry cleaner.”
Usually, if a man feels like they have done you a favor, they expect something in return. This thinking can be difficult depending on how much you lean on that individual. This action can be dangerous depending on the individual’s mindset. Because some men feel entitled to access to a woman’s body, they feel it is a woman’s duty to grant that wish. When certain men do not get that wish, they are fueled with anger. Eventually, this situation gives them the choice to not only use violence but to actually kill as well.
If you do not believe me, take a look at former Coast Guardsmen Adrian Loya. His sexual entitlement ended up with him killing a girl he liked because of her rejecting him. The Ruby Humad article explains the story in detail.
“In a pre-planned attack, Loya entered the home of married couple Lisa and Anna Trubnikova and shot them both. And his motive? He had been stationed with Lisa and Ann years earlier during their time in the Alaskan Coast Guard. He pursued Lisa who repeatedly rejected him. Even moving across the country to Cape Cod, Massachusetts could not save her from his unwanted advances.”
“The Boston Globe reports:
After the couple moved to the Cape, he continued to pursue her romantically, although she showed no interest, relatives said. “He became obsessed,” one family member, who asked not to be identified, said. “He was fixated on her”.”
Do you see what I am getting at? Adrian’s sexual entitlement was so strong to the point that he was willing to kill someone for it. That’s how dangerous the situation can get. It can go from a simple crush to a complete obsession. These situations are why we need to pay attention to individuals involved in sexual harassment because you never know where it leads. These events can happen to any woman regardless of whether they entertained it or not. Anybody’s life can be in danger if they have a stalker on their hands.
Understand that these men use any power they gain. The women they go after barely get the justice they deserve. In the article 5 Ways Sexual Assault Is Really about Entitlement, Soraya Chemly explains a victim’s place when being violated.
“These cases all involve situations where people, usually men, with uncontested power use that power to abuse more vulnerable people. Their victims are vulnerable not only because they are smaller or younger, and certainly not because they are drunk, but because they lack cultural power – the power to be believed or have their rights of bodily integrity respected by society. Sometimes, those people are children; other times they’re men. Much more often, however, they are young girls and women. Alcohol only highlights deeply rooted ideas about who has the right to act with impunity. As Jaclyn Friedman explained five years ago, drinking “is not a risk for nearly half the population. I’ve never met a straight man who worried about being raped as he contemplated a night of debauchery.”
Depending on the privileges a man has, it can dictate how much they get away with. Not all men have the same privileges. Based on the ethnicity of an individual, some men get punished more than others. Because some white males have always had a type of sexual power, their entitlement continues to be ingrained in them. In the article, Post-War Sex Education and The Roots of White Male Sexual Entitlement, Susan K. Freeman speaks on the entitlement white males have. Here, Freeman talks about the effect that the Brock Turner victim impact statement had.
“The author’s statement drew attention to the lingering prevalence of rape myths, the callous treatment of victims by the judicial system, and how race and gender privilege all too often takes full advantage of the middle-class and wealthy white men. The relationship between male privilege, white privilege, and elite white men’s relative impunity for enacting violence against women builds on a history of sexualized power.”
Certain victims need to be careful when it comes to men. The crazy thing about it is no matter how horrible the crime is, the person’s white privilege has the government letting that individual get off easy. That is what makes it unfair for women of color who experience this type of behavior. No matter how factual their story, it is still going to be hard for them to get the justice they deserve. Just take a look at the Brock Turner case. He raped a woman unconsciously behind a dumpster and still received short sentencing.
It all started when Chanel Miller decided to go to a college party with her sister. Once they got there, Chanel had a few drinks and decided to dance along with her sister until she bumped into Brock Turner and decided to dance. One thing led to another, and Chanel got so drunk that she passed out and didn’t wake up until the next day. She had no idea what had happened to her until the deputy pointed out that she was assaulted. In the article written for Buzzfeed called Here’s The Powerful Letter the Stanford Victim Read to Her Attacker, Katie J.M. Baker talks about the incident from two strangers who saw it all happen.
“One night in January 2015, two Stanford University graduate students biking across campus spotted a freshman thrusting his body on top of an unconscious, half-naked woman behind a dumpster. This March, a California jury found the former student, 20-year-old Brock Allen Turner, guilty of three counts of sexual assault. Turner faced a maximum of 14 years in state prison. On Thursday, he was sentenced to six months in county jail and probation. The judge said he feared a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner, a champion swimmer who once aspired to compete in the Olympics — a point repeatedly brought up during the trial.”
The justice system has a habit of picking favorites. Some people will be prosecuted because of the crime and others judged on their identity. Brock Turner is not just some regular boy from Stanford. He is an example of a Stanford man who was good enough to go to the Olympics. The community at the school is depending on him. For that reason, anything that can hurt this man’s image is the end-all and be-all. Such thinking leads people to treat victims like Chanel Miller as a burden because of their selfish point of view. For this reason, it is easy to blame her because believing her will be too much to bear. Katie J.M. Baker’s article shares a statement Ms. Miller made in court.
“I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name. ”
Does sexual entitlement work for everybody?
One thing about this whole scenario is that if he was a black man, Brock Turner would have received a way harsher sentence. There is no secret that the justice system gives some white male criminals special treatment. A notion exists that white male criminals are not as dangerous as black male criminals. Because this idea has been taught by society, it plays a huge part in decision-making. It explains the differences in sentencing when both men did the same crime. The article The Intersection of Race and Rape Viewed through the Prism of a Modern-Day Emmet Till by Chelsea Hale and Mehgan Matt showcases the point of view when the race is involved in a conviction.
“A 1983 study concluded that African American men convicted of raping white women receive more serious sanctions than all other sexual assault defendants. Another study in Dallas found that the median sentence for an African American man who raped a white woman was 19 years, whereas a white man who raped an African American woman received a 10-year sentence. Furthermore, African American defendants are subjected to a disproportionate number of wrongful convictions for rape.”
There is something wrong with this picture here. Why is there a sentencing difference for identical or near-identical crimes? When the justice system racially profiles people, it does not treat criminals fairly. In fact, it puts more energy into white women being raped than black women being raped. Even women are treated unfairly. It is like white women are a part of the hierarchy that puts them on the top. It builds the momentum of some women getting protection and treatment that not every woman receives.
This action becomes a double-edged sword because black women not only have to deal with entitlement from white men but also have to deal with it from black men as well. Whenever black men do something foul, they expect black women to be there, especially when they are being treated unfairly by the justice system. This puts black women in a place where they need to be silent for the sake of the black man’s image. That, my friend, is a serious problem. If the justice system killed Emmet Till for a rape he did not commit, it should be able to give Brock Turner the correct sentence.
I just have to ask, who is protecting the women? And what are they getting out of this? Whenever a crisis happens, society is so focused on protecting the male ego that it forgets to protect women’s livelihood. Some men never stop to think about how their actions affect women on a daily basis. Some women come to this notion that they forever owe a man something. Whether it is out of loyalty or expecting something in exchange for a favor being done earlier, women fail to put their needs and health first which leads them to continue being hurt. Whenever a woman is going up against a man with cultural and financial power, those men always win.
Once people have money, power, and respect, they are in a position they can use to their advantage. Usually, having those three things provides you a selfish point of view, caring only about your needs. When you have so much around you, but you only focus on what you don’t have, this mindset can lead people to be aggressive.
Because of this, powerful individuals feel entitled to have access to anything they want to obtain. Usually, men in powerful positions are encouraged to think this way in society. Society treats powerful people differently than others. As a result, these individuals are able to get away with sexual assault. If we do not hold those in power accountable for their bad actions before it is too late, then we fail as an intelligent society.
We must understand that just because there are many more men in powerful positions than women, it doesn’t excuse inappropriate behavior. We as women need to understand our value as individuals and demand respect. If we do not do that, then the abuse continues. Many men in powerful position have felt entitled to get what they want from women whether it is for business or sexual favors.
Because women have responsibilities to take care of, they tend to tolerate harassment. But thanks to the “me too” movement, we now see women defend themselves more than ever. If we haven’t learned anything from the survivors, you can at least say that there is nothing wrong with speaking out. When you do, you are giving someone else courage to speak out also.
Edited by: Abbigail Earl
Feature Image: Yan Krukov, Pexels.com