In headlines now / 17.11.2017

Sexual harassment in all its forms

Groping, slapping, touching, “elevator eyes”, pleading for sex, dirty remarks, night time messaging, propositioning, pinching, sending naked images. Grabbing, pawing, feeling-up, touching intimate areas, forcible kissing, clutching. Shoulder rubs, staring at breasts, sexualized remarks, referring to a woman as a girl. All this is the sort of sexual harassment that goes on in workplaces in the media industry. The UJF magazine Journalisti recently asked union members to reveal their experiences of sexual harassment. The survey had 360 respondents, who gave their answers anonymously. The survey indicates that almost half of UJF members have experienced sexual harassment on the job during the course of their careers. The replies to the survey do not detail the typical form sexual harassment respondents have experienced. But the free form written answers show that the most usually it is men whose behaviour is felt by female respondents to have constituted harassment. Some typical responses from female respondents: “I was a trainee at a local newsroom, where a man who was clearly older than me made advances. Whenever we were left alone in the same room he would "accidentally" bump against my backside or "stumbled" so he could touch my body and have an excuse to touch my breasts. " “My boss grabbed me and tried to kiss me when he was drunk.” "At my previous employer's staff party, an unknown man came to say in my ear that he was horny." “When we were on a gig he gave me a – to be blunt - penis shaped microphone, and said out loud in front of the interviewees, ‘as an experienced woman you’ll be bound to appreciate my choice of microphone’.” The sexual harassment of men by women in the workplace also figures in the survey responses but is far less common. “My female colleague, who is over 10 years older than me, has repeatedly and completely openly propositioned me. This has been going on for years and has become a sort of “funny joke” among the staff”, a male respondent wrote. "At one party, a co-worker [a woman] was groping me and tried to drag me by the hand to go off and have sex”, reported a man, who has also been subject to sexual harassment by a man. “These situations have been uncommon. I’m not especially exasperated or traumatized. But being approached by a male colleague left an unpleasant feeling for a few days.” The Journalisti survey also asked whether those who have experienced sexual harassment reported it to their superiors.  The question was answered by 276 respondents, of which only 20 per cent stated that they had reported the incident to their superiors. One reason given for not reporting sexual harassment is that respondents doubt that their bosses would believe them “My male superior took an avuncular attitude - laughingly. He didn’t take the matter seriously.” “My supervisor didn’t intervene in any way. He just said that nothing could be done about the perpetrator. I also notified the full-time occupational health and safety representative. His message, expressed with a chuckle, was the same as my supervisor’s: ‘No can do’.” Another respondent wrote: “Embarrassing. What if they don’t believe me? And what if they tell me I’m just imagining it?” Respondents also reported that some superiors have also behaved egregiously. “At the Christmas party, my superior stroked my back under my blouse.” “Dirty remarks like ‘is all the business centred down below? Is the pussy wet?’ It’s especially awful to hear that sort of talk from those in charge.” The survey also asked respondents to say if their employer has had to intervene in their own sexually harassing behaviour. 353 respondents replied to the question, of which only one admitted to being a perpetrator. Seven respondents submitted free form written answers that highlighted the boundary between humour and sexual harassment. “I wasn’t given a warning, but I’ve subsequently given some thought to the limits of humour. I don’t want to offend anyone.” “No one’s had to step in. But the general atmosphere creates situations where you don’t always behave properly.” People commended the #MeToo campaign that has sparked a wide-ranging debate on sexual harassment. There were nearly 270 free form replies to the survey question on this. Many respondents said they were grateful that such an important issue was finally being aired, though many also pointed out that the campaign has not been able to deal with different levels of harassment. “Someone has been gawped up inappropriately or had their backside slapped, another has been raped. The campaign does not differentiate between or classify these instances. At best, the campaign has acted as a catalyst for discussion. Hopefully things will really develop in a better direction.” This is an edited translation of the article that appeared in Journalisti 10 November 2017

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