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Essay

Sexual harassment

By David Yenches

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"When did this start?" I asked my wife. "How old is history?" she answered.

We were talking about sexual harassment. In the last few months, the United States has been in the grip of harassment claims. There's even a Twitter hashtag, #MeToo.

The claims that make the headlines are mainly about older men from entertainment, media and politics. The details that emerge are often repulsive. For instance, one disgraced morning TV host had a button installed in his desk to close and lock his office door when he was with a woman and didn't want to be disturbed."

Sexual misconduct allegations have also been seen in politics. Last month, a Republican Party member named Roy Moore lost his bid to become senator of Alabama after allegations surfaced that he sexually assaulted young teenagers in the 1970s. In one of those cases, he allegedly tried to seduce a 14-year-old girl when he was 32.

But the problem of sexual harassment goes much deeper than just the men caught in the headlines. Anywhere from 25 to 85 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, according to researchers, but most cases of harassment go unreported.

But has the current moment gone too far? Some women are worried there will be a #MeToo backlash — that there will be false accusations or that this will turn into a witch hunt.

In fact, the Washington Post team that broke the story about Moore was itself the target of a sting. A group called Veritas tried — unsuccessfully — to trick the Post reporters into printing false sexual abuse allegations about Moore. The aim was to discredit their earlier reporting. Veritas's failed sting was part of a backlash against #MeToo.

The wider question is, how can sexual harassment be stopped? It seems workplace training doesn't work well. It just teaches men how to avoid being caught, and then they change their tactics. It seems "bystander intervention" works better. If you're a bystander and you see someone harassing your work colleague or friend, don't be silent. Speak up, or try to defuse the situation. This approach seems to have worked on college campuses.

Are things changing? Hopefully. Surveys in the U.S. have been conducted of men and women asking whether they considered each of three actions to be sexual harassment: 1) looking at a woman's breasts, 2) placing a hand on her lower back, and 3) commenting on her attractiveness. About half of all men and women aged 18 to 30 said all three actions were harassment. But the numbers went way down for older men. Maybe a fall in sexist attitudes will be the new normal for the younger generation. Let's hope so.

セクハラ

アメリカでは昨年から芸能界や政界でのセクハラの告発が大きな話題になっている。しかし、多くのセクハラ事件は表沙汰になっておらず、この問題の実態は報道されているよりずっと根深い。

The Japan Times ST: January 19, 2018

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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2018年5月25日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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