I recently told someone about my being sexually harassed.
She listened. She was sympathetic. She empathized. She asked me whether I wanted to pursue legal action.
I think this is what true sisterhood is about. We women have the obligation to be sympathetic towards other women who have been victimized.
This brings me back to this time last year when my former boss, a woman whose organisation I was temping in, asked me whether I was okay. I had just been followed by a man outside the office and was trying to collect myself at the desk. Meanwhile, her colleague flipped the window open to see whether the sexual harasser was still there. Later, before she returned home, she asked me whether I was okay staying back late.
On the other hand, I’ve heard other women say stuff like, “sexual harassment is tricky” and proceed to shut me up on the issue.
Yes, sexual harassment is tricky. But that should set precedence where sexual harassment is approached with utmost compassion, and always with the side of sexual harassed.
Approaching it with a cold-blooded analysis of how you think it happened, or why you think it doesn’t constitute sexual harassment doesn’t help matters. Nor does it help when you shut up the topic by not pursuing (compassionate) questions – that would be to downplay the seriousness of the situation.
The reason for such responses — or lack thereof — when women tell other women of their sexual harassment is due to patriarchal social conditioning. We women have, as a friend once pointed out, been conditioned by patriarchy not to be for each other.
We must reclaim our positive relationship with other women.
To quote Madeleine Albright: “There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.”
To the women who did help me though through the tough times, thank you.