Sexual Harassment Is More Taboo Than Ever: Here’s Why That’s Bad
2:13 pm, November 17th | by Hillary Reinsberg
With regard to sexual harassment in the workplace, statistics tend to get jumbled up and interpreted in about a hundred different ways. As we looked over the newest numbers, we hammered it down to one thing: sexual harassment is a taboo thing to talk about. On one hand, that’s a good thing. On another, it’s very bad.
First, let’s look at a very boiled-down picture of the current statistics, from a new ABC/Washington Post poll:
1. Fewer Americans see workplace harassment as a serious problem than they did 20 years ago.
2. More women are reporting harassment to higher ups.
3. But, fewer men are admitting to doing anything that could be construed as sexual harassment.
The opinions on these statistics have predictably been varied. Given that more women are reporting, but fewer men are admitting, Jezebel thinks the guys might be increasingly oblivious, or lying, even. ForbesWoman goes off to argue that the topic is politically unattractive, and that women have internalized the idea that it could be damaging to your career to report sexual harassment. We don’t exactly see how that explains the data above, but the point seems fair.
Here’s our point: however you swing it, sexual harassment is still, or maybe even more so now, a big taboo.
Fewer people see it as a problem now? Probably because they’re doing everything they can to pretend they’re not seeing it. Though less people see it as a problem, it’s unquestionably “less okay” than it was in previous decades. So we say people are convincing themselves to turn a blind eye. Failing to report sexual harassment is a no-no, so admitting it’s a problem would be a discredit to the ideals of one’s morals. The #3 up there would be explained by this theory too.
But more women are reporting it? Yeah, because they know it’s not okay. So they know they should report it.
And the women who choose not to report it are actually doing so based on the same public attitudes. They get that it’s a big deal, and they want to avoid getting caught up in a whole ordeal. Everyone knows that a workplace sexual harassment scandal isn’t something that gets taken lightly. Reporting it is indeed a big accusation, because it’s taboo.
It’s good that workplace sexual harassment is considered more gravely than it used to be. But it also means that people are scared to approach the topic. Saying “sexual harassment” in the workplace nowadays is not unlike saying “bomb” in an airport security line. It’s good that it’s considered bad, but it’s also bad that some people are trying to scrape it from their minds.