This past week Harvey Weinstein surrendered to the police after accusations of rape and a criminal sex act against two woman, he later was out of jail with a $1 million bail and is currently facing felony charges for rape and a criminal sex act against two women. These aren’t the only two woman that have accused him of sexual harassment, women like Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and many other powerful women have come forth against him. Many of these women shared their incidents, usually those incidents would occur in a hotel where he would at times come in a bathrobe, either asking for a massage or would give them a massage without consent. Many shared that he would ask for oral sex or ask them to remove their clothes and if they rejected he would threaten them with their careers, or even life. We also saw this past week that 80 year old Morgan Freeman was accused of sexual harassment by 8 women. It started with Chloe Melas, 31-year-old reporter at CNN who is accusing Freeman of sexual harassment due to comments he made during an interview that she did with him. These comments consisted of body image and clothing comments that Melas considered as sexual harassment. Melas and other women shared they had to watch what they wore when Freeman was around, for example some women stated they couldn’t wear their breasts out, because if they did, he would comment on that. Last week I was with a colleague celebrating her birthday, she invited several guests including a guy she liked. While sitting with her at the dinner table he sits next to her and puts his arm around her waist, close to her hip, and says he has been waiting for her all night, he did this abruptly while I was talking to her. She looks at me and then they left the table. I didn’t see her till the next day. Sexual harassment made a mark in 2017 with Harvey Weinstein and has followed its way into 2018 with other actors, among some is the famous Kevin Spacey, James Franco, Ben Affleck, and now Morgan Freeman. Movements like the #MeToo movement and #TimeUp during the Golden Globe awards have been ignited to bring awareness to sexual harassment and assault. While this has raised confidence in woman to come forth and express themselves without fear of losing it all, it also has opened the table to questions of sexual harassment, the main question being, what is sexual harassment?
The definition of sexual harassment is bit blurry and difficult to define because what sexual harassment is varies between person to person. The definition of sexual harassment has several variables in play, the big ones being culture, age, gender, morals and values and personality. In certain cultures and geographic areas like the east coast, it is common for a male to compliment a woman and start a conversation in your regular coffee shop, in places likes Arizona though, or the west, if you do that, that woman you told that looked good in that dress, may not be so comfortable with that. Another variable is who the perpetrator is, or person committing the act. My friend was content was this man coming and touching her without consent because she was attracted to him, but in all reality, because it was done without consent, that would have been harassment if she had not liked him. The personality of the perpetrator comes into play as well. We can see that generally older people tend to be more open, honest and up front about things in general, this includes negative and positive aspects of life, versus younger people. Thus, it may be common for a male who was raised in the east coast, is older and was raised in a more open minded family setting to tell a woman her butt looks great in that dress, versus a younger, western, reserved male. Morals and values, or self respect, are another factor in defining sexual harassment. Some woman find it okay if a male touches her, as long as they don’t lift their clothes while other woman find certain compliments a form of sexual harassment.
When looking at sexual harassment we cannot look at it like we look at rape, or sexual assault. Sexual assault has a concrete definition, and that is, unwanted physical contact. The dilemma with figuring out if something is sexual harassment is very similar to the dilemma of figuring out when to look for treatment for depression or mental health concerns, and that is, there is no concrete answer, kit or testing that will tell us if something was sexual harassment or if someone is depressed, all we can do is ask questions and look at both sides in a non biased manner.
Though we don’t have a concrete definition for sexual harassment we do have our own voice. Remember, if you don’t like something speak up, say no, tell him or her stop, tell them that you don’t like that. Using your voice is one of the most powerful things you can do, and one of the best ways we can rule out a lot of these variables of sexual harassment, like age, personality, culture, because what we all do know is that, no means no.