EDITIONS

On sexual harassment and traditional identity politics

The recent outcry against sexual harassment in the workplace (that has emerged from Hollywood) bears testament to the rallying potential of the Internet – provisioned through cheap Internet providers.

Rosie Harman
15th Jan 2018
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The sociological epidemic of sexual harassment (be it in the workplace, or without) is as old as time itself – or at least as arcane as that point in civilizational history when humans first organized themselves into distinct cultural collectives. This scourge is not helped in the least by the fact that (on average) over half of the global citizenry – comprised mostly of men – tends to shy away from addressing this virulent societal issue head-on; deeming it to be an existential feature of (all) animal living, and ignoring the plight of victim-sufferers of even their own gender grouping who happen to fall prey to it from time to time. Nowadays, many people choose to resort to their social media platforms (accessible through the subscription offerings of High-Speed Internet Providers in My Area) to publicize the accounts of their own personal encounters with sexual harassment – should they occur within the home-space, or without.

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#MeToo: The Latest Instance of Female Sexual Exploitation

The contemporary ‘#Metoo’ global awareness campaign, sparked-off by the allegations pertaining to the now-infamous Harvey Weinstein case, bears full testament to this new-age trend. Many human rights activists (with feminists in particular) have long contended that men – placed in positions of power and authority through the traditional patriarchal systems of governance – tend to abuse the systemic privileges granted to them. This ‘abuse’, when analyzed in terms of its practical (and experiential) manifestations mostly revolves around men who nefariously try to extract sexual advantages from the individuals placed under their direct supervision. When the victims (which may be both male & female) try to lodge their protests with a judicial authority, they are silenced by the typical ‘old boys’ club that constitutes more than half of the adjudicating membership of such bodies – under the pretext of such condescending and intellectually unjustifiable notions as ‘female hysteria’, ‘unprofessional temperaments’ and ‘irrationality’.

In the old days, women’s charges against their male counterparts or peers tended to be automatically barred from serious scrutiny on the basis of gender. The advent of the Internet age, however, has seen to it that all such institutional authorities (which openly make their decisions under the influence of an essential bias) are bypassed – with the victim making his/her case directly to the public for open litigation. This strategy, as may be ascertained from even a cursory bout of speculation into the matter, can have both its advantages and shortcomings for the victim – with ruthless media-coverage and privacy-violations being the most discernible issues to fall under the aegis of the latter category.

Analyzing Sexual Identities Theoretically (and Historically)

On an academic (as well as experiential) front, the subject of sexual harassment is often conflated with the abstract (yet potently felt) concepts of ‘identity constructs’ (the traditional ideas of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’) and ‘cultural values’ – with these two domains often converging and reinforcing each other’s entrenchment within a particular sociological plane.

Many cultures around the world have been intrinsically shaped by the religious mores, metaphors and psychological cues traditionally adhered to by the people living within their ambit – with the Abrahamic (monotheistic) faiths having yielded the most societal influence in this regard. In a majority of these faith-traditions, men have been granted a certain superiority over women in accordance with their (alleged) teleological functions of ‘natural’ leadership and guardianship over their micro (home) and macro (national) communities. Women, in contrast, have been ‘fixed’ into their ‘proper’ places within the domestic sphere – and have been functionally associated with the purposes of childbirth, sexual appeasement of the male, as well as taking care of all matters linked to the internal well-being of the living quarters owned by men.

On the Hazards of Nonconformity…

Any deviations from this traditionally established ‘norm’ have not been tolerated well within any society (historically speaking), and even today, fixed gender constructs continue to be enforced as the overarching standards of moral/proper conduct within many communities resident in both the developed and developing worlds. Nonconformists are regularly berated for their deemed ‘iniquity’ in not keeping strictly to the social code (with women always being faced with a perpetual risk of having their ‘reputations’ smeared by any indiscretions that they may have been thought to have committed). Many eastern and south-Asian societies can be considered to be text-book exemplars of some of the social conventions outlined so far.

The 20th-century theoretical conception of Gender Fluidity (an idea whose original proponents can be traced to the timelines of Ancient Greece and Late Antiquity) is largely still seen as a vestment of the academic realm, and its legitimacy is challenged heatedly by all people more used to a conventional and simplistic form of living. This is perhaps most evident in the case of the recently accepted legal ordinances of same-sex and LGBTQ marital unions (in the U.S, Australia, and a host of other western countries) – issues that continue to elicit a great degree of vitriol and ardent protestations from their detractors.

The Way Forward

The sociological terrain, on many fronts’ has been greatly streamlined by the motivations of several cheap cable and internet near me(whose subscription offerings can be considered synonymous with the proverbial ‘first rung’ of the ladder towards personal empowerment). More work – by way of constitutional legislation and legal enforcement initiatives – is needed, however, to exorcize the plague of sexual harassment from society to more tolerable levels (though ‘tolerance’ on this front can be considered, by many authorities, to be nothing more than a façade that betrays an underlying complicity).

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