Mon, 08 Nov 2010 - 09:06Michael FloodViolence(A shortened version of this piece was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, News Review,on November 6th 2010.)Sexual harassment will only disappear when men take an active role in ending it. Most mendon’t harass, and most don’t condone it. But sexual harassment is largely a problem of men’sbehaviour, against women and other men. Four of every five harassers are male, according to arecent national survey. Two thirds of incidents involve a male harasser and female target, andanother fifth involve male harassers and male targets.Most men think sexual harassment is unacceptable. But too often we turn a blind eye, stay silent,or laugh along, if only to cover our own embarassment. And too many senior male leaders haveoffered token platitudes rather than real action.I support the White Ribbon Campaign, which focuses on the positive roles men can play inpreventing men’s violence against women. The campaign recognises that this violence – whetherharassment, domestic violence, or rape – is a ‘men’s issue’. It harms the women and girls welove, gives all men a bad name, and is perpetrated by men we know. A minority of men treatwomen with contempt, and it is up to the majority of men to help create a culture in which this isunthinkable.Men’s sexual harassment of women often reflects sexist social norms and gender inequalities inpower. It is part of a continuum of abusive and coercive behaviours, including sexual violence.Ending sexual harassment will mean shifting entrenched cultures of sexism and chauvinisticbonding in which women endure a daily ‘dripping tap’ of unwelcome sexual behaviour. It willmean tackling the homophobic abuse, bullying, and violent initiations involved in men’sharassment of other men.Men of goodwill can play a key role. Treat women with respect. Challenge peers who practise orcondone harassment. Speak up when mates are making jokes or comments supportive ofharassment and abuse. And support victims, female or male.Leadership from men at the top is critical. Senior male leaders must become committedadvocates for reforms to build respectful workplace cultures.
We’ll also need education campaigns to undermine the dodgy gender norms which feed sexual
harassment of women: women are sexual objects and men are women’s superiors. Men are less
likely than women to perceive incidents as harassment and more tolerant of harassing behaviour,
particularly if they have traditional attitudes to gender.
Women have led the way in challenging sexual harassment. It’s time for men to step up and join
Dr Michael Flood is a researcher at the University of Wollongong and an Ambassador for the
White Ribbon Campaign