Coverage of sexual harassment claims carelessly blurs lines between minor misconduct and real abuse
Date Written: 08/11/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
It is undeniably a great thing that abusers like Harvey Weinstein are finally receiving their comeuppance, however overdue it may be. But in the aftermath of Weinsteins downfall, were at risk of broadening the definition of sexual harassment too widely.There is a vast difference between genuine sexual harassment, abuse or rape and minor misconduct, flirting or otherwise inappropriate behavior in the workplace (or anywhere else). Yet, in recent weeks, the two have been dangerously conflated.
Have we just decided to do away with the presumption of innocence, or at the very least the idea that these matters should be dealt with through lawyers and courts, not on Facebook and Twitter? Are we supposed to completely ignore the possibility that just maybe, an accusation could be false?
This kind of trial by social media is dangerous. A simple tweet can brand a person as a rapist who deserves to lose their job and have their lives utterly destroyed in an instant on nothing more than the say-so of another person.
A couple of weeks ago, Adam Sandler found himself in the firing line when he touched actress Claire Foys knee twice during The Graham Norton Show. Some viewers were so outraged by the contact Sandler had made with Foys knee that she was forced to release a statement saying she was not angry or offended by Sandlers gesture. If this kind of behavior is classed as sexual harassment or as outrageously inappropriate as some viewers suggested, we appear to be on our way toward living in a completely sterile, robotic and puritanical world where nobody can say or do anything for fear of pious backlash from the political correctness police.
There is also an insulting, sexist and patronizing element to all of this which makes women out to be weak-minded, overly sensitive creatures who cant even handle a sexual joke being told in their presence. Or who are so vulnerable that they simply cant be left alone to fend for themselves. One POLITICO journalist recently suggested that a good way to limit sexual harassment would be to make closed-door meetings in the workplace a fireable offense.
It is undeniably a great thing that abusers like Harvey Weinstein are finally receiving their comeuppance, however overdue it may be. But in the aftermath of Weinsteins downfall, were at risk of broadening the definition of sexual harassment too widely.
There is a vast difference between genuine sexual harassment, abuse or rape and minor misconduct, flirting or otherwise inappropriate behavior in the workplace (or anywhere else). Yet, in recent weeks, the two have been dangerously conflated.
Since the deluge of Weinstein revelations, weve seen other scandals emerge whereby some man or other may or may not have flirted inappropriately without reciprocation years ago. The fact that these kinds of minor accusations are making headlines and being portrayed as sexual misconduct or outright harassment is disturbing, to say the least. Not to mention, the irresponsible conflation of the two is an injustice and an insult to women and men who have experienced real harassment or rape at the hands of a genuine abuser.
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