I am so glad the words ‘sexual harassment’ are in every newspaper and article I read right now. I am glad perpetrators are being accused, and I am glad that assaulted women and men are coming forward and shaping a better tomorrow.
Amidst the incredible cultural movement taking place, I decided to dig deeper into the matter by reading Gretchen Carlson’s amazing book, Be Fierce.
Carlson is an author, American television personality and the Chairwoman of the Miss America Board of Directors. In 2016, she filed a lawsuit against Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes claiming sexual harassment. After her claims, other women came forward and also accused Ailes of harassment.
Carlson decided to speak up about sexual harassment in the workplace. While writing her book, hundreds of women came up to her and told their own stories – some from 10 years ago. It is unbelievable what some of these women have been through.
In the book you will find examples of women who decided to tell their own stories, as well as ideas about how we can attack this problem from its roots and how we can work together to end it. The book offers legal advice on what to do in case you ever find yourself in this situation and last but not least, it urges readers to remember that if you are a victim you should never, ever, keep it to yourself.
In Mexico, only 40% of cases of sexual harassment in the workplace are reported and it is not even considered an occupational hazard. Any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment must be considered sexual harassment. Let’s be clear about something: harassment in the workplace doesn’t need to involve physical contact. Sexist and intimidating comments also constitute harassment.
Carlson mentions in her book that “being professional in this industry means learning to accept a certain amount of that kind of talk” – referring to inappropriate comments. As I read this line, I froze. Why is it that some men believe they have the power to address women in this manner? Women can be afraid to speak up, and this has got to change. As Carlson says, “sharing your story is the first step and every time a new woman steps forward, a few others see they can too.”
She mentions a man who thanked her for what she is doing for his daughters, and I think this marks a very special and crucial moment. From an early age we must empower our daughters and raise them to be bold, to identify any form of harassment and most importantly, never to feel guilty or oppressed by this kind of behaviour. In her chapter ‘Men Who Defend’, Carlson talks about how many men have reached out to her in admiration of what she is doing and everything she has accomplished. I agree with her: men have to get on board and fight this battle with us, the misconception is that this is a women’s problem rather than a problem concerning us all as society.
We have to raise our voices, not only so that the message that harassment is unacceptable reaches everyone, but also so that it is well received and empowering. As we all know, harassed woman are still not believed when they finally decide to speak up. There is often doubt towards their testimonies, there is often ‘slut shaming’, there are often questions – why was she silent all these years? Why was she wearing that? Why is she such an attention seeker? Why can’t she take a joke?
Sexual harassment is not contained to the entertainment industry; it’s in many industries, many work places, it’s everywhere. We are living in a historic time of unity. Be part of this change and if you’re currently being harassed within your workplace don’t be afraid to seek help, as Carlson advises: keep a copy of every email, photograph or text as evidence of your harassment and speak up. Companies must implement internal procedures so workers know what to do in case of harassment.
To all of you who are or have been in this unfortunate position, I want you to know that you are strong and brave, Hollywood wants you to know that time’s up, and Gretchen Carlson wants you to know that you are fierce.