I feel that the distinction of using a “reasonable woman” when identifying instances of sexual harassment is harmful to this type of training. My primary concern is that this feeds into the misconception that only women are victims of sexual harassment.
Our textbook defines sexual harassment as the “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature” (Noe, et al., 2015, p. 78). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) further clarifies harassment in general to include the use of “offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, [and displaying] offensive objects or pictures” (Harassment, n.d.). These definitions are not exclusive to harassment against only women. A statistic cited by Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D., in Psychology Today states that 16% of harassment claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are file by males. When training is given using only females as examples, they are promoting the stereotype that only women can be the victims of harassment in the workplace.
My second concern with using “reasonable woman” as the standard for harassment examples is the insinuation that harassment claims filed by “unreasonable” women should be discounted. Who makes the determination whether a woman is reasonable or unreasonable? All claims of harassment should be taken seriously and investigated. This includes harassment reported by both male and female employees, and regardless of whether the person is considered reasonable or unreasonable people. Heck, labelling someone as reasonable or unreasonable is itself a form of harassment!
Behavior that makes someone uncomfortable has no business in the workplace.
Judging by what I have seen, the “reasonable woman” is a commonly used standard in most any working environments or professional settings. I think that the “reasonable woman” is both helpful and harmful. This can be a good thing when sexual harassment is actually occurring but it could also be harmful if sexual harassment is called but is not actually occurring.
According to the U.S. Equal opportunity Commission, “sexual harassment can be defined as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and physical or verbal harassment (U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission). With such a variety of ways that sexual harassment can occur, a standard like the “reasonable woman” certainly needs to exist. A good example of sexual harassment occurring could be a person saying something inappropriate to another person and it was made clear that they were uncomfortable with what was being said but the situation continued on.
I also think that there have been many cases of miscommunication that is automatically labeled as sexual harassment thought it was intended to be innocent in nature. Being in the military I have heard many stories of sexual harassment, some cases being true accusations and some not. Most of the stories involve a male sexually harassing a female which seems to be why the standard is called “reasonable woman.” I think there are many cases where sexual harassment is called but not actually occurred and the person that is blamed for it gets punished for it which is why I think the standard could be harmful as well as helpful.
Please respond to a minimum of 2 students. Responses should be a minimum of 100 words and include direct questions.
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