As allegations of sexual harassment continue to flood into society, let’s be clear that sexual harassment is not the problem but the symptom. The problem is patriarchy in which women are defined as less than men; in which the disease – power imbalance – is what causes the symptoms i.e. domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, infanticide, femicide, prostitution, etc.
Nearly every woman I know has been sexually harassed. At my first interview in Arizona for a legal job, the managing attorney took me to lunch. But nearly as soon as we sat down, he put his hand under the table high up on my pants-suited leg. I knocked his hand off me with much force. Neither of us said a word about it. I, however, proceeded to order the most expensive thing on the menu, a drink and dessert!
While waiting to take the bar exam, I tended bar in a neighborhood saloon in east Mesa. I was cooking a hamburger in the kitchen when the boss walked up behind me and put his arms around my shoulders. I picked up a large knife that was lying on the counter, turned around and said, “Take your (expletive deleted) hands off me.”
He backed up. “Oh, you are one of those, are you?”
Still wielding the knife, I said, “I don’t know what one of those is, but if it means keep your hands off me, then yes.” I fully expected a pink slip. I never got it. I suspect he was testing the waters and when he found that the shoals were too dangerous, he stayed out.It’s really simple. If you wouldn’t want your daughter, sister, wife or mother treated that way, don’t treat someone else’s daughter, sister, wife or mother that way. If you wouldn’t like to be treated that way yourself, don’t treat others that way. Most of us learned that in kindergarten. Why is it so hard for men to understand this? It’s the imbalance of power that creates a feeling of entitlement on the part of men, especially those in power.
We won’t stop the pervasive physical, verbal, sexual, emotional and psychological assault that girls and women experience from birth to death until we correct the imbalance of power. A new statute, a change to the criminal law, or a tweak to the EEOC guidelines will not stop sexual harassment. We need a completely new paradigm. Sex is not a commodity. Sex is not a weapon. Sex is not a perk of power. So what can be done? Pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Initiate quotas for all appointed and elected positions. Stop the attack on women’s bodily autonomy. We need a fundamental paradigm shift to end the thousands of years of unrelenting violence toward women and girls.
— Dianne Post is an international human rights attorney with 37 years of experience, on the board of State NOW and ERA Task Force Arizona.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.