Recently we have seen a lot of women, politicians and Hollywood actors talking about sexual harassment of women by powerful men like Harvey Weinstein.
These current stories took me down memory lane in the period of the Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas sexual harassment hearings as if it happened yesterday. I do not see that anything has changed since then.
We need to understand what leads to these behaviors. It is not only men who engage in sexual harassment of women, but there are numerous powerful women, from political, business and educational fields who were engaged in sexual harassment of men.
Some of these behaviors are learned, culturally conditioned and sanctioned. Sometimes politicians and vested interests manufacture those conditions, giving rise to those behaviors.
It happens in every culture. In India it happens in the form of atrocities on lower caste women when they ask for dignity, respect and fair wages. However, when it happens to higher castes or women in power, then they make the news headlines in the controlled media.
In America, one major problem I see is that women are not speaking out against the advertisement industry, especially involving alcohol, beer and sports. We see in our living rooms and also in movies how women are being projected as sexual objects or symbols rather than living and breathing souls, our mothers, sisters, spouses and daughters. When I was growing up in India, I was trained or conditioned that all women who are of my age or younger I need to accept and respect them as my sisters, and all women older than me as my mother’s sisters. I was trained and conditioned to accept all the spouses of my real brothers and cousins as my bhabhis.
However, in the Western free world we often project women as “sexual objects or symbols” in sports arenas, on liquor and beer bottles, and also on trucks selling liquor. We watch on our TV screens how our players and young men are drooling over beautiful women, especially over cheerleaders (in short dresses).
We, as human beings, learn more from incidental learning, which is defined as “informal learning that takes place without any intent to learn, it is any learning that is unplanned or unintended. It develops while engaging in a task or activity and may also arise as a by-product of planned learning.”
The last few days have made it clear that the pervasive, demeaning and degrading harassment women face in political circles is a problem that goes beyond partisanship and everyone is accountable. We, as Democrats, must continually strive to advance equality for all. The bipartisan #WeSaidEnough movement started by Adama Iwu is a clarion call to do better immediately.
Even our Bollywood queen, Priyanka Chopra, mentioned that there are too many Harvey Weinsteins in Hollywood. Women should also take it upon themselves to teach their children and brothers during the early stages of development about how to respect women and also work to stop negative portraits of women in the media, movies and in sports.
If we want to address the issue of sexual harassment, we need to take into account a total picture. We need to address these issues in our living rooms. We need to be social advocates so that our daughters and women are not portrayed in the movies, in TV serials, on liquor commercials, stores or bottles as sex symbols.
I wish my daughter and all other future daughters to be safe and live with dignity and respect in the times to come.