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Are women immune to sexual harassment?

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Summary of story from Jezebel, April 3, 2011

A recent study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science says that sexual harassment is so commonplace for women, they’re totally immune to it.

Okay, well, not exactly. But it does say that, for women, sexual harassment was not distressing when they saw it as “bothersome”, only when they saw it as frightening.

The study says that these findings do not suggest that sexual harassment is less distressing for women than it is for men, but that the evidence found in this particular study may point to different ways the sexes “approach and respond to it.”

“People tend to underestimate the impact of sexual harassment on men,” says Isis Settles, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University.

“Typically [men] haven’t had a lifetime of experiences dealing with sexual harassment and may not know how to deal with it when it happens to them.”

That’s definitely an interesting point to glean from this study, as it lends itself to the idea that sexual harassment may be a solid example of gender bias.

Men are generally less-exposed to sexual harassment, therefore it doesn’t exist, therefore they shouldn’t be upset if they experience it, therefore everything is fine, fine, fine. Et cetera.

Perhaps women have learned to ignore sexual harassment for a myriad of reasons, but it does not make it any less of an issue, not any more than the men in this study who seemingly chose to ignore the harassment and/or told themselves it wasn’t a big deal makes the sexual harassment of men less of an issue.

In general, the sooner we can take topics like sexual harassment and rape out of the “This Is Only A Female Issue” box and recognize it is a human issue that affects everyone, the sooner we can stop pretending it isn’t there, because maybe —and hopefully— one day it won’t be.

WVoN comment: Given the results of this report, it seems strange that sexual harassment is so much of an issue for women that organisations are springing up to tackle it, such as Hollaback! Read our article on how women are fighting back.

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