A Pandora’s Box for Michaelene
The older I get, the more I discover that I am still the little girl with a strange mix of one who loves myself, but oddly feels uncomfortable in receiving compliments from others and awkwardly reacts when someone gives attention to me. I guess other than being really shy, a part of it roots out growing up in the town where people shove in my face their self proclaimed right to tell me frankly what they think about me from little catcalling on the street, to the eyeing of the neighbors, to being asked out by a random jeepney driver, or receiving disrespectful messages giving a comment about everything I do, and how I look. And as I grow older, I realized that they were not just in the town where I spent more than half of my life.
They were everywhere.
When I was younger, all I have to do when someone did wrong to me was tell about it to my parents and my parents got my back solving the problem being the best superheroes. Then, everything is rainbows and butterflies. Perhaps, you are too, but what will we do when we are an adult now? and the paradox is another adult is messing up this adulthood?
LEARNING FROM MY FIRST TEACHERS
My discipline to listen to my parents’ rules and warnings saved me from many dangers. The first time I heard about Sexual Harassment, Acts of Lasciviousness, Intriguing against honor, and Abuse didn’t happen anywhere else in this world. It was from one-on-one trainings I had from my parents at home back when I was in elementary to my teenage years of high school. Those were conversations happening before leaving the house to go on a beach outing, before going to bed hoping for a future sleepover, a night swimming, or wise advice to learn after hearing something on the news. Briefings which started when I was 6, and way too early as 5 and 4 to my younger sisters before stepping out the door: “Don’t talk to strangers”, “If ever you get lost, you know the drill”. The drill is to go back first to a spot where we agreed to meet before shopping or watching a movie in a cinema in case anyone gets lost. If we do not find each other, ask help (to the guard, cashier or so), tell them my parents' full name, and give them the piece of paper in my pocket with my parents’ name written on it, our address, and our telephone number. I never get lost for my awareness of just thinking of it made me appreciate that a simple “never let go of momma’s hand, and tatay’s hand” as they love to say always will go a long way and safely bring me home. It is not that my parents are careless, it is just that if you have 3 daughters almost at the same age, it is a struggle. Oh come on, I heard many parents tell me that one toddler is enough to cause a storm in their house. Imagine now my parents having a baby, a toddler, and a preschooler everywhere they go?
Yep, a beautiful disaster.
My parents were my first teachers, they were my first survival skills trainers. They trained me and talked to me as if I was a little adult. They saved my life from many dangers for what they have invested in me, but when I was little, I get easily scared, and when I turned into an adult, I get easily ashamed.
TAKING BABY STEPS
Sexual Harassment which is happening towards us gives us the same feeling as being scared and ashamed no matter how old we are, or how prepared we are before it happens to us. My advice is as long as you know what Sexual Harassment is and what is not, don’t be afraid. Take the baby steps. Speak up, talk to your harasser, report it to either a family member, a friend, a manager, a teacher, or our government services.
LIVING THE ADULT LIFE
When I celebrated my birthday this year, my phone rang many times than I expected, and for three days, I was answering phone calls and video calls from my friends and families from different sides of the world. It was unusual, I guessed the pandemic gave us more time to connect. A handful of birthday cards were received, read, and displayed on my bookshelves up until today, and many social media greetings received their respective thank yous — because I felt special that I am in their thoughts. The bottom line is my heart is happy because they all have good things to say and they remembered me. Each year, each birthday becomes the best birthday ever! What’s different this year from all the other birthday years I had is the reality that I cannot deny that I am, indeed, an adult now. So, conversations like I’ll be a godmother for another child who will see this world, a friend is getting married soon to what’s the best insurance, or brand of hazelnut drink will always be part of the catching up. One thing that struck me this year, however, are birthday greetings of people ending with a question:
“why are you not dating yet?”
“why are you still single? you are this… and that…”
I never answer them. I do not need to explain to adults — like me.
But for the record:
1. Because it is my choice.
2. We all deserve to be respected.
This entry is not written to tell you about timelines of life and so. This is not also written to give you another to-do list of be open, but guard your heart, wait but not seek, and sweet talk of there’s someone out there waiting for you.
This is to tell you that no one deserves to be harassed.
I learned that our bad experiences or bad stories can be a lifesaver to others. It can be a lesson both for us and others. So, although this was just published today. This was a week in the making, and a month on my mind thinking if it is necessary to share this.
By now, you know the answer if you’re reading this.
This is written for you. This is for the younger people I love dearly in my heart. May this educate you and empower you. This is for the men and women of my age, and for the adults who continually survive and live for their peace and upright life. This is for people who suffer from being sexually harassed, and for the generation who needs to be aware because when they were growing up, it was just a norm, or perhaps, it was a bad behavior hiding in the word “courtship”, or a lust of the flesh pretending “it was just a joke”.
Hi! It’s me Michaelene. Yes, the name you are seeing on the “photo” above, but that stick figure is not me. Maybe you are wondering why my name is on the title of this article and on the mug. I can’t believe either. We’ll make lemonade out of this lemon situation. Take a mug of coffee or tea (not from a pervert creepy somebody). Sit down, keep reading my friend because today, I will share with you what Sexual Harassment is, and we will raise awareness about it today.
Big Topic? No, it’s not. Believe me, one way or another, from my end to yours we have been a victim of it. So, at some point, we can understand each other.
I hope we never need to ask what it is, but we all have to because Sexual Harassment happens almost every day that it almost becomes normal. Imagine if it happens to you, to people you love, to younger kids? So, it is important to know what is sexual harassment and what it is not.
So what is Sexual Harassment? US EEOC defines it as an “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and any other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature”.
Harassment can happen to anyone based on their:
Age, Sex, Race, Creed, Color, National Origin, Sexual Orientation, Military Status, Disability, Marital Status, Domestic Violence Victim Status, Gender Identity and/or, Criminal History
Sexual Harassment can happen to anyone — male and female — and it may happen anywhere.
If you’re a student, it can happen between your classmates and you, or between you and a person in a position in your school (e.g teachers, principals, CAT officers, organization leaders).
In the same way, it can happen too in your workplace between your coworkers and you, or you and your managers.
It can happen between married couples or two people in a relationship.
It can happen physically, verbally, virtually, and digitally.
Along with physical and verbal, with the increase of time, we spend virtually and digitally, more and more harassers may be reaching their victims through these ways because they can say and send to them what they want anonymously, which they cannot say and give to them in-person.
Here are some facts on which spells out the specific of harassment:
- Gender is not an excuse: The victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man (babae o lalaki). The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex. (pwede din na babae sa babae at lalaki sa lalaki).
- The harasser can be anyone who is in a position, or who is not in a position.
- At work, the harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee such as customers and clients.
- In a school setting, a harasser can be the victim’s teacher, or the victim’s student, a classmate, a parent of a classmate, a faculty member, a co-worker, and a non-employee in the school.
- The victim is not always the person harassed but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. He/She does not have to be the person harassed.
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur w/o economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
- The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
- Harassment can happen if an employee or a student is harassed because she is a female and not a man, or she is a man and not a female.
The world we live in taught us that affirmative consent is “Yes means Yes”, but lightly highlights that “No means No”. Sexual harassment is happening almost every day that inappropriate behaviors are not clear on when it crosses the line of illegal harassment.
Remember that harassment happens not only to women. It can happen to anyone. It must be unwelcome.
How does the mug I received fall into a form of Sexual Harassment instead of just being a “silly”, “funny” “gift”?
“Sexually harassing behavior may include conduct of a sexual nature and conduct which is merely based on the sex of the victim” (The Advocates for Human Rights).
1.WHAT DOES “CONDUCT” MEAN?
Conduct is NOT sexual harassment if it is welcome. For this reason, it is important to communicate to a harasser either verbally or in writing in regards to the conduct which makes you uncomfortable which you wish to stop.
2. WHAT DOES “OF A SEXUAL NATURE” MEAN?
“This term is generally thought to mean actions, language or visual materials which specifically refer to, portray or involve sexual activity or language”.
When Verbal or Written:
It might appear simple and we might feel sometimes comfortable with it because it has been happening since then. But it means comments about your clothing, your body, or your personal behavior. It can be sexual or sex-based jokes, green jokes; requesting sexual favors or repeatedly asking you out to date; sexual innuendos: telling rumors about a person’s personal or sexual life; threatening a person, sending emails or text messages of a sexual nature.
It means that it constitutes assault; impeding or blocking movement, inappropriate touching of a person, or a person’s clothing. Hugging, kissing, patting, stroking, touching.
(Pag-harang, pag-sukol, pag hawak ng parte ng katawan o damit, pag-akbay, pag-yakap, pag-halik, pag-tapik, at etc.)
It includes looking up and down at a person’s body.
Derogatory gestures or facial expressions of a sexual nature, following/ stalking a person.
It refers to posters, drawings, pictures, screen savers, emails, texts of a sexual nature.
3. WHAT DOES “Non-sexual Conduct” MEAN?
Non-sexual conduct may also be sexual harassment if you are harassed because you are a female, rather than male, or because you are a male, rather than female. Furthermore, “Sex-based harassment is more difficult to describe. It is conduct that occurs because of the sex of the intended victim but is not necessarily sexual in nature. Examples of this kind of behavior are an offensive joke that does not refer to sex, but the joke is told to embarrass a person because she is a woman, a statement that a female employee belongs at home or is not suited for a particular job because she is a woman and conduct referring to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions” (Advocates for Human Rights).
In a short overview, Sexual Harassment is
-repeated request for dates
-complimenting about their body
-looking up and down to their body
-blocking them when they are walking
-touching them, or their clothes
-saying derogatory words
-saying sexually suggestive words
Not Sexual Harassment
- giving a co-worker a b-day card
- giving a high five
- complimenting a hair cut
-giving a gift that is welcomed and accepted
Again, conduct is NOT sexual harassment if it is welcomed. So, it is important to talk to your harasser verbally or written regarding the conduct you wish to stop. If you can have an advocate to talk with him/her you can also do it. However, after giving notice either verbally or written to stop your harasser in doing the conduct he/she is doing which make you feel uncomfortable, yet he/shecontinues to do it, and as a result, it is “violating the dignity [you] or a person, and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” (AHU). Let a person in position, a manager/supervisor, a teacher/principal, a mother/father, a relative to help you with communicating, and prevention mechanisms, policies and strategies that are crucial to the effort to combat sexual harassment in the workplace or in the school. (I’ll try to write about this next time).
For now, it is important to DEFINE IF IT IS SEVERE OR PERVASIVE?
The conduct of a harasser must be either severe or pervasive to define if it is sexual harassment.
For instance, although a single unwanted request for a date or one sexually suggestive comment might offend you, or it may be inappropriate. It may not be Sexual harassment. However, a number of relatively minor separate incidents may add up to sexual harassment if the incidents affect your work environment or your learning environment. (Although it is not a valid excuse, it is still important to remember that we have different cultures, so always communicate)
IT IS IMPORTANT TO ASK YOURSELF
Does the conduct unreasonably interfere with your work or performance in your school or your workplace? Does it create an “intimidating”, hostile, or offensive work/ learning environment? If yes, it may be sexual harassment. So, assess the situation:
How many times did the incident occur?
How long has the harassment been going on?
How many others have been sexually harassed?
Who were witnesses to the harassment?
TYPES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT:
1.QUID PRO QUO: Translates to “This for That”
A person in a position of authority, typically a supervisor, or a teacher demands sexual favors as a condition to getting or keeping a job benefit, or maintaining a high grade.
*coerce- pressure, intimidate, force
Workplace: A supervisor coerces an employee into a sexual relationship and then rewards the employee with a promotion or other benefit OR a supervisor denies promotion to an employee because he or she rejected a sexual advance from the supervisor.
School: A teacher, intern, tutor, or a faculty member coerces a student into a sexual relationship and rewards the student with a high grade, a position in an organization, a club, or other benefits OR a teacher threatens his or her student that she or he will drop the student if the student rejected a sexual request from the teacher or a faculty member.
2. HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT
Typical examples of behavior/misconduct which may constitute evidence of a hostile environment include:
-making jokes, making explicit language, or making offensive comments.
-displaying pin-ups calendar, screen saver, screen background, or sexually demeaning pictures.
-subjecting another employee to unwelcome sexual advances or touching.
It is important to recognize that anyone in the workplace, or school may create a hostile environment.
This includes all people in position and authority, also a client/customer. In the same way, one may create a hostile environment in a classroom. This includes students and people in position, visitors, PTA
More examples of creating a hostile environment:
- Playing sexually suggestive music.
- Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or posters.
- Touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting a coworker’s back, grabbing an employee around the waist, or interfering with an employee’s ability to move
- Unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive words on clothing, and unwelcome comments and witty responses.
Not everyone, especially the younger people is aware, or has been told what to do when things such this arise. So, as someone who learned from experiences knowing that I can make something good out of a bad experience, and make it a lesson for many. This is written for you! Please share it with others.
— To extend the conversation, I am volunteering for a Sexual Harassment training/conversation for free, especially for the people in The Philippines. Contact me and I’d love to give a 15–30 minutes SH training for students and anyone interested. Preferably in the summer as my schedule frees up. Save one another. Love one another.
To request this post in Tagalog, kindly let me know.
*michaelene’s notes from her sexual harassment training. The final edit will take place soon. (just squeezing this).