Your Reasonable Statement Can Be A Silencing Statement

Women should be able to tell men “no” directly.

Women should be able to report harassment and abuse openly and publicly.

Women should be unafraid to use official channels to report harassment.

Those are reasonable statements.  I’ve actually said them before.

But they can also be used to silence and minimize reports of harassment.

In this very straightforward (and pretty obviously hostile work environment) article about the work environment at Zillow there’s a telling comment:

Unfortunately, I think “TheTruthIsHere” means that the bigger problem is with the victim, when the bigger problem is society.

Reality is that women frequently don’t feel safe or comfortable saying “no” to guys, that they frequently don’t have faith in official channels, that they frequently fear (and are given reason to fear) being public about having been harassed.

Their experiences are blamed on them (“What did you do?”) or worse, minimized (“I’ve had worse happen and I dealt with it.”).

Right now, those in leadership positions must communicate and demonstrate that they will take reports seriously.  It is only by understanding and reaching out to others at their comfort level that we will create an environment where women need not be afraid.

Right now, telling women that they must report harassment in certain ways, or must respond in certain ways, or that what they’ve experienced isn’t so bad only communicates that you don’t care.

Keep that in mind when people react badly to your “reasonable” request.

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