How to change the conversation on sexual harassment

Occasionally I get an early morning call from breakfast radio when they need a feminist opinion. Now I’m a single mother and morning interviews are hard, there’s the juggle of school lunch, breakfast and getting ready while justifying to a shock jock why women should expect equality.

This week I got one of those calls to talk about the Ross Lyons sexual harassment episode.

Except this time I said no, I was tired. Not because of the early morning juggle but because I was tired of having to justify my existence as a woman.

However I did not say it that politely, I said I did not have the energy to have a discussion about PC gone mad with a privileged middle age white man so he can tantalise his listeners.

Now I don’t expect they’ll be calling me back any time soon. So I thought I would do my bit to help out these producers when they are sitting around trying to find a fresh angle for that age old story of sexual harassment.

1. Talk to the perpetrator not the victim

In its simplest terms sexual harassment is a woman’s problem because we are the victims of it. However it is not our problem to talk about. Running endless interviews and panels with people who experience the harassment talking about their experiences does nothing to further this conversation or come up with a solution. So if you are looking for a fresh angle try speaking to perpetrators and ask them why they feel entitled to other people’s bodies or why the feel it necessary to turn people in to sexual objects.

2. Explore the idea of entitlement

At the heart of sexual harassment is an idea that a person is a sexual being that others are entitled to. It’s about having the right to someone and the right to see that someone purely as a sexual being instead of all their other parts. When we talk about sexual harassment we neglect to talk about this notion of entitlement. Try speaking to an expert, preferably a man (for something different) that can talk about people’s sense of entitlement.

3. How it can stop

Often when we talk about sexual harassment we talk about people’s rights, how they can raise the harassment and where to get help. Yet we never talk about how perpetrators can stop sexually harassing people. It would be much more useful if we could talk about how it should stop rather than what you do when it happens.