The social problem I chose to do my paper on is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a pervasive problem throughout the world. Harassment can include unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical harassment of nature. Harassment doesn’t always have to be physical, it can include offensive comments or suggestions. It can happen anywhere at anytime. For people my age, it is extremely important to know how critical sexual harassment is on college campuses, especially when college students are out at night.
There are several speech communities that are affected by sexual harassment, however the speech communities that are most effected by sexual harassment and with college students are school, Greek life and professional communities. As we learned in class, speech communities are groups that share values and attitudes about language use, varieties, and practices. In chapter 1 of ‘What Are Speech Communities’ she explains, “While there are many social and political forms a speech community may take – speech communities are recognized as distinctive in relation to other speech communities. That is, they come into collective consciousness when there is a crisis of some sort and their existence is highlighted in relation to other communities”(3). Speech communities are related to sexual harassment because usually the harasser will have a type, or an interest. People in different speech communities are similar to each other because they attribute the same social meanings to certain forms of language use.
Sexual harassment is related to social science. The social science approach explains culture being viewed as a set of learned and group related perceptions. Patterns are developed through interactions in the social environment and with various groups of individuals such as family, friends, and school. Social science relates to sexual harassment because it can help provide information telling which behaviors people consider to be sexual harassment and establishing areas of potentially harassing behaviors. An article of social issues states, “social science research can identify characteristics of both situations and individuals that affect whether behaviors are perceived as sexual harassment. One of the most important situational characteristics is the status of the harasser relative to the harassee. Research on this issue examines whether behaviors are more likely to be perceived as harassment if engaged in by someone of higher status or authority than the harassee” (22). Overall, social science research suggests there are certain behaviors that are seen as sexual harassment by almost everyone. Everyone stereotypes.
Sexual harassments can happen to anyone, any age, boy or girl. For this example, lets focus on a college girl. Stereotyped images of sexual harassment with a young, college girl are seen as what she wears, how she acts, if she’s confident, how drunk she is, and so on. Our society stereotypes women dehumanizing them making it easier to treat women as if women are an object. In college, boys are taught stereotypes to “man up” and to “BE a man”. Or even worse, “she’s drunk, go take advantage of her.” Although these stereotypes aren’t always true, these are a few ways that could potentially lead guys to sexual assaulting girls. Lustig and Koester talk about stereotyping and explain the steps stating, “First, someone identifies an outgroup category – “they” – whose characteristics differ from those in one’s own social in-group. Next, the perceived dissimilarities between the groups are enlarged and accentuated, thereby creating differences that are clearer and more distinct. Sharper and more pronounced boundaries between the groups make it more difficult for individuals to move from one group to another” (123). Sexual harassment starts with stereotypes. It just takes one look from one person to another and you already have an opinion because you stereotyped them.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. In our book, Martin and Nakayama define discrimination as, “behaviors resulting from stereotypes or prejudice that cause some people to be denied equal participation or rights based on cultural-group membership, such as race. It may range from subtle, nonverbal behavior such as lack of eye contact or exclusion from a conversation, to verbal insults and exclusion from jobs or other economic opportunities, to physical violence, and systematic exclusion” (284). Some people who are sexually harassed are discriminated against when there is victimization and not reporting it so it keeps going on. Sexual discrimination affects every community, some more than others. An example of sexual harassment is a man making offensive comments about women based off stereotypes.
We talked in class about oppression. Oppression is an abuse of power by one group at the expense of others. It’s the ideology of the superiority of groups feeling less than. Kapalan states, “Unlike men, who also suffer individually from sexual violence, women decline job promotions, avoid using library resources at specific times, or even all the time (because of the presence of molesters in the stacks) or the University’s computer facilities late at night, even avoid night courses which may be critical to their academic careers, because of the fear of rape. The effect is a form of class oppression”. Kapalan explains how women are terrified to be at certain places at certain times because of men. Women are portrayed as objects and are marginalized socially, physically, and emotionally exhausted.
Overall, sexual harassment has been a pervasive problem around the world and it needs to come to an end. The study of intercultural communication studies different cultures and social groups how they effect communication. Sexual harassment is such an important topic that relates perfectly with our class and the different social groups in our class. I chose this topic because I believe sexual harassment is important for everyone to be aware of, especially being a girl in college. For people my age, it is extremely important to know how critical sexual harassment is on college campuses, especially when college students are out at night. Although sexual harassment may never go away, it’s critical to spread awareness and to stand up for yourself or others who may be a victim. Every person has the right to live free of sexual harassment.
- Frazier, Patricia A., et al. “Social Science Research on Lay Definitions of Sexual Harassment.” Journal of Social Issues, Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111), 14 Apr. 2010, spssi.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1540-4560.1995.tb01306.x.
- Kaplan, Claire. (2012).”The Political/Social Context of Sexual Assault.” George Mason, UVA Sexual Assault Educator, www.gmu.edu/resources/facstaff/facultyfacts/2-1/politicl.html.
- Lustig, W.M., & Koester, J. (2013). “Among US Lustig and Koester, Cultural Biases and Intercultural Communication” San Diego State University, San Diego. file:///Users/anniegonzales/Downloads/Lustig%20&%20Koester,%20Cultural%20Biases%20and%20Intercultural%20Communication%20(1).pdf
- Martin, J.N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2013).”Intercultural Communication in Contexts (6thed.)” New York: McGraw Hill.
- Marcyliena, H.M. (2014). “Speech Communities” Harvard University, Massachusetts. Cambridge University Press. http://assets.cambridge.org/97811070/23505/excerpt/9781107023505_excerpt.pdf