Stuck or broken systems is my label for rigid and out dated sex roles defined by families, churches, schools, organizations, and government and applied to gender. That means there are clearly defined role expectations throughout our culture for women and men. We “live in these boxes” as we go through life, and when we step out of the boxes that are defined, the response from the culture, the organization, and individuals is to apply “psychological group pressure” to get us to step back in. Those who DO NOT comply are punished in some way. Punishment can result in being ignored or ostracized, denied opportunities, recognition, or promotions….it can result in physical violence…and it certainly takes the prominent form of sexual harassment in the work place.
Women are the victims and hopefully eventually survivors of sexual harassment at work when they do not speak, act, behave in the manner expected. Those expectations rarely have anything to do with job definitions/responsibilities….rather everything to do with the unspoken role definition for women … which is being “less than” men in speaking up, in taking leadership positions in conversations, in confrontations, in simply being a healthy powerful individual who has ideas, opinions and would like to express them…oh, and is not interested in sleeping with the men she works with!
The truly challenging concept to “accept” is that women “as a group” are defined by our culture/society/our SYSTEMS as powerless. If you immediately go to the position: THAT IS NOT TRUE because of so many powerful, successful women you can quickly list, just pause and consider the GROUP definition. Women’s roles (and consequently those of men) did begin to change in the 1960’s and 1970’s as a result of women themselves making hard choices about alternative directions in life. Regardless, systems did not change; and when systems stay stuck, we “drift back” to old behaviors and attitudes. The assessment of those roles today? Pockets of change are every where, at every age, from millennials to boomers, but change in role definitions is still slow.
Thankfully our society has countless successful, well educated, talented women in positions of power — throughout society. These are women who have stepped outside the box/role defined for them as a result of being courageous enough to not allow themselves to be limited by traditional definitions of women’s roles. They are also likely to have been reared in families where gender limitations were addressed; attended schools that encouraged them to use their brains. And although more and more women do step out of their traditionally defined roles, there is still considerable pressure in both behavior and attitude that pushes back.
The recent reporting on the sexual harassment cases at Fox News is a good example. If you’ve followed the news you have picked up information that “casts doubt” on the veracity of the reports — not a lot, just a little — enough to support those who don’t really believe it, or perhaps don’t want to. And some of the women are apparently still fearful of the long term negative impact on their careers. AND further, there are suggestions that some women, and thus some of the women at Fox used their sexual attractiveness for advancement. Do I believe there are women who do that? Certainly I do.
In fact when girls and women grow up without learning how to exercise power in a healthy manner, some try to gain power through the negative behavior of mothering men, acting childlike and helpless, and sexual manipulation. I also believe those behaviors are exceptions, and that those exceptions are used as evidence that “most women do it.” That is more unconscious bias creeping into thinking, creating the opportunity for broad brush strokes against women in general. Learning how to be as powerful as one is capable of being — to take back the power given away, consciously or unconsciously — in a healthy way, typically has to be learned through trial and error. Regardless, it’s worth it to learn, to step into power!
Until we “fix broken systems” sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination will continue in every relationship — one on one in marriages/partnerships; in families; in any organization you can name. Men need to join the protest against system permission to discriminate — to speak out — to support women. When women and men partner in efforts to promote system change, everyone benefits. The rigid role definitions and unrealistic expectations on men also begin to shift and change…. and stress begins to lessen. Go for it. Help make a difference.
And if you want to learn/read more about systems and unnecessary stress, please look at two of my books: Release From Powerlessness: Take Charge of Your Life and Your Personal Stress Analysis.
Listen to Dr Moore and Mike Manko discuss sexual harassment and broken systems on SteveAndMikeRadio.com.