The Gatepost Editorial: A watershed moment

The cover of the December issue of Time Magazine featured five stoic-faced women all dressed in black.

Who are they?

The Silence Breakers. These five women – Ashley Judd, Taylor Swift, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu and Isabel Pascual are representatives of the hundreds of courageous men and women who have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment committed by celebrities and lawmakers.

The men and women who have come forward represent a courageous and awe-inspiring percentage of survivors of sexual assault, but there are still thousands of stories that remain untold.

While waking up every morning to headlines of new sexual assault allegations can be disheartening, we are at a watershed moment where people in positions of power are finally being held accountable for their salacious actions.

While watching people finally be held accountable for their despicable actions in the workplace is important, the fight for equality and respect for women in the workplace continues.

The Associated Press recently published an article with the headline “Will misconduct scandals make men wary of women at work?” The article detailed how some men are now “terrified” to work alone with women because, in the wake of the Silence Breakers, some men are afraid their actions will be misinterpreted as sexual harassment.

Some men are refusing to be alone with a woman in an office.

Some men are refusing to speak to women one-on-one in the workplace.

Some men, like our vice president, refuse to be alone with a woman and refuse to speak to women without their wives present – as if women are luring men into a trap, like sirens to sailors on the open ocean.

With millions of young women in school, working at internships or just starting out in the business world, what kind of message does it send if men are afraid to speak to them?

It’s asinine to assume being alone with a woman implicates inappropriate behaviors.

Children in a kindergarten classroom understand what harassing another student looks like, men should know what it looks like when they’re making another person uncomfortable with their actions.

The excuse that men are concerned that their actions could be misconstrued as sexual harassment is, in a word, ridiculous.

Men who respond like this are part of a larger systemic problem. This wariness, as the article puts it, undermines the courage of the Silence Breakers and others who have spoken out.

While this is a national problem, it is important for students to understand the implications of an issue like this as well. It is imperative FSU students understand they are responsible for helping to change a culture in which someone believes “innocent” actions could be misconstrued as sexual harassment.

The Ram Student Handbook defines sexual harassment as sexual behavior that is “made either explicitly or implicitly  a term or condition of an individual’s employment or education,” or “conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual.”

Examples of sexual harassment provided in the Handbook are sexist remarks, unsolicited and “unnecessary” touching, pinching or patting of another person and sexual assault.

As college students, we are the next generation to enter the workforce. It is up to us to change the culture of that workforce.

Rejecting the behavior of past generations and creating a new, healthy environment for young men and women to work in is imperative. Following in the footsteps of the Silence Breakers, use your voice to affect change.

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