By Natalie Webb
Any woman can relate to an experience where her body was up for public comment or up for literal grabs by men. Street harassment is a common complaint, but this sort of thing is also an all too common occurrence in the workplace.
According to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Capitol Hill is no different. Lawmakers–They’re just like us!
Gillibrand said, in excerpts from her forthcoming book, Off the Sidelines, more than one of her male colleagues made comments about her weight, calling her chubby, fat, and porky. One Senator grabbed her waist and said, “Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby.”
While some have questioned whether or not this actually constitutes harassment or even fat shaming, the EEOC is pretty clear on its definition of harassment. Hint: Yes. It is.
With thousands of cases of harassment and sexual harassment are brought every year, 70 percent of victims say they don’t report it. Harassment happens at all levels of employment, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that it happens among our esteemed lawmakers–in fact there is a long history of it.
We live in a culture where this sort of behavior is too easily dismissed and women, Sen. Gillibrand included, are forced to deal with it and even excuse it in some cases:
“It was all statements that were being made by men who were well into their 60s, 70s or 80s,” she says. “They had no clue that those are inappropriate things to say to a pregnant woman or a woman who just had a baby or to women in general.”
The fact is that our leaders, people we elected into office, are clueless about how to respect their female colleagues and women in general. Our culture still hasn’t progressed to the point where the sense of entitlement to comment on a woman’s body, or touch a woman’s body without her permission is unacceptable. Our lawmakers are a very public reminder of that fact.
Natalie Webb is the Director of Communications and Digital Media for the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI)
Follow Natalie on Twitter at @_N_Webb