The Meaning of Sexual Harassment

The Meaning of Sexual Harassment

Editorial: Resign already, Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo

Resign already, Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo

The following editorial is adapted from an interview published as part of the Council on Foreign Relations’ “What’s Ahead?” series.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times published a story that was the last nail in the coffin of the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. This stunning story highlighted the sexual impropriety of Donald Trump—the man who was the Republican nominee and who was running for office, let alone the president of the United States.

It revealed that Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, lied about his charitable giving, and told a story about how “women shouldn’t be allowed to speak up about their weight in his hotel room.” The story also revealed that Trump and his allies were actively working to suppress the stories of women who had come forward with their own stories of sexual harassment and assault.

For those of us who have been following the issue of sexual harassment across all industries for more than a decade, the Times story was painful to see and an abject reminder of just how far we have come.

When, back in October, I discussed the status of sexual harassment in workplaces for the first time—and that the Obama administration was taking action to reduce sexual harassment—my colleague Amy Swearer asked me whether I would write an editorial. In it, I argued that the Times story was a sobering reminder to all women that while this country is far from perfect, we are nonetheless far from perfect.

This editorial was an exercise in reflection about the meaning of sexual harassment and the way forward for our country. What is the meaning of sexual harassment to the United States of America? Does it mean anything at all? Or is it a simple form of sexual stereotyping and discrimination? It’s a question that I hope many women would agree with me has much more meaning than an oversimplified notion of gender.

In my piece, I argued that sexual harassment isn’t just about women—it’s about all those women. Every

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