Sexual Harassment Not Just Found in Military

Article excerpt

Byline: Burt Constable

The 19-year-old woman across from me is petite and cute in her jeans and Nike T-shirt, topped off with earrings and a very dainty silver necklace.

Her looks are pertinent because she is a feminist and I think it is important to let you know she isn't wearing combat boots, a militant lesbian T-shirt and a G.I. Jane crewcut.

"It's like the F-word, people are put off by it," she says of the word feminist. She's even been told, "You're too pretty to be a feminist."

I am not nearly as petite or cute (see photo above), even in my khakis and pinstriped shirt, topped off with a pastel tie and an adorable gold wedding ring.

The reason my looks are pertinent is because I, too, am a feminist and fear describing a woman's looks without commenting on mine is sexist.

Sexual harassment can be a tricky thing, concedes this college student we'll call Sue. A harmless joke for one person can be harassment to another.

While most everyone is outraged by the stories of blatant sexual harassment at military schools, the subtle sexual harassment in our local schools is often overlooked.

"If you become immune to the smaller events, it becomes acceptable and that's the scary part," says Sue, a suburban teen who participated in a sexual harassment "speakout" sponsored by the Northwest Suburban National Organization for Women.

Sue can't remember her first brush with sexual harassment "because I was a kid and it wasn't called that then," she says. But she recalls watching cartoons and wondering, "why do all the females look like Playboy bunnies?"

By junior high, Sue grew weary of boys snapping her bra strap. She fought back by snapping at the boys' privates.

"It didn't accomplish anything because guys thought, 'She's cool with that,' " says Sue, who took to wearing baggy clothes to hide her body. That's no way to live, and Sue still doesn't have all the answers to stopping sexual harassment. …