Education and gender bias

In order to prevent sexual harassment cases in the workplace, sexual harassment training have been set up in some companies (it is even required by law in California for companies with more than 50 employees). But research have shown that it can have reverse effect.

The main explanation could come from the “cartoonish, somewhat unrealistic” examples often shown in those trainings. But more importantly, the consequences are surprising : men who have completed sexual harassment trainings were « ‘significantly less likely’ to consider coercive behaviours toward a subordinate or student as sexual harassment compared with a control group of men who hadn’t done the training » and also less likely to report sexual harassment. Another unexpected consequence is that « after men learned about harassment rules, it triggered implicit gender biases, effectively making it more likely for them to stereotype women ».

This example shows that education has an important but complex role in harassment. Educating society about harassment in general and street harassment in particular amounts to educate about gender bias, as sexual discrimination tends to be the core of the issue.

Stereotypes towards gender remain strong. An example can be found in what many have called “The Man Box”. This box contains stereotypes about men’s behaviours, such as “demonstrate power-control (especially over women)” or “views woman as property/objects”, emphasising the reasons for men to harass women.

Although a lot of seminars, classes, discussion groups, etc. have been set up by companies, schools or associations, the results still remain to be improved and a lot of associations and activists fighting against street or sexual harassment or for gender equality are trying to find different ways to raise awareness on their subject such as art pieces (performances, installations, painting, graffiti, drawing, …), demonstrations (example : the “chalk walks”, organised by Hollaback!, an association fighting against street harassment), but also interactive mapping, video games, poetry or movies.