Sexual Harassment: The Power of Passive Language
The educator, filmmaker, and activist Jackson Katz makes an important point when it comes to how we talk about sexual harassment and assault. He explains how society has a major problem with how we talk about it, specifically how society uses passive language to describe violence against women.
Katz writes:
“We talk about how many women were raped last year, not how many men raped women. We talk about how many girls in a school district were harassed last year, not about how many boys harassed girls. We talk about how many teenage girls in the state of Vermont got pregnant last year, rather than how many boys and men impregnated teenage girls… Even the term ‘violence against women’ is problematic…It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term, ‘violence against women,’ nobody is doing it to them. It just happens to them…Men aren’t even a part of it.”
While Katz’s words resonate more than ever today in the wake of women coming forward with accusations of sexual harassment and assault against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and the #MeToo campaign on social media, Katz’s statement is not new.
Katz explains that his recently popularized statements on the passive language are actually from a transcription of a speech he made at Middlebury College five years ago. Katz further explained that, “I have been doing and saying this stuff for a long time—the only difference is now people are paying attention.”
While modifying how society speaks about sexual harassment and sexual assault are extremely important and can bring about change, so is being aware of your rights.
In the workplace, employees are protected under federal law as well as state and other local laws. For instance, for individuals living in New York City, they are protected under federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and also, New York City and state laws, which mirror federal laws.
New York City and state laws are strikingly more liberal than federal laws. For example, under the New York City Human Rights Law, the sexual conduct needs to be anything more than a petty slight or trivial inconvenience, instead of the “severe and pervasive” standard of sexually harassing conduct under the Federal law.

If you feel you have been the victim of workplace discrimination or sexual harassment in New York City, Miami, New Jersey or Philadelphia or if your employment rights have been violated, call us at 800-807-2209 for a free consultation to discuss your possible claim. Our attorneys are available to review your claims and prepare a solid case to recover the damages and justice you deserved.

About Derek Smith

Attorney Derek T. Smith is an experienced sexual harassment & discrimination law litigator who has particular experience in the areas of workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, civil rights litigation, employment law and civil litigation.

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