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Attention: Chris Barry, 104FM Phone Show host
Dear Mr. Barry,
We were upset to hear the recent comments on the March 5 episode of The Phone Show condoning slapping women’s behinds in the workplace. The remark that women who get upset are “just prudes” or “a bit precious” is disrespectful and serves to undermine women’s autonomy over their bodies. Further, this attitude suggests to women that, to gain acceptance from their male colleagues, they must put up with this type of behaviour and appear to be fine with it or risk being labeled a prude by their colleagues and subjected to further disrespect and ridicule.
Workplace sexual harassment, which The Employment Equality Act defines as “unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” is illegal in Ireland. Contributing to a culture that attacks women who speak up against this type of unsolicited contact encourages men to behave however they wish with the expectation they will get away with it.
Sexual violence is an overwhelming problem in Ireland and around the world. A recent EU Agency of Fundamental Rights study found eight percent of Irish women report having experienced sexual violence, with 28 percent admitting they’d feared an assault in the past year. Though a “harmless” slap on the bottom or comment to a passerby may seem entirely different from a rape, both lie along the spectrum of sexual violence. Of the 55 percent of Irish women who have experienced sexual harassment, 32 percent were harassed in the workplace. To a woman who has experienced sexual violence, this can be extremely traumatizing. If men can get away with “minor” types of harassment, they will be more likely to objectify women and regard their own desires as superior to the interests of the women they encounter. This is the type of environment that allows sexual assault to persist.
We hope you can appreciate the potential negative consequences of broadcasting attitudes that condone objectifying women’s bodies and trivializing their feelings in a world where sexual assault and harassment are a reality for many women. We would greatly appreciate a public apology to the women of Dublin, and would be happy to come on your show to discuss the matter further if you wish.
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