Your colleague Jean-Michel called you “my little one” again when you had just finished the presentation you had been working on for days. During this meeting, you were interrupted multiple times. At the break, yet another joke about blondes was told. Since you became a mother, you no longer count the reflections on your lack of availability. For women perceived as non-white, these remarks are often mixed with others on their origin, their appearance… “Sexism is racialized”, describes Marie Dasilva, strategy coach and author of “Survivre au taf”. “North African women will have to face orientalist clichés. For black women, the “mysogynoir” describes this combination of sexism and racism, the hair of black women is thus very scrutinized, just like their body. A young black woman was thus reproached for dressing in a vulgar way while her skirts arrived at knee height, her tops were not low-cut, ”she continues.
On a daily basis, these sexist acts rot the professional lives of women and have an impact on the progress of their careers. However, it is not easy to know how to react individually when one is a victim or a witness. The one – more rarely the one – who marks his disapproval is quickly accused of “lacking humor” with the eternal refrain: “We can no longer say anything. The temptation is therefore to shut up and grit your teeth. “Silence is a strategy, but it is damaging in the long term, because it encourages escalation. On the side of the witnesses, silence is complicity, ”warns Marie Dasilva.
Ask the management
It is possible to resist to rely on the Labor Code. This one is very clear. “No one should be subjected to sexist acts, defined as any act linked to a person’s sex, the purpose or effect of which is to undermine their dignity or to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”, stipulates article L.1142-2-1. Since March 31, the definition of sexual harassment has been aligned in the Labor Code with that of the Penal Code: it is in particular a question of “repeated remarks or behavior with a sexual or sexist connotation which either undermines one’s dignity because of their degrading or humiliating character, or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation against him” (L.1153-1). The repetition that characterizes sexual harassment can be the work of several people and there is no need for consultation between the protagonists.
Collective action can reduce these behaviors. Elected personnel and trade union organizations must therefore take up this question. There is no shortage of courses of action: training elected officials and activists, putting up posters to raise awareness and of course questioning management. The employer must take all measures to put an end to situations of sexual harassment of which he has been informed, but he must also act upstream to prevent them from occurring.