The Trades Union Congress (TUC) report which claims workplace sexual harassment is on the rise was produced with “destructive” feminist campaign the Everyday Sexism Project, which critics say risks “making all sexual advances ‘misogynist'”.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady and Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism, have today hit the media circuit to publicise the report, which alleges that the majority of women have been sexually harassed at work.
The two women have called for “urgent action” on sexual harassment at work which they claim damages women’s mental health, leaving women “ashamed and frightened”.
The main finding of the study, entitled “Still just a bit of banter?” was that 52 per cent of women reported having experienced sexist harassment while at work.
Employing a loose definition of sexual harassment, the report notes that respondents’ most common complaint was “hearing comments of a sexual nature about other women”. Thirty-five per cent of women reported having heard such comments.
The next most frequently cited concerns were hearing “unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature” and “comments of a sexual nature about body or clothes”, reported by 32 per cent and 28 per cent of respondents, respectively.
Nearly a quarter of women said they had experienced “unwanted touching (such as a hand on the knee or lower back)” while one fifth of respondents reported to have had “unwanted sexual advances”.
The TUC publication noted that the proportion of black and minority ethnic (BME) women reporting that they had experienced sexual harassment was identical to the average. However, it warned that BME women face “double oppression” and so their experience of sexual harassment is “bound up with racial harassment”.
Cautioning that sexual harassment is not a “one-off incident”, the study said that half of the women who reported having suffered sexual harassment said they had heard “unwelcome sexual jokes” more than six times in their lives.
The report also counted sexual harassment via the internet, and unwanted advances that took place travelling to and from work as workplace harassment.
Ms. O’Grady, said sexual harassment is “undermining, humiliating and can have a huge effect on mental health. Victims are often left feeling ashamed and frightened and it has no place in a modern workplace or in wider society.
“Employers must be clear they have a zero tolerance attitude to sexual harassment and treat any complaint seriously.”
Ms. Bates demanded employers take “urgent action” on workplace sexual harassment, which she said has “no place in 2016”.
“These findings reveal the shameful extent of the problem and the reality of the touching, unwanted advances and inappropriate comments women find themselves confronted with while simply trying to do their jobs”, the feminist writer added.
“Unwanted advances” as sexual harassment are discussed throughout the report, but the term is not defined. The Everyday Sexism Project has attracted criticism for risking “making all sexual advances ‘misogynist’”.
David Foster, writing in the Guardian, argued that the campaign “lumps together sexual assaults and genuinely threatening behaviour with casual propositions”.
Dr. Belinda Brown at UCL has described the website and its brand of activism as “destructive”, contending that its brand of feminism “tears men and women apart”.