KiP student workshop tackles sexual harassment

Hanine El Mir
Staff Writer

The KIP Project’s multidisciplinary conference ended, but the team’s efforts to eliminate sexual harassment and discrimination continue to take place on campus, with a training workshop that took place on Saturday, April 8, as one example.

The workshop was divided into four sessions, each tackling an aspect of sexual harassment, and was tailored for younger students.

The first session, given by ABAAD representative Anthony Keedi, introduced people to the difference between gender and sex and how the constructed differences between masculine individuals and feminine individuals have shaped the current power dynamics.

The speaker explained how conditioning a male to behave in a certain masculine way from an early age contributes to the normalization of sexual harassment.

The second speaker, Ghina Ghanem, is a project manager at LebMASH – the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health – with a background in clinical psychology and gender and sexuality studies.

Ghanem aimed to give people a comprehensive definition of consent, as well as introduce them to concepts like rape culture.

The session started with a list of ground rules. Seeing as these sessions were meant to be more interactive and include participation from the audience, Ghanem asked the audience to help her come up with the list of rules for the discussion, such as “no judgment,” “respect each other,” and including “trigger warnings” before telling a sensitive story.

With the help of the audience, Ghanem then defined consent as something that is freely given, after an informed decision, when the person giving it has the ability or capacity to give consent.

“Under no circumstance does a ‘no’ mean ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’,” Ghanem added.

There are two types of consent being attitudinal and performative. Performative consent can simply be a “yes” or “no” answer. Attitudinal, however, has to do with what’s going on in their mind, their behavior, and their attitude and the cues they give.

Attitudinal consent isn’t always enough, as Ghanem explained, “Cues for consent are not consent.” It’s important to never assume someone is consenting.

Halfway through the session, the participants stood up to take part in an activity that required them to move around the room and answer statements with “agree” or “disagree” while Ghanem read scenarios for them.

Ghanem and the participants later defined sexual harassment as unwelcome, unsolicited, and unwanted comments or actions of a sexual nature that could be verbal or physical.

The session was concluded through defining the concept of “rape culture,” which was first coined in the 1970s by second wave feminists. It’s when sexual abuse is condoned and normalized through societal attitudes, images, jokes, and practices. It trivializes sexual violence. It’s the idea of “boys will be boys” when it comes to holding rapists accountable for their actions.

The third session of the day was about sexual harassment at the workplace, given by FAS Career Services’ representative Sinine Nakhle, who aimed to teach the participants that sexual harassment can happen in the subtlest of ways, but be very difficult to deal with.

The session gave real-life examples of harassment incidents, in which Nakhle had the participants argue whether the women in the examples “did the right thing” and later invited them to rethink whether they can ever really categorize a response to sexual harassment as “the right one.

The services sector is one with the most women, who make up 91 percent of it. Women are expected to be attractive and work in this type of jobs because their appearance increases sales.

Nakhle added that the shift toward a new services economy  facilitates instances of sexual harassment because it puts women in spaces where they are expected to play out a “degree of gender norms” by being“feminine”, “beautiful”, “happy”, “agreeable” and “caring.”

At the same time, the woman is expected to be strong and assertive, but not too assertive.

Lebanon doesn’t have legal backup when it comes to sexual harassment, however, Nakhle did mention that the MP Ghassan Moukheiber recently submitted a proposal of a legal definition of sexual harassment.

Nakhle concluded the session by giving the audience examples of what they can do to fight harassment in their workplace.

The victim has the option of going formal, like reporting, in which Nakhle recommended that they always document it with an email.

Companies should also establish a policy prohibiting sexual harassment and create procedures to implement that policy as well as instill educational programs.

The victim could also decide to stay informal by creating a climate that disapproves of sexual harassment and reaching out to supportive colleagues. Humor is also another tool for early boundary setting. “Every joke is a tiny revolution,” Nakhle quoted George Orwell.

At the same time, the woman is expected to be strong and assertive, but not too assertive.

Lebanon doesn’t have legal backup when it comes to sexual harassment, however, Nakhle did mention that the MP Ghassan Moukheiber recently submitted a proposal of a legal definition of sexual harassment.

Nakhle concluded the session by giving the audience examples of what they can do to fight harassment in their workplace.

The victim has the option of going formal, like reporting, in which Nakhle recommended that they always document it with an email.

Companies should also establish a policy prohibiting sexual harassment and create procedures to implement that policy as well as instill educational programs.

The victim could also decide to stay informal by creating a climate that disapproves of sexual harassment and reaching out to supportive colleagues.

Humor is also another choice. “Every joke is a tiny revolution,” Nakhle quoted George Orwell.

The last session, which was given by Nadine Mouawad on behalf of the Association for Progressive Communication, progressed into technological information that most participants hadn’t heard of.

Mouawad started the session with an anecdote about smart cars, which are driving human driven car companies out of business.

The speaker then noted that just like that, the leading photography company today is Instagram, which hires zero photographers and drives actual photography companies like Kodak out of business.

The biggest hotel company in the world right now “owns not a single hotel room.” Corporations call this the “shared economy.”

Mouawad went on to say that the people making these decisions, taking part in what’s left out of the internet and what’s kept, are most probably not women.
The gender gap when it comes to people who have access to the Internet is 200 million, meaning that there are 200 million less women connected than men.

Right now, companies are taking away the option of being anonymous with the claim that it protects criminals. Facebook has a new policy that forces the user to use their real name and phone number. “Anonymity cannot be separated from our identity as queers, as women,” Mouawad added.

Mouawad concluded the session after giving examples of how to be secure online, but the audience didn’t want the session to end and kept asking for more information.

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