What is the difference between sexism, sexual harassment, and harassment and abusive behavior?
What is sexism? The word sexism is often misused because its basic word is sex, which in Danish has to do with sexual acts, while in English it can also describe gender, and is used as a non-sexual term, explains Mille Mortensen, who researches abusive behavior in the workplace at the University of Copenhagen.
"It creates confusion about the meaning, but sexism has nothing to do with sex. It is purely about gender. "More specifically, it's about discrimination based on gender," says Mille Mortensen.
Examples: "When Sofie Linde, e.g., talks about unequal pay between men and women, that is sexism. When a nightclub let one man in for every four women, enter that's sexism," says Mille Mortensen.
What is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment can be touching, lewd comments or jokes. It is characterized by a physical or verbal sexual act that is uncomfortable and inappropriate for the recipient.
The definition of when something is sexual harassment is up to the recipient to say, "This is where I draw the line". It is written in black and white in legislation that the intention behind the action is subordinate, explains Mille Mortensen.
Because it is up to the individual to define when something is sexual harassment, it is a broad concept that covers both very serious and less serious situations, says the researcher.
Examples: Having your hand shoved up your dress is an example of a crude nature. I think most people would recognize the touching of body parts, we associate with something sexual transgressive, says Mille Mortensen.
A less crude example could be a group of employees talking about horoscopes. Someone says, "I was born under the sign of Scorpio", and a colleague replies, "They're known for being super horny". Some will laugh at it, while others would find it uncomfortable," she explains.
The comment "You have a nice ass in those pants" can be perceived as sexual harassment, explains Mille Mortensen.
But sexual harassment can also be when a big TV personality threatens a young female employee with ruining her career if she doesn't give him a …. job, as was the case with Sofie Linde, says Mille Mortensen.
What is abusive behavior? Abusive behavior can be many things and is a collective term for bullying, sexual harassment, and the like.
Abusive behavior can be divided into three categories: Personal, work-related, and characterized sexual, explains Mille Mortensen.
You may feel offended if someone says something derogatory about your ethnicity, sexual orientation, or appearance. Or you may feel that you are ignored in the workplace and not listened to, or having tasks taken away from you without any justification. It can all be perceived as harassment," she says.
When harassment is characterized sexual, it is the same as sexual harassment: It can be verbal comments or touching with a sexual underlining, says Mille Mortensen.
Overall, the term 'offensive behavior' should be seen as an umbrella term for several different forms of harassment that are not only sexual in nature.
Examples: -Being excluded from the work community is an example of offensive behavior. Comments about your sexuality can be perceived as offensive. And receiving compliments of a sexual nature or being groped are examples of offensive behavior, explains Mille Mortensen.