Communicating to End Sexual Harassment

This post describes the second in a trilogy of events regarding sexual harassment awareness sponsored by the Department of Communication in partnership with the Women’s and Gender Studies and S.T.E.P programs. This week’s event was a panel discussion about the movie Confirmation, which was screened last week.

Highlights

Dr. Isolde Anderson

Isolde Anderson, an organizational communication scholar, discussed the nuanced and varied ways in which workplace harassment is defined, the role of power differentials in harassment, and contemporary research regarding sexual harassment.

Dr. Kristen Gray, Psy.D, LP

 

Kristen Gray drew on her expertise as a therapist to discuss trauma as well as effective scripts for refusing consent.

 

Dr. Kendra Parker

Kendra Parker, who specializes in African American literature and gender studies, used an intersectional feminist lens to explain how racism and sexism were simultaneously deployed against Dr. Anita Hill and to demonstrate how Black women continue to be erased in contemporary social justice movements

Am engaged audience meant that a wide -ranging discussion ensued. Topics discussed included

  • connections between toxic masculinity, rape culture, and the silencing of male victims of sexual assault
  • issues of ableism in conceptualizing harassment and assault
  • tangible advice for expressing or refusing consent
  • contemporary events such as the Larry Nassar trial, Terry Crews testimony about sexual assault before the Senate judiciary, #SayHerName, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings
  • Hope College’s policies regarding harassment and assault

Many thanks to our panelists for sharing their time and expertise. We’d also like to thank our wonderful audience for their thoughtful participation. Our final event is a small-group discussion and storytelling even, which will occur next Wednesday (January 30) at 6: 30 pm in MMC 239. We hope you will join us!

Confirmation: A Study in Sexual Harassment Communication

The Communication Department kicked off a trilogy of events this week by screening the film Confirmation. Partnering with Hope’s Women’s & Gender Studies council and the STEP program, the Communication Department is focused on processing the communicative dynamics of sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement.

The film is a provocative dramatization of the Clarence Thomas hearings by screenwriter Susannah Grant (famous for her Erin Brockovitch script). At no point does this film claim to know which testimony upholds the truth; rather, this film depicts how an entire political institution–the U.S. Senate–was brought to bear against Dr. Anita Hill. Indeed, true to its title, this film powerfully depicts a process that inexorably grinds toward confirmation.

Focusing on communicative dynamics draws our attention to a number of elements. First, the political manipulation of news media, such as the Senate’s staging of the proceedings so that Clarence Thomas’ testimony occurred during prime time and managing the 1-day news cycle. Second, the intersecting nature of sex and race as Clarence Thomas and Dr. Anita Hill faced discrimination and Thomas’ mobilizing of identity politics in his famous testimony that the hearings were a “high-tech lynching.” And third, this perspective highlights the ways in which sexual harassment happens through communication (verbal and non-verbal) and within communicative environments (the workplace, online platforms, etc.).

The Communication Department at Hope College helps students master the art and science of how humans create and share meaning, preparing them to responsibly engage in civil dialogue. We hope you’ll join us for this trilogy of events as we engage with the topic of sexual harassment. Our goal is educating students for responsible engagement, civil dialogue, and an ethic of love and humility. Join us next week for a panel discussion featuring Dr. Isolde Anderson!