Cheeky Laughs (2) – Being a woman – Harassment

© Maro De Angelis

We pursue the publication of the synthesis of the debate and of the cartoons presented during the Conference held at the festival “Internazionale a Ferrara – 2018” (#intfe). A conference organised by Librexpression, with three great cartoonists: Marilena Nardi, Anne Derenne and Zainab Fasiki. The second part of the conference dealt with a too common situation: sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment

For those who can see the glance is unstoppable, it gazes to the world around oneself, turns from the ugly and stops on the beautiful. It is said that the gaze is the door of the soul, but it can also be the expression of concupiscence. The first contact between two people passes through the gaze and this first impression – often contradicted later – determines the empathy, the sympathy or the antipathy that one can feel versus the other. The gaze is also the vehicle of sexuality and sensuality, of desire or repulsion. Desire is expressed by the gaze and vice versa. In the man-woman relationship there is always a game between the woman who tries to please and the man to conquer, so the man watches and the woman is looked at but also looks to be looked at. It is the basis of femininity expressed, particularly in fashion, in makeup.

Glances and whistles

However, it would be false to consider that only men watch and desire, even women like to look at men and they too feel desire or can be sensitive to the beauty of a male (or female) body and feel desire for it. This is the great game of desire, sensuality and sexuality. For desire to exist, and may conduce to a sexual relationship, men and women must accept that they are a sexual object in the other’s phantasm. The absence of desire creates social disorders, push to the search for something else, of pure immediate pleasure (even solitary) could also lead to the end of sociability.

Obviously, this does not mean that accepting to be a sexual object in the phantasm of the other is to accept being in phantasm of any other or everybody. Because before being a man or a woman, a human being is first of all a person and as such must be respected, whatever is his sex and beyond all form of sensuality and desire.

Inappropriate glances

Desire does not mean the immediate satisfaction of it, the expression of this desire through aggression or sexual harassment too often considered by men as proof of virility. It does not mean that the acceptance of being a sexual object in the phanasm of the other should lead to off-site behavior, in the street, at work, in professional relationships or in the family, as it too often happens. To look does not mean to undress with the gaze, to desire does not mean to satisfy the desire, touching, hugging, harassing, to consider the woman as a prey to hunt, etc. Because desire must be shared, it must result from a free and respectful choice from both willing partners.

Harassement at Work

This simple good sense unfortunately seems far from the reality experienced by women. Both the European and the United Nations’ statistics converge to describe the excessive shameful attitudes of men: 55% women, on average in the EU28, have been confronted with one or more forms of harassment, these being of many kinds:
– Unwelcome touching, hugging or kissing,
– Sexually suggestive and offending comments or jokes,
– Inappropriate invitations to go out on dates,
– Intrusive offending questions about private life,
– Intrusive comments about physical appearance,
– Inappropriate intimidating staring or leering,
– Sending or showing sexually implicit pictures, photos or gifts,
– Indecent exposition of body or sex,
– Obligation to watch or look at pornographic material,
– Unwanted sexually explicit emails or SMS messages,
– Inappropriate advances on social networks…

Danger in the street

Such forms of harassment are making women’s lives difficult, if not dangerous, at home, on the street, at work… An unacceptable state of play that must be stopped.

For more information on harassement and sexual violence:
– UN Women – United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of women. Link to “Fast facts: statistics on violence against women and girls”
– Consequences and costs of violence against women and girls:
– European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA): “Violence against women an Eu-wide survey. Main result report”, March 2014. Link to download the report:


Economist and historian, director of the Center LIBREXPRESSION, Foundation Giuseppe di Vagno

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