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Harassment that is based on gender is referred to as gender harassment. Often, this term is used in cases in which a woman is harassed simply because she is female, but men may face gender harassment, too. Essentially, the term gender harassment encompasses behaviors that are insulting or degrading toward a person based on gender. It can also include behaviors that are hostile or threatening. A person need not be touched in a degrading or hostile way to be a victim of gender harassment; it may take physical, verbal, or non-verbal form.
Often, gender harassment takes the form of sexual harassment. When this occurs, a person may receive unwanted sexual advances that are physical in nature. For example, a woman may be touched inappropriately in the workplace. Sometimes, however, the sexual harassment is not physical; instead, the harasser may make unwanted sexual comments to the victim or within her earshot. In many cases, this type of harassment starts out subtly, and the victim wonders whether she is simply being overly sensitive; over time, the harasser may grow more bold.
Most people are aware of sexual harassment, but are less familiar with other types of gender harassment. With non-sexual harassment, the harasser may make comments that indicate his hostility toward or low opinion of people of the opposite gender. For example, he may make hostile comments that are degrading or hostile toward women but claim they are jokes. In other cases, he may make it clear that he is serious about the comments. Often, the comments or behavior of the harasser make the environment, often a workplace, intimidating or offensive for the victim.
In some cases, gender harassment occurs in the form of pranks. For example, a harasser may play demeaning or intimidating pranks on a coworker or employee. In many cases, he may claim that these pranks are just for fun. If they demean, intimidate, or offend those of the opposite gender, however, this may be considered harassment.
Sometimes gender harassment may take the form of non-verbal affronts directed at a particular gender. For example, it may include the circulation of written documents that contain offensive materials or hostile material that is posted on a bulletin board. Degrading, hostile, or intimidating materials may also be circulated via email in some cases. Graphic depictions that are degrading or offensive to a particular gender can count as gender-based harassment as well.