Sexual Harassment is not Cool!

In my attitude change project, I will be targeting young boys between the ages of 8-12 to try to alter their attitudes towards sexual harassment.  I will mainly use the central route to persuasion as it has a more lasting effect in terms of attitude and behavioral change. The program includes a lot of different activities, videos and movies that create an engaging setting for children to grasp their attention. Each video and activity is aimed to target a particular set of attitudes, either cognitively based attitudes, affectively based attitudes or cognitively based attitudes. For example, the movie La Mo’akhza will be screened to target the children’s affectively based attitudes as they empathize with the teacher being sexually harassed. Consequently, according to the empathy-altruism hypothesis, they will learn to help women or girls who are being sexually harassed. This particular video is self produced and it focuses on changing children’s cognitively based attitudes towards sexual harassment. It depicts a group of friends in which the “cool” kid sexually harasses, and although his friends think it is wrong, they do nothing about it. However, on a given day, their friend Beethoven is present and he stands up for the girl being harassed, and explains to Chris that what he is doing is wrong. The video ends with Beethoven’s name being chanted, while “Say No to Sexual Harassment” appears on the screen. The video itself is self explanatory but the attitude change is more dependent upon the discussion that ensues. Simplistic explanations of the bystander effect and conformity will follow, guiding the students on how they should act in certain situations where sexual harassment takes place. Furthermore, the video highlights how the children’s descriptive norms are not true. The video is one part of a complex program that will hopefully change children’s cognition and construal of harassment and decrease sexual harassment rates in Egypt in the near future.



We are in a parallel universe. There is neither an evolutionary approach to explain sex differences, nor does psychological essentialism exist. In this universe, our universe, gender roles are reversed; gendered division of labour is in favor of women, where they are more dominant and hold most positions of power. They have an immense social influence on men’s construal and on all societal structures in general. In fact, the president and her secretariats were just discussing yesterday the possibility of enlisting men in the army! They believe that it is a decision that will raise men’s self-esteem and one that will not limit gender stereotypes to personality traits; in other words, a decision that will encourage elaboration. But can you imagine! Men in the army!!! I also heard the other day, that some factories have started manufacturing trucks for boys to replace their barbies! How ludicrous! Is someone trying to change our gender schemas here?

Whats going on? Hasn’t there always been high consensus towards a social hierarchy with women superior to men? Maybe it’s this new movement known as the male rights movements. I know, I thought it was strange too! I mean, doesn’t the stereotype emphasize that men should only be househusbands? They need to be home to take care of the kids and to do the cooking! Nevertheless, menists are using the most absurd defensive attributions like, “But the only reason we are househusbands is because of the self-fulfilling prophecy! Its not our fault!”  Huh? If thats actually true, shouldn’t they try to prove “us” wrong? Assuming of course that there’s an us and a them here. Even if they tried to prove us wrong though, what good could they be in the “outside world”? They’re all the same, anyway!

Oh wait, that’s the out-group homogeneity effect! Well, maybe they’re a little diverse; after all, some men do curl their hair better than others and they kind of get creative with nail polish! Yet, I still can’t help but conform to gender classifications, for when I automatically think of men, I think….househusband! There is even cross-cultural agreement on that. I have a thought, though. If categorization is based on roles and functions, which are affected by the self-fulfilling prophecy, then that means that by creating gender clusters, subtypes, and schemas we cause people to act in a way that coincides with our original categorization. It is all a cycle then, where our actions and beliefs of a certain person cause him to act the way we think he will, therefore, reinforcing the original stereotype. I guess that is the basis of the social role theory, which suggests that characteristics pertaining to gender, are rooted in social roles and occupations. Nonetheless, there are definitely some cases of gender deviance, such as the man who tried to run for president before! That was surely odd; however, we’re very unlikely to disconfirm our idea of gender roles based on a few exceptions.

On the contrary, some Psychologists have been trying to prove that instead of the two fundamental modalities (where men must have extremely high communal competence and women are high on agentic competence), men are now increasingly more competitive and independent, while women are developing emotional and interdependent qualities. What’s up with these Psychologists? I swear, its like the second we get all our heuristics in order, they have to come up with a new study! They’re trying to hint that we should be gender blind, you know, promoting equality and supporting the male rights movement and all. They should know that being gender blind is impossible! We’ve already been conditioned and primed to believe in stereotypes. The furthest we can go is perhaps encapsulation and evaluation, where we learn to create and perceive subtypes that contain “exceptions to the rule.” But who sets the rules, and what are considered exceptions?

According to the cultural approach and social learning theory, gender is the byproduct of a social structure that encourages a specific way of gender socialization; children observe specific gender expectations and begin to fulfill them. For instance,  daughters accompany their mother’s to football matches, and so, they grow up with the notion that girls must watch football. Similarly, boys who watch their father’s cook, do the laundry and dishes, learn by default that they should grow up and do the same. As a result of years of this kind of observational learning, no controlled thinking is really required when we later “perform gender.” Not only that, but the way we perceive ourselves is also affected. Girls will usually develop a growth mindset and a strong self-serving bias, because of the positive external stimuli that they are receiving. On the other hand, due to society’s constant pressures, boys are very likely to have extremely low self-esteem. The fact that boys are expected to starve themselves to be “perfect” and how they are considered “objects” to be used, are factors that contribute to their fixed mindset; they believe that their qualities cannot be cultivated.

Before we go back to reality, here are some pictures of our parallel universe.

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Now, lets go to a different kind of reality, or perhaps a parallel universe in our own world: Blood Indians who reside in Alberta, Calgary.

They are a people whose culture has adopted very similar gender socialization to our parallel universe; their women are the primary providers for the family, while their men stay at home to take care of the kids. About eighty percent of Blood men are unemployed and when asked who the provider is, they agree that it is the woman. However, it would be a major fundamental attribution error to assume that Blood Indians are intrinsically motivated to lead this kind of lifestyle, for it is the situation that is in control. The reversal of gender roles is due to the high education rates of Blood women that allow them to obtain jobs, and it is not because of a particular social structure. It is not a surprise then, to learn that women still stick to “feminine” activities such as knitting and cooking, while men lose their self-esteem and resort to alcohol and physical abuse. It is here that the evolutionary approach provides the most sufficient explanation, as it claims that sex differences are biologically based. Accordingly, when Blood Indians were given the chance to reverse roles and ignore any kind of gender schemas, both men and women still went back to their “natural” preferences.

Perhaps the evolutionary approach gives a valid explanation, but it would make no major difference to understand why we live in a patriarchal society if there was no chance for that to change. Shouldn’t the question then be, whether it is possible for our parallel universe to one day be a reality? Could the Blood Indians be the initiators of that world, or are they merely the last people to adjust to the gender-based hierarchy that is in favor of men?

Here are a few images of the Blood Indians.

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Protected: I am not the words my mother used to call me

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Are you a Bully too?

         It was a completely random day at school, and I somehow found myself sitting with a guy that I don’t usually see a lot. We started talking and then all of a sudden he blurt out, “You were such a terrible person in the ninth grade!!” I asked him why, and he said, “You told me I was weird, but you said it in such a terrible way!!” I was shocked at his comment because it had been three whole years since that happened (I couldn’t even remember) and he was obviously still hurt! Does that mean I was a bully?

It probably does, and it makes sense to me now! Why I bullied him, I mean. Naive Realism. I was so convinced with my own definition of “normal”, that I considered anything else as weird or bad. I gave very little value to individual differences, and as far as I was concerned, if you didn’t perceive things the same way I did, then you were wrong, and I would do my best to tell you that you are! I guess that’s why construal comes from the inevitable need to be accurate. . . Anyways, the fact that he was very introverted and sat alone all the time was a bit unfamiliar to me and I tried to explain that in terms of his character (weird), completely disregarding the situation itself. Perhaps people do that a lot. Enough times to coin a term for it, at least: “fundamental attribution error“… If my peer hadn’t approached me, I would’ve never known the negative impact that my words had on him! Think about that! How many people do we bully and not even know it? Are you a bully too? That seemingly insignificant conversation really highlighted social influence for me. The power of one word, one action, one gesture…it can linger on in a person’s mind long after the incident itself has happened. And we are part of that social influence whether we like it or not.

A video on bullying as a form of social influence.