Well, maybe not staring. Occasionally looking, glancing at the feet of a young woman who has taken her shoes off. But for me, a male, even quick, furtive glances are evidence of a sexual impulse taking the mind away from centering down into worship.
Well, it’s the woman’s fault for taking off her shoes! Then again, maybe not. After all, people do want to be comfortable in meeting. God even had Moses take off his sandals before approaching the Burning Bush. So, perhaps bare feet in meeting are no big deal unless someone allows them to be a distraction.
Men who actually stare at women in meeting ARE a problem. Glancing around the meeting house at the faces of those gathered in worship is very acceptable, but a man fixedly gazing at a woman for 8 seconds or more and repeatedly doing so is a subtle form of sexual harassment according to a recent article in Friends Journal.
In fact, we need to be aware of various forms of sexual harassment by men. Complimenting a pretty woman on her body or clothes is inappropriate if the compliments follow a staring episode and are repeated at every first day meeting. Asking divorced or widowed women when they plan to remarry is tasteless as is asking a woman for a date after ogling her in meeting. Of course, if a couple already dating exchange friendly glances, that’s probably quite all right. (They should, however, remember that meeting is for worship, not flirting).
Hugs are ambiguous. If the man and woman hugging know each other well, it’s no big deal; but if the male hugger is a stranger to the female hugee, that’s not polite. Sexist jokes are inappropriate as, indeed, is any humor denigrating another person or group of people. Well, I’m sure readers can add other examples of “subtle harassment.” One problem with such harassment is that there’s a “gray area” where it’s hard to decide whether an action is innocent or inappropriate. There is a large subjective element here. What one person considers A-OK may be verboten for another. But we need to be sensitive to behavioral boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed.
~ Richard Russell
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