Learning the Law of Sexual Harassment from the Movie Bombshell


Written by Charles Randolph and directed by Jay Roach, Bombshell is a 2019 American drama movie, which is based on an original story. 

In this movie, the issue of sexual harassment is portrayed very nicely by a few top ladies employees of Fox News; so, what all you need to do is – while watching the movie, you need to focus on the sexual harassment issue especially raised and lawsuit filed by Gretchen Carlson, the character played by Nicole Kidman against her boss and CEO of Fox News Roger Ailes.

But some of you might thinking that how will I co-relate the law and incident of sexual harassment through this movie, but be with me, you will not only enjoy the story of movie, but also understand the provisions that explain the sexual harassment and its consequences.

First, I will discuss the meaning of sexual harassment and then provision and finally I will interpret them with the story of movie.

Sexual harassment is a type of unwanted and repeated acts by one person against other; it could be potentially explicit or potentially implicit sexual overtones, which include the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. In fact, Sexual harassment includes a wide range of unwelcomed actions ranging from verbal transgressions to sexual abuse or assault.

So, let’s begin with the legislation; in 2013, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is enacted in India, with the purpose to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. Starting with the application and then definition of sexual harassment along with some other associated terms, the Act also defines a mechanism for redressal of complaints and lastly, it also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.

Likewise, the first question that I would like to discuss in this article is-

What are the acts/actions, which are covered under the sexual harassment?

Following are the major acts expressly covered under sexual harassment:

Pushing someone to have sexual favor especially when one is in an authoritative position; for example, Teachers in schools, professors in colleges, bosses or employers in offices or workplace; or any such person who has power over the other because of relationship or any other reason.

Requests for sexual favors.

Verbal harassment of a sexual nature, such as jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation.

Unwanted or forcedly touching or any other physical contact.

Unwelcome sexual advances.

Chatting sexual relations/stories/fantasies at work, school, or in other inappropriate places.

Feeling pressured to engage with someone sexually.

Exposing oneself or performing sexual acts on oneself.

Sending or showing unwanted sexually explicit photos, emails, or text messages.

Last but not the least that is, Physical acts of sexual assault.

So, this is the comprehensive, but not conclusive list of sexual harassment.

Now come the second question that I would like to discuss that is-

What are the places, where the incident of sexual harassment may occur?

Usually, the cases of sexual harassment may occur on the following places:

Home (never ignore this, home is one of the most vulnerable places of sexual harassment where no one can even guess);

Workplaces or offices;

Educational Institutions;

Religious places, etc.

Now the next question is:

Who are the persons behind this? (I mean perpetrator of sexual harassment).

Relatives (don’t get surprised, close relatives may also be the perpetrator);

Teachers or Professors

Employers or bosses

Or any such person, who is in authority or having the power to give certain command.

Now the next question is:

Why do women allow or tolerate such harassment?

Fear is the only cause that a woman in spite of knowing that someone is trying to take undue advantages she does not say anything:

Fear could be of relationship, I mean, she might lose the relationship.

Fear could be of good report, especially in the educational institution, girls remain afraid, as their oppose may badly affect their report card.

Fear of job loss, especially at workplace, the fear of job loss is the biggest cause.

And, lastly, especially at workplaces, greed of career opportunities in the form of hike in salary and job promotion also influence women not to oppose such sexual favor.

Now the next question is, 

What is the legal context of sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is an illegal act, which is punishable by the respective law. Sexual harassment by an employer is a form of illegal employment discrimination as well. Interestingly, for most of the businesses or organizations, preventing sexual harassment and defending employees from sexual harassment charges have become key goals of legal decision-making, but the paradox is, the incident of sexual harassment is very common in every second office or workplace across the world.

The great example is the movie that I have started with. In this movie, Nicole Kidman, acting as Gretchen Carlson was working in a big news house namely Fox News, but after long years of her service, she has been fired; so, after getting fired, she initiates law suit of sexual harassment against her boss Roger in person; surprisingly, after her, many other women including one of the top employees Megyn Kelly acted by Charlize Theron, came forward and spoke against Roger. And lastly, Roger lost his job and position.

Movie has shown some of the forms of sexual harassment that how a boss manipulates and brainwashes the mind of his female employees to get the sexual favor, which of course defines the meaning of sexual harassment, as I have discussed above and later, it also shows that what are the possible consequences of such sexual harassment. 

So, the last question that I would like to discuss is;

What to do, if you find yourself victim of such incident?

A very short suggestion is, oppose it, confront it then and there; don’t try to compromise, as your compromise may push you in even more dangerous situation and not only this, your consent may also make other women victims of that person and as well as it can make you victim of some other men. So, say no directly, and after opposing, even then someone pursues or threats you, report it to your organization, talk to your lawyer and also file a police report. 

Moreover, Bombshell is really nice movie that not only let us understand the meaning of sexual harassment and related provisions, but also, instills the confidence to take right action whenever something fishy or wrong happens.


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