Tag Archives: Workplace

Tilda

Preschool I was called over to the corner of the playground where the teachers couldn’t see. Two slightly older boys took turns flashing me. I was shocked and frozen to the spot until a teacher came and dragged us all away. Junior high • A male teacher asked if I was going to join the running club, and said I should because I had “nice, long legs.” High school • A story came out the newspaper about how a prominent football player at the school had been accused of raping a girl. I knew him, and had been classmates with his younger brother at the private school where we’d all attended junior high. I watched boys joke around and laugh with the younger brother about the incident. I also watched numerous employees and families from my old school and church defend the older brother and say things like, “It’s not true. He didn’t do it.” They never mentioned the girl at all, but were victim-blaming by being rape-apologists. It was the first time I’d witnessed this, and it certainly affected my thoughts regarding rape, the Christian community, athletes and their privilege, and later, the act coming forward as a rape victim. • I was talking to my friend at her locker when a boy we knew came up behind me and mimed humping me. • In biology, a boy passed me a note suggesting we play the question game. I said okay. His questions were things like, “What size is your bra?” and “How far have you gone with a guy?” There was nothing I really wanted to ask him, but I answered his questions anyway. • My chemistry teacher was the cross country coach, very young and fit and pretty. Once a week was Lecture Day, and she’d spend the entire period at the front of class talking. I sat in the back row next a boy who would always masturbate during Lecture Day. I made eye contact with him once while he was doing it, and he just looked at me like, “What’s the big deal??” I felt embarrassed, but even more so for my teacher, who never knew it was going on. Since then, I have become a teacher myself, and this incident continues to haunt me. • I had French class with this one boy and since our previous classes were near each other, we often walked together. Once, walking through a crowded hallway, he put his fingers down the back of my pants. He said he was just trying to hold on to me so he wouldn’t lose me. I was shaken and don’t remember anything about my next classes except frantically biting my fingernails. It happened again in the following days, until finally I grabbed his arm, yanking his fingers out of my pants, and I pushed him away. He acted as though he didn’t know what he’d done wrong and I had no reason to be upset. • My high school boyfriend would sometimes whip his penis out in stairwells at school or on the school bus, expecting me to give him a hand-job. I did, because I thought I had to since I was his girlfriend. I didn’t like doing it in public though. • When I was a junior, a couple of senior guys catcalled me on the way to class and I ignored them. They treated me like I was uptight and cruel for the rest of the semester. • Once, during class, a couple of guys told me I had “DSL.” When I asked what that was, they said, “Dick-sucking lips.” • At lunch one time, I added a packet of flavor powder to my water bottle and began to shake it. My lunch table, all boys, erupted into laughter. One of the boys, my boyfriend, told me that the way I was shaking the bottle looked like I was giving a hand-job. I didn’t know any other way to shake a bottle. • At homecoming, I was approached by a boy who asked to dance with me. I started grinding on him, because that’s how everyone was dancing. I could feel him getting a hard-on and he groped me while we danced. I didn’t make a big deal about it because I figured that was what would happen when you danced like that. • Once, while talking to my crush, a couple of his friends who were sitting nearby started talking about my breasts and looking through a water bottle at them, to magnify my cleavage, I guess. I heard, “You can always see them.” It made me feel embarrassed because I was very obviously within earshot. My crush didn’t make any indication that he’d heard or cared. • The summer after high school, I lost my virginity when I was raped by a guy with whom I’d been on a date and was friends. Afterwards he told me not to tell anyone. A few days later, I saw on Facebook that he’d started dating another girl. I was in denial about what happened and victim-blamed myself; it took me awhile to understand that I’d actually been raped. The next several months were very traumatic for me, characterized by feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression, disordered eating, insomnia, and even self-harm. Later I found out that I wasn’t the only one he’d raped or sexually assaulted. I talked to his high school girlfriend, and she encouraged me to go to the police like she had. Unfortunately, we both went too late for rape kits to be collected, and they only had our testimonies. I didn’t think we stood a chance if it came to our word against his, especially since he’d been a football player in high school and was known in the community. I didn’t want to endure the strain of a trial, and I didn’t want my family to have to either—especially because I didn’t tell them about what happened. They still don’t know. University • Told by an athlete, “Let’s see you smile!” as I was walking to class. • A group of fraternity guys were tabling outside the Student Union and shouted at me to ask if I wanted to buy tickets to some function. I ignored them, so they continued to shout at me, saying things like, “Are you depressed? Why are you so sad?” while laughing. • At a bar near campus, a guy approached me and said something about how I was pretty but he wanted to see me smile. He placed his hand on my thigh as he said so. I told him firmly, “Don’t touch me.” He put his hand on my thigh again as he leaned in to ask, “Sorry, what did you say?” I repeated myself even more forcefully: “Don’t touch me.” He pulled a face and threw up him hands in an exaggerated “my bad” gesture and walked away, like he was the injured party and I was humorless and uptight. • When I was studying abroad in Madrid, I went out one night to a nightclub with my friends. We got separated, so I decided to walk home alone, even though I was terribly drunk and had already been sick in the bathroom. As I was walking down the sidewalk, I was approached by an older man. He grabbed my butt as he passed me and whispered “guapa” in my ear. I kept going and tried not to think about it, but he must’ve circled around the block, because I saw him again and he repeated his previous actions. I didn’t like that it happened (not to mention twice), but I was relieved that I got home safely and nothing more had occurred. I told myself that it could’ve been much worse. • In my Masters program (for secondary education), we were having group discussions. A question was posed: “Are boys and girls educated differently?” I was in a group with 3 men—2 of whom specialized in STEM subjects—and after I gave my opinion, they admitted that they’d never considered that girls might be educated differently. They were like, “Huh.” At least they started thinking about this before becoming licensed teachers. In the Church • As a member of a non-denominational youth group at a church in the Bible Belt, I once sat through a horribly sexist sermon. The pastor put items on a table at the front; among them were nail polish, a football helmet, an iron, and a Barbie doll. He invited two volunteers—a boy and a girl—to come up and divide the items into the categories of “boy” and “girl,” while the audience was allowed to shout out their suggestions. Of course, the football helmet went to the “boy” side of the table, and the nail polish, the Barbie, and the iron went to the “girl” side. That was the first time I started having second thoughts about the Church. • As a senior in high school, I went to my church’s fall retreat. Prior to the trip, we girls were made aware of the unofficial dress code by female youth leaders. We couldn’t wear “those kind of shorts that show your underwear” (they were referring to Nike running shorts, which have liners); we’d have to wear leggings or long spandex shorts under any short shorts we wanted to wear. Bathing suits had to be one-pieces or tankinis, and if we wore bikinis, we’d have to wear non-white shirts over them. It was so weirdly specific. We were told that classic church cliche, that we had to protect the boys’ hearts and minds. “The retreat is for them too,” one youth leader said. But not for us girls? I thought. We don’t get to relax. Instead we have to be on guard 24/7. A lot of the time, this is what it’s like to be a woman or girl in the Church. You come in second to the men and boys. While biking • I was with a friend and we saw a two male cyclists riding towards us on the trail. My friend was about to greet them (as she does with everyone when she’s biking) when they wolf-whistled at us. So instead, we flipped them off. • Another time, while biking with the same friend, she was almost run off the road when two male cyclists rode towards us. One was in our lane and refused to move over, even though there was no way he didn’t see us. We both stopped, because she was stunned; I was mad, though. “Dude, what the heck,” I yelled, while raising my arms in confusion. Both male cyclists ignored me and kept riding. • I was making my way home after a ride when an older man sitting on his porch shouted sexual comments about my body (specifically my butt and legs) at me. It left me embarrassed, scared, and angry—enough to diminish all my feelings of accomplishment following a 20-mile ride. At work • In college I worked at a fast food restaurant. Men (much older than me) who worked in the kitchen would make disgusting sexual and sexist comments about me. Often I and/or my managers were within earshot. I could’ve complained or called HR, but I knew that because of the industry I was in, my complaints would’ve been futile. • I worked for a salsa company for a short time and occasionally served samples at my local Whole Foods. Once, while sampling a cranberry-orange salsa, I got mansplained by a guy who asked, “Is this really a salsa though? I feel like at a certain point it’s just a fruit spread.” Here, I felt stuck because the first rule of retail is The Customer Is Always Right, but I also wanted to defend the product. So I said politely, “Well, the first ingredient listed is tomatoes, and it also contains chili powder, red peppers, and jalapenos.” He responded, “Yeah, but is it really a salsa?” I told him, “It says ‘salsa’ on the label…” He said, “Yeah, but I feel like there’s only so many ways to make salsa,” before walking away. I should point out that this guy was a gringo—white. And I’m part Mexican. I know salsa. At the gynecologist • I’d heard the “born-again virgin” message plenty from the Church, and while I didn’t necessarily love the Christian ideology behind it, I liked that the concept was shared in other circles and communities. It seemed very feminist and empowering, for women and survivors of all genders, not to have to claim their rape as a meaningful part of their sex life or history. I liked the fact that it didn’t have to matter. Except it does, as I found out the first time I went to the gynecologist and had to fill out forms, listing the number of sexual partners I’d had and the age at which I’d become sexually active. As much as you might like to, you can’t ever really forget, or deny, the non-consensual sex to which you were subjected. You’re forced to remember and acknowledge it, and if you’ve been trying to forget it, you’re made to feel like you bought into a lie. • I’m queer and have sex with men and women. The last time I was at the gyno, the (female) doctor asked me, “When was the last time you had sex?” After a moment of hesitation from both of us, she followed with, “Or rather, the last time you were penetrated with a penis?” It was very blunt and it felt like an insult to who I am and to queer woman/folks everywhere, as though the ways we have sex aren’t valid. Double discrimination • I stopped telling people I was “bi” because all too often it resulted in men assuming things about me or thinking far too much about my sex life. Once, my then-boyfriend told one of his friends that I was bi. The friend just looked at me for a moment before exclaiming, “What are you doing with him then?!” I felt like responding that the definition of “bi” implies that I can be with a man or woman, but I didn’t say anything. A lot of people think that bisexual women are promiscuous, or they idealize us and imagine that we’re constantly having sex with really hot women (our friends) or having threesomes (two women, one man, of course). That’s how it’s portrayed in shows and movies and porn, anyway. I didn’t like constantly having to explain my sexual orientation or, when I was in a relationship, justifying my choice of partner. If I have a partner, I’m loyal to them. Does anything else really matter? Should anything about our relationship matter to anyone besides us? No. • When I was at a party in college, I started kissing this girl I liked. These frat guys came over and saw us, and they started hooting and shouting and trying to film us on their phones. I flipped them off, because it wasn’t a show for them. • Once, I was at a pool party and this guy I didn’t know kept trying to hit on me and put his arm around me. There were some girls (who I knew were gay) on the other side of the pool, so I swam over to them, hoping the guy would get the hint. Later, when I was kissing one of the girls, he came over and said, “Ugh, can you guys stop being so hot?” The girl I was with replied, “Nope!” • I was at a bar with a guy friend and we were waiting to order. The bartender was a really gorgeous Asian girl and I mentioned to my friend, “She’s really pretty!” My friend thought I was hinting at him (I wasn’t) and said, “Chinky girls don’t do it for me.” I was appalled; for one, because of his use of a slur, and for two, because I am part Filipino. I told him, “I’m Asian,” and he responded, “No, you’re not.” I was even more shocked, and we argued like this (“Yes, I am.” “No, you’re not.”) for maybe 30 seconds. Finally he said, “You’re cute, but I’m just not into chinky girls.” I was insulted and angered. It’s not “just a preference” when it’s racist, and telling a woman that she doesn’t know her own ethnicity and culture is mansplaining at its worst. • I speak Spanish and French—it’s part of my heritage. Usually when guys discover this, though, they’re like, “Ooh, you should teach me [Spanish/French]” or “We should hang out so I can practice with you.” Like, no, I’m not here so you can profit from my culture. Tinder • In Spain, a guy messaged me, “Hola, te apetece un poco de sexo conmigo?” Right off the bat. • A guy messaged me on Facebook, saying that he saw me on Tinder and was messaging me on Facebook on the off chance that we didn’t match. Dude. If we don’t match, that should tell you something. • A guy messaged me a Harry Potter pickup line. I responded with, “Harry Potter’s the way to my heart tbh.” He replied, “So let’s fuck.” I sent back, “*disapparates*”. (One of my better comebacks.) • A guy messaged me with the pickup line, “Hey, I’ll treat you like a Christmas snowstorm, I’ll give you 7 and a half inches and make it mildly inconvenient for you to move in the morning.” Um, ouch. • A guy messaged me, “You’re bi? I asked, “What does it matter?” He said, “It doesn’t.” (…So why ask then?) • A guy messaged me, “Although you have a cat in your pic I’m willing to look past that if you’re willing to look past the fact that I don’t like cats.” I didn’t reply, and a day later he said, “So I’m gonna be honest… I swiped right cause I want someone to practice Spanish w/ and I’m down to learn french [sic].” • I had in my bio (among other sentences perhaps too articulate for Tinder), “I speak Spanish and French.” So many guys messaged me to ask, “So do you speak English too?” Like, clearly I’m smart, so they have to dumb me down a little bit. • Once, my bio said something like, “Only here for free beer.” A guy messaged me to say, “I can give you free gum.” I replied, “I have gum.” So he sent back, “I can give you a hard dick and cheerios.” • I added a guy from Tinder on Snapchat. We didn’t live in the same country and hadn’t even spoken on either app in ages. One day I got a snap from him and opened it to see a picture of his penis ejaculating. I blocked him immediately, but still felt gross and violated afterward. Tumblr • I posted a picture of myself in a bra on my blog. A guy I knew in real life happened to be following me and took a screenshot, then posted it on his Twitter along with some sort of snarky comment. I heard about it from friends who saw the post. I wasn’t ashamed about the picture; I was ashamed because he’d done it without my knowledge or consent. • I posted a GIF of myself sticking out my tongue. A guy reblogged it with the comment, “I want to come in your mouth.” I blocked him, and deleted the GIF too. The whole thing made me feel disgusted and disgusting.

Karen

When I’m the only woman with a group of men and one of them swears and apologises only to me. Even if they don’t know the other men well they assume it is okay to swear in front of them but because I’m a woman I’m delicate or something. I believe they think it is respectful but it makes me feel inferior. To be fair this luckily doesn’t happen too much in my workplace as it is a fairly equal man:woman split and quite young 25-35 but it is still an issue. Although this is not anywhere near as distressing as sexual harassment I think subtle types of sexism like this is a problem and leads to the continuation of men and women feeling separate.

Diana

After finishing a gig with my band, my fellow bandmates are immediately approached offstage and surrounded with praise from the audience, and I am completely ignored, talked over, and treated like I am invisible. When I try speaking up, I am spoken over or elbowed aside. The only time I was approached after a gig was when two drunk creepy men tried to offer me a thong they’d found on the floor of a toilet. Other times, upon trying to enter various venues we were playing at, I’ve been stopped by door staff who don’t believe I’m a band member, or who ask if I’m ‘a girlfriend of the band’. I’ve had sound guys deliberately using overcomplicated terminology to try and confuse me (or imply I’m stupid), then when someone comes over to help me, they explain it dead simple to him. I’ve had one of my own band members ask me to wear something more ‘form fitting’ so we get more guys coming to gigs. I’ve been told that in the future, people might pay more attention to us because having a girl in the band is ‘interesting’. (It’s not.) Since I was in this band I’ve just been bombarded with constant sexism. People have told me it’s to be expected in such a male dominated scene. I try to dress androgynously, because actually looking like a woman has no place in our music scene. I write 80% of the material, organised our image, mix and master our tracks, create our artwork and designed our logo, and yet people never, ever assume I’ve contributed to anything, and it amazes them when they see I have.

Diana

A couple of years ago at college, I took a course in music technology to try and learn a little more about the career path I wanted to take. Here’s a few things that happened while I was there. By the way, this is all completely true, as unbelievable as it is. It still amazes me. I was the only female on a course of 32 guys. One of the only friends I made on my course was a guy called Jeff, who took a strong shine to me from the start, and looked after me. I fell head over heels for him and got with him, only to overhear that he’d won a bet by sleeping with me. I then overheard him go into crude detail of our night to his friends. We were put into groups of five or six, told to form a band together, and assign each person with a role (drummer, guitarist, producer, etc) so we could compose a song together, then write an essay on our roles. At the time, I only played keys, and my fellow group members wanted to make a heavy metal band. I was told by my group members that there was ‘no need for me’, as a keys player. They assigned me a role as a tea lady. Yes, a tea lady. I had to write an entire essay about making cups of tea for the band, and tidying up wires. The tutor took zero responsibility for the blatant shit I was experiencing. We had to do work experience at a local venue, micing up and setting equipment up, etc. I was repeatedly told by the staff working there that it’s ‘not a woman’s job’ (they actually said this to my face), and that it was ‘pointless me being here’ as everything was too heavy for me. At one point, while I was on my hands and knees setting a bass mic up, a band member approached me and asked if I was the ‘fluffer’, I ended up quitting the two year course after the first year. People treated it like I had wasted this amazing opportunity and heavily criticised me for it, even after I told them about the constant bullying and sexist abuse I was experiencing. To this day, I still hear about how I ‘dropped out of college, what a shame’ etc, even though it was five years ago. Oh and as for Jeff, well on my last day I entered the practice area on a break and emptied his entire bottle of lucozade all over his bag of coursework. I also took his ipod. Oh well

Em

Why are many women’s clothes so impractical and designed to be sexy instead of comfortable even in workwear? I was looking for a new shirt to wear at work the other day, so many low necklines that would show my bra if I leaned over so I would have to awkwardly hold the neckline of my shirt together with the other hand if I had to pick something off the floor, see-through fabrics that I’d have to wear another top underneath which is hot and uncomfortable,clinging fabrics,blouses and shirts with odd cut-out areas, jeans designed to “enhance” your bum instead of being comfortable casual clothing, tops and jumpers that are too short and useless for keeping warm, and my pet hate FAKE POCKETS! Seriously what is wrong with adding some pockets I can actually keep useful things in? Not to mention bras that have almost no support but so much padding they’d probably double as body armour. It is so difficult to find a bra that is both supportive and not so heavily padded it feels like there’s a sofa stuffed down my shirt! And don’t get me started on shoes, are they designed by people who hate us all and want to torture us?

Analyst

I work at a financial services trade organization in Washington, DC. I do excellent analysis, and am also shouldered with 90% of the administrative work in our section. I work upwards of 60 hours a week, performing multiple duties for individuals across the organization. Recently, I asked for a raise, and was told that I was being “demanding.” I have been patted on the head in meetings and have been regularly humiliated on the job (other people get credit for my work, I regularly fulfill a secretary role and plan meetings, etc). I got the raise – but it was about 13k less than both me and my boss were expecting. Additionally, I got zero back pay, after being promised backpay several times. One person decided my pay, and refuses to give an explanation as to why I’m being paid what I am. Meanwhile, the male analyst is getting paid substantially more, and is being promised his own position and six figures when he passes the bar. I have not gone to law school, but we have the same title, and I do substantially more work in nearly every section of the organization. I have to leave for my own sanity. My boss doesn’t understand why this is unjust, and neither does anyone else at the organization. I found a subject I love, but am being essentially forced to leave because I’m a woman.

Mine Worker

I’m a female worker on a mine site in Australia, and one of only a handful of females on the site every day, compared to the hundreds of male workers, and I am more than ten years younger than everyone else in my immediate team. Every single day involves a constant barrage of sexism. I could go on forever, but for this post I’ll only list the things that have happened at work in the past week or so. A male co-worker said that women shouldn’t be allowed on the front lines of the military because “they’re a f***ing liability”. When I challenged this statement, he became aggressive, and raised his voice. The same person later wore a t-shirt which said ‘your girlfriend’, accompanied by the ‘female’ icon (like on bathroom doors) and ‘my girlfriend’, accompanied by a silhouette of a woman spreading her legs and bending over. While wearing this shirt, he was reading the book Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. I strongly dislike that book for multiple reasons, but I wonder if he had any awareness of how the combination of that t-shirt with a book about how to understand women comes across to other people. I expressed my amusement to another male co-worker, suggesting that if you want to understand women, maybe you should just talk to them. His response was, “they’ll just f***ing lie to you”. Later on, the t-shirt guy was watching a youtube video about how women are ‘hardwired’ to be attracted to narcissistic men. I was hoping he would ask me how that was going for me, since I’m female and not heterosexual. But he didn’t. Another male co-worker muttered under his breath “show us your tits” after a female worker walked out of earshot from his desk. If a female worker walks past who is considered unattractive, a senior colleague casually remarks to whoever’s around ‘geez, if you woke up next to that, you’d have to shoot it’. A while ago, another male worker remarked about a female worker ‘I’d rather be hangin’ outa that than me truck window’. Almost every day, I witness a male worker blatantly staring at women walking past them and making sexual comments. During a shift, I went to talk to another male co-worker and saw that he was watching a video on youtube called “(male name) SCHOOLS DUMB FEMENIST”. I asked him what it was about and he said that it was about how the gender pay gap is a fallacy. I gave him a couple of specific examples where this was not the case, but his reasoning was that all consequences have actions, and when anyone starts work, they voluntarily sign a contract for a specified rate of pay, so if they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t sign it, and if a woman signs a contract for low paying job, it’s her own fault. Similarly, if a woman can’t negotiate a better pay rate, it’s also her own fault. I couldn’t bring myself to continue the conversation, so I left. A group of four male co-workers were discussing how women are taking over the world now, and how women now want everything for themselves. A comment is made along the lines of ‘men now are being made to pay for what their ancestors did because they didn’t treat women nicely’. Apparently their own sexist views and behaviours are a complete mystery to them. They’ve regularly tried to convince me that straight, white, middle class men are the most discriminated against group of people in the world. The fact that I can’t marry my partner and am still denied a lot of associated legal rights in Australia right now is apparently completely irrelevant. As is all other rational and logical thought on the subject. A senior colleague openly admits to ‘using’ prostitutes in foreign countries. He calls this his ‘humanitarian work’ because he’s supposedly supporting single mothers and giving them the means to pay for their children’s schooling. He also regularly brags about “stacking them five high” and taking them to breakfast wearing their outfits from the previous night for the sole purpose of making married men jealous. A male co-worker was complaining about the caliber of people he had to work with, calling them ‘weeping vaginas’. Another male co-worker agreed, stating they ‘have sand in their vaginas’. The constant barrage of sexist comments was really getting to me one day, so I asked a female worker if she had experienced the same thing in this workplace. Her reply was that it is constant. She told me about one incident that was particularly memorable, and it was in a lunch room, where a group of men were looking at pornographic images. One man held two images up, and asked the entire group, ‘which pussy would taste better?’ with multiple men engaging in the discussion. The story about the study of sexual assaults on Australian university campuses was on the news, and a senior colleague remarked, ‘that must be from all the ones who aren’t getting enough cock’. One of the other men present laughed, and none of the other men there said anything at all. I really wanted to say something, but I was too angry to be articulate. I wish I did say something at the time, but I doubt it would’ve made any difference to them thinking it’s acceptable to joke about sexual assault. It might have meant that they just wouldn’t say things like that around me anymore, but at this point, I feel like even that small outcome would be enough. I could have brought up parts of my own upbringing and my partner’s experiences with sexual assault and domestic violence. I could have asked them how many cocks I would have to miss out on before I was justifiably a target for rape. But I didn’t have the presence of mind. I’ve tried so many times to challenge their sexist (and racist, homophobic, islamophobic) views and comments with civilised conversation, and I have never been able to get a good outcome. I’ve walked away plenty of times. Several times, my challenges have been met with anger and aggression, and often result in multiple male workers rallying together to shut down what I’m trying to say. Only twice have I ever received support from a male colleague that was more than just the smug comment ‘everyone’s entitled to their opinion’. I want to find ways that I can fight this kind of sexism that happens every day, but it is SO difficult when the majority of men I try to discuss this with seem SO adamant that women are causing so many problems. I want to keep trying, but sometimes I’m just exhausted, and all I feel I can do is try to isolate myself from them as much as possible.

Ex-PhD student

Sometime into my PhD I had a conversation with my primary supervisor where I asked him to allow me to live and work remotely from the university I was enrolled at (something we had originally agreed that I could do when I accepted the position). During the conversation I was told that I was being “emotional” and that “I needed to go home to my parents for a bit to get grounded”. Somehow I can’t see those same statements bwing made to a male student.

Ellesar

This was a group of electricians in my home. I hear a discussion about dust, and one man calls the other a ‘little girl’, and that he is just like the tenants for moaning about the dust. When he comes in I say ‘I’m not complaining’. He then says that women always complain. I am a woman. He then says ‘no offence’! and carries on insulting women! I say ‘oh yes, all women are the same, we are all ninnies’. He shuts up at this point. When he leaves he calls me darling. This man is less than half my age.