Tag Archives: Workplace

Jeanne

The event I am about to relate is one of countless instances of sexism and sexual harassment I have experienced over the course of my life–and it was one of the reasons why I went to graduate school and earned my Ph.D. in sociology, with gender as one of my areas of expertise. I was a very young single mother of two small children, I was in my early 20s and desperately seeking employment. I felt so lucky to have been hired as an assistant manager in a small retail store but from the first time I met the manager I felt an uneasiness about him. As soon as I met him I recognized something predatory in his demeanor–and I was unfortunately proven correct over the course of the next 3 months. Ever chance he got he would touch me and “accidentally” brush up against me. He started making sexual innuendos and as time went on his comments became more direct and aggressive, to the point of him eventually baldly stating various sexual thins he wanted to do to me. I was so disgusted by him, but didn’t object because I feared speaking out would result in him firing me. My one lame strategy was pretending he wasn’t serious, that he was merely joking. Then his equally disgusting friend, a hunting buddy, started coming to visit him at the store, and they eventually started competing with each other to see who could be the first to convince me to become sexually involved. Both men were middle-aged, and both were married, and although I would constantly remind them of these facts, neither would stop harassing me. By Christmas I was feeling desperate, I wanted to quit so badly so that I would never have to see either one of those creeps again, but I couldn’t find another job and I really needed the income, so I stayed in order to be able to feed and house my children. The manager had planned an elaborate holiday party for the employees at a very expensive club/restaurant, and the seven part-time employees and I met him at the party venue. He’d evidently been there awhile and was already inebriated by the time we arrived, and as soon as he saw me he sloppily insisted that I had to dance with him. I kept making excuses, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Of course as soon as I conceded and started dancing with him, he pulled me into a slow dance embrace and started touching me all over. I couldn’t conceal my revulsion, and I pushed him away as hard as I could and yelled, “stop it!” He stumbled a bit backward, but quickly regained his balance and glared at me like he wanted to kill me. I started feeling afraid of what he might do in retaliation. Eventually the hostess came to let us know our table was ready, and as we filed into the restaurant one of the part-timers, John, steered the manager to the head of the table and suggested under his breath that I sit as far away from him as possible. So I went to sit at the opposite end of the very long table. I wanted to just get up and leave, but John was my ride home. Unfortunately I had yet to discover that John’s car had stopped working and that the manager had agreed to drive him home after the work party. I think the manager knew I had no other choice but to accept a ride home along with John. After we had all ordered and received our food, the manager refused to make conversation with anyone, all he would do was eat his fried chicken like some kind of neanderthal and glare at me the entire time. After the first piece was gnawed clean, he reared back his arm and flung the chicken bone across the table as hard as he could–directly at me. I ducked to the side very quickly, so the bone and all the ensuing others that he lobbed at me never hit his intended target, but it was very humiliating at the time. John kept trying to talk sense into the manager, and would try to intercept his arm before he could throw each bone, and he actually told the manager “hey man, that’s not right.” But the manager would always shrug him off and continued to throw the bones at me as hard as he could. Thankfully he was too drunk to aim very well. No other person besides John–not any of the other employees, waiters, customers, or any of the managers–tried to intervene, despite the possibility that someone else might actually have been hit by one of the numerous flying bones. The other employees, and me as well, tried to act like nothing out of the ordinary was going on–we never klooked at the manager, we looked everywhere else because we were all just too afraid we’d lose our jobs. After dinner I found out that the only way I had of getting home (a 40 minute drive, and I had no money for a taxi) was going along with John and being driven home by the drunken manager. Despite John’s best efforts to convince the manager that they should take me home first and go out for a beer, the manager insisted he was taking John home first. I had elected to sit in the back seat of the car, and when we got to John’s house the manager kept telling him to “get out,” while John kept insisting they take me home and go out for a beer. I felt guilty for being the reason why John refuse to get out, I knew he felt he needed to stay to protect me, but I had to get home to my children and so I told John I’d be okay and that he should go ahead and go into his house so he could go to bed finally. After John asked me “are you sure?” like a dozen times, he finally got out of the car and instructed me to call him when I got home. We sat in the driveway another 10 minutes because the manager kept ordering me to move to the front seat, and I kept refusing. The manager insisted that he wasn’t moving the car an inch until I moved up to the front seat. Finally I said a terse “ok,” and moved up tio the front seat. I did move to the front seat, but by this time my fear was turning into indignant anger–finally. The manager had to get on the interstate to take me home, and after merging on to the interstate he grabbed me by my neck and tried to violently pull me to him–all while he kept insisting “give me a kiss.” I had my left arm straight out pushing against him but he kept trying to force me to kiss him. So because he wouldn’t stop I put my other hand on the door handle and I opened the door a crack, then I screamed, “if you don’t let me go I’ll jump and my death will be all your fault!” Having finally got the message that I would rather die than kiss him he pushed me away with the hand he’d been grasping my neck with–and I had to grab his arm to keep from falling out of the door. For the rest of the drive he stewed in silence, and after I got out of the car at my house he peeled down the street with the tires making a terribly loud squealing noise. I was so relieved that the ordeal was over that I cried before composing myself to go inside. I knew I was probably going to be fired, but I kept hoping that he’d been so drunk he might forget everything that had transpired the night before, so I went into work the next morning actually hoping I would still have that terrible, awful job. As soon as he saw me he looked away and simply stated, “Your services are no longer needed.” I turned right around and walked out, eventually got home somehow, and never did anything except look for a new job because I knew, even back then and at such a young age (22 years of age) that I could never afford a lawyer, and that he’d just lie if the case ever went to trial. I also felt that the only person who would be a witness for me was the one person I would never ask because John was a new father and could not afford to lose his job. But over all these many years I recognize that this sexism/sexual harassment experience only made me ever more determined, ever more angry, and it pushed me to become a person who actively tries to enable other women to more effectively deal with such situations. I became a professor who teaches, researches and publishes articles about gender power relations.

Eva

My boss talking about two of my colleagues, saying they’re the best at what they do and the only bad thing is that they are women. Then talking about one of our branches, he said they had a bad summer, lots of fights, because they employed all women. I’m looking for a new job.

Katherine

Always wondering whether men are asking to help me carry things because they genuinely want to help or because they think I cant handle it. Most recently when some steel decking needed to be moved in my job and someone essentially only picked out the men to do that task despite the fact that I was wearing steel toe shoes. Whilst yes I knew I couldn’t carry the massive bits knew I could carry the smaller but still kind of heavy bits. they just assumed I couldn’t lift any of it.

Elizabeth

My manager frequently uses sexist terms to describe female colleagues, usually older women. Examples of language he has used in recent months: old bag, old cow, old biddy, bitch, harridan, old trout. I’ve had enough and have decided to speak to our E&D manager about it today.

Alison

I am a registered nurse. For 10 years I worked at a nursing home where this very old fashioned guy worked as an agency support worker. He was the same age as me (40’s) and his attitude to women hadn’t progressed since the 1970’s. He thought it was ok to talk about sex constantly, comment on the bodies of all the women who worked there and rubbish them if he didn’t find them attractive, ask female staff to say certain swear words to him that he found a turn on, talk about his sex life and which staff he’d like to ‘shag’ etc, etc. He was a nasty bloke If I challenged him and would make working with him so unpleasant on any day I attempted to do this. My manager was a woman and she really liked him and kept giving him work, He would work hard for her but not for me and some others he didn’t like or fancy. She turned a blind eye to his behaviour even though I tackled her about this. So many other women who worked there really liked him and thought he was harmless and a lovely bloke but he made my life a missery. Yesterday I was discussing the Harvey Weinstein case with my exmanager and we discussed this man again. She told me that she now realises she was wrong for allowing him to behave like that and not challenging him.

Emma

I am 7 and a half months pregnant and usually work from home. I went into the office for some meetings where a male colleague was asking me about how the pregnancy was going, did we know the sex, how difficult it was for him and his wife etc. Then the conversation turned by him saying “the one thing is after the birth you will swell up and be engorged (him making large breast hand movements with large eyes) and your husband will be like wow and will be all happy and want to touch. But you will be like ‘get off me ‘ and slapping his hands away (he laughs)” I just said “that’s not what they are for’ did not laugh and walked off. I told women in three office and his boss who just laughed it off and said it wasn’t appropriate. No further Acton.

Mary

My husband used to be a trainer in local government and he used to do joint training with the a trainer from the health service from time to time. Much later I found out that they used to have a game when they ran courses together where they would mark the female participants on the course out of 10 for their physical attractiveness. I was outraged that my husband could have gone along with this even if it wasn’t his idea.

Natalie

I was applying for a senior job with a well known female led architecture practice, and afterwards the recruiter called me for a post interview catch up. She said they didn’t have any questions, and could see me growing into an M.D. role eventually. They just had one question they needed to know – whether I was planning to have children in the next couple of years! I told her it was totally illegal and amounted to discrimination to even ask that question. Absolutely furious!!

Kristen Reed

It had been puzzling to me why I felt a bit depressed this past week. My anger was just below the surface waiting to burst out of the water at the slightest irritation, and I couldn’t sort out why. To my husband I had to blame hormones (which, at my age is definitely part of the cocktail) but there has been something more…an oppressive cloud I refused to acknowledge. The root of my anger comes from years of being traumatized by men in one form or another. I’m too sensitive they say, or too emotional, but after nearly 40 years of self-suppression, it rips holes in one’s skin where steaming geysers form in every direction. Let go of your anger they say. Love is the answer they say… That’s all well and good, but once you let down the barrier of anger what remains is the overwhelming sadness that at every turn nothing has changed. Sure, Harvey Weinstein is getting a public lashing. But he is only one man. One guilty party in the sea of acceptable misogyny, that women all over the world are forced to tolerate with a smile, every single day. It isn’t just Hollywood, or the performing arts in general. Corporate culture, and even our own governments (who think it’s not only their right but their responsibility to control how we take care of our bodies) constantly exacerbate the problem. The urge to vomit out the onerous sorrow impresses upon me from every angle. All I want is one moment’s peace, an exhalation, sanctuary from being constantly on guard. Don’t you think I want to let it down, be free, laugh and smile, dance about when it pleases me? I do it anyway, so much, all the time, but it comes with advances, stares, leers, and uninvited guests. What are we supposed to do? It can seem easier to oversexualize ourselves, where we have the power and control, but the opposite effect arises…bringing the unwanted closer and in turn they feel granted with permission. I feel everything and nothing about this display of public outrage. The rest of these men are wiping their brow, for now, as we slaughter the sacrificial lamb (or wolf) center stage. But this too shall pass, and the lurking shadows will come to life once more, behaving as they have always done. Passing whispers in our ears, indignation if we reject remarks on our beauty, manly chortles when we assert boundaries, or god forbid intelligent ideas. And those are only the mild degradations. I am tired of being angry, sad, and frustrated. All I want to do is lay down my weapons in this fight. But how can I?