I Need Feminism Because: I Got Harassed at my Own Workplace

New column/series/type thing:

I need Feminism Because

In which I will recount stories that illustrate why feminism is still fucking important.

So today I was working at the reference desk when a young(ish) guy came over and took a long hard look at my nametag tits. Then he asked me, by name just to prove he really had been looking at my name tag, to help him find something.

So I went with him to the catalog computers, showed him how to do a search, walked him over to the DVDs and helped him find The Wire season 5 on dvd. He then launched into a long story about how he volunteers at the juvenile correction facility with the youth who are there. Clearly trying to impress me.

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I had sort of zoned out when I realized he was telling me what beautiful eyes I have. I said thanks and took a step toward the reference desk because this conversation needed to be over.

He stepped in front of me, blocking my path. And went on to say that he’d been in several times and I “always look really great and put together,” and he “really appreciates that I take such pride in my appearance.” Because Clearly I am there for him to look at and either approve or disapprove.

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Except– no. I don’t dress for you, increasingly creepy dude, I dress for me. I know you think that was some kind of compliment but it wasn’t so now we’re done.

I nodded to indicate the end of the conversation and took another step to leave.

He blocked my path again and started asking if I have a boyfriend or am I married.

I should have said, “I’m not interested” and left it at that. I know this. I don’t have to justify myself or explain myself or feel bad in any way to be turning this dude down.

But that instinct to be accommodating and not create any conflict is TRAINED SO COMPLETELY INTO WOMEN IT IS REALLY HARD TO RESIST.

And he kept pressing the issue, so I played the card that I hate playing and I don’t even know why it came out of my mouth.

I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHY IT CAME OUT OF MY MOUTH.

“I’m a lesbian.”

He grinned.

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Gross right? He fucking GRINNED.

I turned to leave and he starts immediately backtracking. “Oh no, not like that, I was just thinking of my friend’s sister cuz she’s a lesbian and she’s really great and at first….” and he launches into this elaborate story about his friend’s sister who is a lesbian and how she wears great suits  because she’s “the man” in her relationship [insert totally separate rant here] and how her family didn’t accept her at first but they came around and he is totally cool with me being a lesbian

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Well THAT’S a relief

as if I should be… what… flattered? Appreciative? As if I should give him a cookie for being a decent fucking human being?

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Also as if this erases the fact that I TOTALLY KNOW WHERE HIS BRAIN WENT WHEN I SAID THE WORD LESBIAN.

And he ends the conversation as I’m just flat out walking away by saying “Well if you ever change your mind…*wink*

EXCUSE ME I HAVE TO GO SHOWER NOW!

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After my blood pressure had gone back to normal I got really frustrated with myself because I FUCKING KNOW I need to shut down those conversations. I KNOW that I don’t owe him any justification that I’m not interested in him at all. I KNOW that slowly amping up the creepy is how they get women to continue engaging because it sneaks up on you and you don’t realize he’s being a giant creepster until after he’s reached creeptastic levels. But in the moment I felt bad that I’d let it get this far..like since I didn’t totally shut him down the second he complimented my eyes I had given him permission to continue harassing me.

Even after the fact I found myself thinking… “I mean, he wasn’t that bad, I don’t need to, like, report him or anything” When ANY INTERACTION THAT MAKES ME FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE IS WORTH REPORTING. I don’t have to justify it. There isn’t some level of “it has to be this bad before you are allowed to feel uncomfortable.

I know all these things. I KNOW ALL THESE THINGS. And I still fell into the trap.

I still fell into the trap of putting his feelings above my own, of feeling like I wasn’t allowed to end the interaction. Of thinking since he complimented me that gave him permission to continue making me uncomfortable.

And THIS IS WHY I NEED FEMINISM.

Because dudes still think this kind of behavior is acceptable. And because there will be dudes who read this who think “he was just trying to pay her a compliment, jesus why does she have to get all defensive and bitchy? She should be flattered.”

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His behavior wasn’t complimentary. It was condescending. It was insulting. It was offensive.

It’s not the first time I’ve dealt with this type of thing and it won’t be the last. And that is almost the worst part. That we live in a world were women being harassed is so common that it’s considered an expected normal part of life. That the main reaction of women to a story like this is, “yeah been there.” That some dudes seriously honestly don’t understand how offensive this kind of shit is. That MOST dudes don’t understand how often women have to deal with this kind of harassment.

This is why I need feminism, bitches. This.

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2 thoughts on “I Need Feminism Because: I Got Harassed at my Own Workplace

  1. I am a lesbian and also a feminist – and yet I do have sympathy with men when it comes to seeking out women. Sometimes men are idiots, sometimes they’re not and when trying to crack on to someone I think they would prefer a straight answer rather than the passive aggressive pseudo feminist statements that may be disguising a woman’s fragile ego.
    I think you over-reacted, were passive aggressive and sexist towards the boy. Next time be direct – trust me men appreciate that – have a bit of a sense of humour about the situation and move on.

    1. Had he not physically blocked my path, preventing me from leaving the corner he had backed me into (I mean that in a locational sense…. He had me literally backed into a corner) I would not have been bothered. When he physically prevented me from leaving he became threatening. Whether or not that was his intention is not something I am emotionally responsible for.

      The point I was trying to make was that I need feminism because no one had ever told this dude that physically backing a woman into a corner isn’t a good way to get her to go out with you, and also that it can make her feel threatened. I’ll concede that that was probably not his goal. But society didn’t teach him that this behavior was not really okay. Hence feminism.

      Also the fact that in the moment I didn’t feel like I could be direct because the thought of being direct made me afraid of what he might do… Since he had already physically prevented me from leaving the area. I felt threatened and intimidated. And the fact that we live in a culture that makes me hesitant to speak my mind out of fear is also why I need feminism.

      So yes I should have been more direct–I acknowledge that in the post. And yes he probably was just not great at asking a woman out. I sympathize!! I’m not great at asking women out either… But I don’t (hopefully) make them feel physically uncomfortable. And notice I ranted about it on my blog, I didn’t call the police– cuz that would have been overreacting.

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