Saturday, January 20, 2018

rage, not so much, part 2

My first job after I left grad school in 1985 was at an office of 50ish people. I was 24, and I'd been married about a year. There were about a dozen of us who were young and, for lack of a better term, fun. I had been miserable in grad school, so I was like a kid let out for recess. We teased and flirted and went out for drinks. (The story about the softball team came from this era.) Most of us were married, and we included our spouses on various outings, but we also did things without them. 

Even with the flirting and the teasing, I never felt uncomfortable or coerced, and I hope no one ever felt that from me. There were guys I was attracted to, but part of being married is knowing you're attracted and not acting on it. It was a lot of fun, but it was, at least in my mind, just that: fun.

Except for the time one guy (married) made a comment that made it clear to me that he would like to have more than just a friendly relationship. It felt different. I was definitely uncomfortable.

It's a small example, and he backed off so I didn't even have to do anything about it. I'm lucky. The point I'm trying to make is that there are attractions and flirtations and teasing that no one is worried about. But there is a different feel to it in certain circumstances, and like I said last time, I'm not sure I can define exactly what makes the difference. 

But I can tell you how frustrating, maddening, and enraging it is when you try to talk to one of the good guys about it, and he immediately becomes defensive and angry, and misses the point. The reason why I can tell you this is BECAUSE I KNOW YOU AREN'T LIKE THAT. I know YOU aren't sexually harassing me. That's why I'm talking to you. You're not, but THIS OTHER GUY IS.

It's not easy to talk about this stuff. Our culture values stoicism: kids that don't whine, employees who get their work done without complaining, friends who see the positive. You may have kept a stiff upper lip, worked without complaining, and maintained a positive attitude for years, but the minute you make a complaint, there are those who will dismiss you as a whiner.

For these people, as soon as you say "look, there's a problem," no matter how carefully you word it, you no longer deserve to be heard. You can be ignored, because you just have a bad attitude. So you know what? If you're in charge, consider the source. If this is someone who is usually a team player, rarely complains, and one day something is bothering them: maybe you should LISTEN. In fact, maybe you should try listening, period. With everybody.

OK, I think I've re-written this one enough times that I'm comfortable with posting it. For the record, I know my small, minor experiences with sexual harassment are hardly enough to worry about (although I didn't mention the worst ones, but even saying that, I don't need or expect sympathy). 

Also, for those of you who know us in real life, the healthcare professional I mentioned in the previous post was not associated with Dean's organization.

Edited (AGAIN) to add a link to an article on Bust that says (in part) what I'm trying to say but she says it better and also takes it much further. I don't have the experience she has-- I was that rarity, a virgin until my wedding night (not hard to do when you're raised conservatively and get married at 22). But that's another topic entirely. Forewarning/trigger warning: it has even more bad language than I used in the previous post, and it is at times difficult to read. 

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