Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Me, Too

Of course, me, too. Because I haven't yet seen or heard a "Nope! Not me! *thumbs up* We're all good here!"

There was the guy in high school who would lift up my cheer leading skirt and say, "You've got a bad case of 'virginitis,' want me to fix it for you?"

There was the time I sat by an older, slightly tipsy man on a plane who out of no where walked his fingers up my arm and then touched my lips and sorta laughed. I think he was trying to be flirty? I was 18 and I just turned my head toward the window and tried ignore him for the duration of the flight.

There was the guy I worked with at a restaurant who would I worked side by side with for hours in the bar area (read: again, I couldn't escape) and who would regularly ask me to "beat him with my lips."

There are others too, but this is the one that stands out most: I was in my mid 20's working for a small start up tech company in the safe enclave of Provo, Utah often referred to as Happy Valley. I worked with a lot of dudes--great dudes might I add. Many of these guys were my friends. I was one of 2 women on my team, who also happened to be a close personal friend. When she left, I was the only woman on my team.

I experienced run-of-the-mill sexism in the form of being left out of meetings I should have been a part of, or making suggestions that were dismissed only to have a male colleague make the very same suggestion a week later and the response was "Wow, that's brilliant! Why didn't we think of this before?" I once even called my boss out on it by blatantly asking, "Is this happening because I'm a girl?" It was actually naive on my part, because I was REALLY ASKING. (Luckily, when he said no, I wasn't so naive as to actually believe him. Not because I thought he was lying to me, but because I don't believe he saw it that way.) 

But there was this guy that worked for the company--an older gentleman shall we say--and at some point he started making me uncomfortable. He seemed to try a little too hard to be my friend, to be in my same peer group even though were were probably more than 20 years apart in age. He was a reluctantly aging Bro, if you know what I mean. My female colleague/friend also picked up on it and we started joking about his odd fixation on me. At this point it was weird, but more funny than weird and we could laugh it off. It started to feel less funny over time, and at some point the scale tipped a little more in favor of weird, than funny. 

One day, I was sitting in front of my computer working. I happened to be wearing a tank top and I also happened to completely alone on this side of the office. At that moment this guy walked up, placed his hands on my bare shoulders and started rubbing his hands from my shoulders down my arms and back up to my shoulders again. "Look at these tan shoulders..." he said as he kept caressing me. I froze. We were completely alone and he was touching me--caressing me--even though it was the middle of the day, in a usually busy office. 

The encounter didn't last long, but I was shook and I did not know what to do. See, this company was like a small family and what I mean is that some of the people who worked there were actually family. I didn't feel like I could go directly to the head of HR because she had strong family connections to this man. My friend and female colleague was no longer with the company. 

So I turned to the people I was closest to and who I trusted the most--the dudes. While they were dudes they were also my friends and both had leadership roles in the company. They were a little older than me (8-10 years) and both married with kids. So I asked to speak to them in an office and told them what happened and how uncomfortable I was. 

There was a short pause and then, "Oh...no, no, no... He doesn't mean anything by it. Listen, he just thinks you're super cool and he's trying to hang on to his youth a little too hard..." and all over again I sat there, frozen, this time quietly nodding my head. They told me that he was harmless and that I had taken it all wrong. Again, these guys were married and they both had daughters, and they were my friends. And still they didn't get it. Or if they did get it, they choose to side with the Bro instead. 

I walked out of the room feeling worse than I did before. And that was it. I let it go and luckily older Bro never touched me again.  

I still keep in touch with the dudes on FB. I still love and respect them like brothers. They really are great guys and were there for me many, many times. I jsut want to make it clear that this was an isolated incidnece in an otherwise great working environment at a great company where I learned and grew a lot. I chalk this experience up to a lack of education and awareness on their end of what sexual harassment can look like and more importantly, what it can feel like. I have never confronted them about this situation and I have sometimes wonder if their viewpoint has changed. Their daughters--who were little girls at the time--are young women now. I never wanted the Bro to be fired or to "suffer" any serious repercussions, I just wanted someone to acknowledge that what he did was inappropriate, if for no other reason than it made me feel deeply uncomfortable. And I wanted someone to speak to him about it. I wanted to feel protected and like the company had my back. I have often thought about what I wish I would have said in response, that day instead of silently nodding my head. I wish I would have said, "OK. Now imagine I'm your daughter or your wife who told you this, now what would you say to me?" I wonder if they ever wished they had said something different too. 

Like many of you I've been reading about this unfolding situation non-stop for the past week. Model and activist Cameron Russel's Instagram feed has been extremely eye-opening about the abuse that happens in the fashion industry. 

None of them were "bad guys." They usually Aren't.

Me, Too began with a woman named Tanya Burke over 10 years ago

Yes this is a Witch Hunt. I'm a Witch and I'm Hunting you. 

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous5:07 PM

    Miggy, I have no words, just sending a hug x.

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  2. Anonymous10:46 AM

    I had a *very* similar experience in the workplace when I was young, very similar situation in that my boss had personal ties to the man who did it to me. His behavior was well-known and it was laughed off with "oh well that's just Tom. He doesn't mean anything by it." Finally one woman went to HR, and while his punishment was a mere slap on the wrist, it did at least stop. But for several years an entire group of young female employees had to live with this. Thank you, Miggy, for sharing this.

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