I’m wearing my GRL PWR tee and I’m ready to talk about how difficult it is to hold men accountable in the office. Every morning I wake up, put makeup that definitely has toxic chemicals on my face, and mentally prepare myself to sit at a desk for 9 hours. It’s annoying as hell, okay, but I can handle it. My mother might say otherwise, but I am capable of existing in the real world! We’ve all been mansplained. We’ve all been talked over in a meeting. We’ve all had a revolutionary idea only to have it completely shot down, but when our beloved coworker Joe suggests the same damn thing he’s given a standing ovation and a promotion. These, my little corporate fairy girls, are called micro aggressions—and we hate them. Today, though, let’s get into what it means to have to speak out about seriously inappropriate workplace behavior. Because like all things, standing up for yourself against mistreatment, abuse, and harassment is easier said than done.
I am a loud voice, that we all know. In fact, when it comes to women being mistreated or abused I have a problem shutting up (as we all should). Believing women, speaking up on behalf of women, telling your best friend to block the heck out of his number—these are all things that we’re empowered to do in 2019. Sometimes it’s not easy at first, but it always feels right once it’s done. Because I surround myself with remotely decent human beings, all the people in my life believed Christina Blasey Ford when she gave her chilling testimony about human garbage dumpster and newest Supreme Court Judge, Brett Kavanaugh. But could we have been her? Could we have taken the criticism? I’m not so sure I could have done it and here is why, ladies and gentlemen:
I’ve been pushed into reporting men to HR two different times in my longstanding 3 years as a dignified career woman. The first time, regarding a peer. The second, my CEO. It was equally as difficult each time. Men are generally pretty awful across the board, but put them in a position of power and making 23% more each paycheck than you—37% more if you’re a Black Woman and 46% more if you’re a Latina Woman— and things can get brutal. There was a man my age who had started calling me a “spicy Latina” (if this doesn’t sound inappropriate enough, I’m not even Latina so we’ll have to unpack that another day?) and asking me inappropriate questions about the dates I was going on. Not going to lie, my dating life was popping off at that point in time, but that doesn’t give anyone a right to ask about it! Unless you’re my twitter followers or my family members, then I’ll be demanding you care about every single man I’m falling in love with every moment of every day. His comments were making me increasingly uncomfortable, but I drew a line in the sand when this entitled creep walked behind behind my desk one morning and began rubbing my shoulders.
First of all, if you’re a man reading this, please do not approach a woman from behind EVER. Really, never fucking do that; it’s in our instincts to think any man who walks behind us will kidnap, rape, or murder us. See: the pepper spray I keep on my key ring. But if you do this at work, no less, you could see that I’m watching a “What I Eat In A Day On Keto!” youtube vlog which would be just as terrible! To top it all off, because apparently men need an explicit lesson on what the fuck is acceptable behavior for the first time in human history, don’t ever touch a woman non consensually. Not her shoulders at work. Not her waist at the bar. In fact, the moment your hand reaches out to skim, brush, or grab an unsuspecting woman, put that shit away.
Up until that very moment, though, I always had a naive idea in my mind that when it came time to speak up on behalf of myself—a point every woman will reach in her life— I thought it would be an easy thing for me to do. “I’m scared of no man. I know myself AND my boundaries!” Well, I am here to report that it wasn’t easy! At all! It was actually awful! Here’s a list that sums up some of things that ran through my head when deciding if I should report a man I worked with:
“I’ve only been here 4 months, are they going to think I’m trying to cause drama?”
“What if they think I’m exaggerating?”
“What if they think his behavior isn’t inappropriate?”
“What if he finds out what I said and tells everyone I’m crazy?”
There is no feeling more terrible than thinking you’re going to be “that girl” who can’t handle the inappropriate things men make you suffer through at work. It wasn’t until recently that I had to report my very own CEO to HR (a situation I’ll get into another time) that I came to an eye opening realization: men have spent generations upon generations convincing women we’re “crazy” and “dramatic” so that we’re scared to hold them accountable! Do you believe it? Women are made to believe that having a reputation as the “dramatic” one or the “crazy” one is the absolute most detrimental thing that could happen to us. It’s no surprise that in 2019 we’re conditioned to be the “chill” girls who put up will put up with anything AND pretend to enjoy beer to top it all off. There’s this stigma around speaking up against anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, and that stigma thrives because awful men have made it so.
Both times that I’ve had to speak up in a formal manner at work, I’ve been encouraged for my bravery. And thank god for that, because if I had received the opposite reaction I’d have a difficult time ever speaking up again. Imagine if we all went to our day jobs and shut shit down little by little, day by day. and supported one another along the way—maybe men would finally get it in their brains how to treat a woman they work with! Which would be amazing because nine times out of ten we are so much smarter than them! 😉
Until next time!
Your favorite corporate fairy,