On Harassment

Harassment has everything to do with the character of the perpetrator, not the person on the receiving end.  It is an action reeking of contempt and misplaced assumption about power.

How did Trump reply when asked if his daughter were to be in such a situation? “I would like to think she’d find another career or find another company if that was the case.”

To clarify, his son, Eric Trump added, “I think what he is saying is that Ivanka is a strong, powerful woman; she wouldn’t allow herself to be.”

Allow herself to be?

This struck a nerve with me, a nerve I’d buried and forgotten.  Until now.

On two occasions in my career I’ve been caught off guard by inappropriate and sexually suggestive behavior while at work.  Both times I was alone in my office.  Both times the person was of a higher rank and older.  Both times I was paralyzed with a running loop of ICan’tBelieveThisIsHappening racing in my mind.  Both times I was embarrassed.  Both times I walked away in a daze wondering how I’d pull off getting back to work.

I did not allow this behavior.  I’m about as flirtatious as a brick and my attire is a degree less conservative than a Mormon fundamentalist.  But even if I had the appeal of a Samantha Jones or Sofia Vergara, harassment could not possibly be justified or described as relevant to the person being harassed because it does not stem from them.  The action belongs to the perpetrator.

Harassment is uninvited.  In fact, that’s pretty much the central nature to harassment.

On a rational level I know that I did nothing wrong; nevertheless I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I left my office both times feeling shame and contemplating what I had done to make the men believe that was okay.  Now, after reading about Trump Inc’s position on the subject I see why.  I’m wrapped up in a culture where the woman’s actions and credibility are called into question as a matter of course.

Deep down, I absorbed the lie of victim-blaming.  And this is the unfortunate truth despite the fact that I know better, that I’m a Ph.D., a vocal feminist, and a proud Beauvoirian.

If you’re perplexed as to why I didn’t say anything, the only response I can offer: I was in a state of complete shock.

I imagine other women, all the unreported cases, have a similar narrative: alone, no witnesses, not another career to run to, a perpetrator with a higher standing.

Note: another career wouldn’t make sense for me because

1) I love my job

2) See number 1.

So, on behalf of any person who has been bullied, harassed, or belittled for gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and/or race, I’d like to say:

Fuck you, Trump and son, for suggesting we are not strong, powerful, or should look for another career.

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About unsolicitedtidbits

Philosophy, books, coffee, Mexican food enthusiast. View all posts by unsolicitedtidbits

5 responses to “On Harassment

  • kingmidget

    I’m in a rare group. A man who was sexually harassed. Okay, maybe that’s a myth. Maybe men are sexually harassed more than they’re willing to admit. But …

    Almost 30 years ago, I worked as a receptionist/word processor at a law school (where I would eventually enroll and get my law degree). Shortly after I was hired, a woman was hired to serve as the office manager of our very small office, in which I was the only male among about four or five women. Fresh out of college, I was 22 years old, the office manager was probably around 40 years old. After a number of months of “banter” in which she had a great time flirting with me and talking about the things we could be doing together, I moved to another office on the campus.

    The reality? The move was a promotion for me. It gave me a better opportunity in a number of ways.

    The other reality? I should never have had to make the switch. It has bothered me ever since that I moved to that other office instead of standing up and saying enough. Stop it. This is unacceptable.

    Thank you for posting this today. I’m now in a position of significant responsibility over a government agency with approximately 400 employees. I have always taken pride in the fact that I have an open door and I am willing to listen to anybody’s complaints, issues, concerns about their work environment. Today was a particularly tough day — after being out of the office due to a vacation for the last week and a half, I spent almost the entire day listening to people who are unhappy with their work environment. I needed this post to remind me why I have my open door policy. No matter my position, no matter what else is going on, I owe it to the people in my office to be there for them so that they don’t feel like their only option is to “move on.”

  • DitchTheBun

    Harassment comes in many forms. Sexual harassment is probably the first thing people think of and Trump is an absolute chauvinistic moron for thinking that the victims have control over the situation. That’s completely ridiculous.
    I find workplace harassment disturbing. I have experienced it from a female manager who took a disliking to me because I lived with my boyfriend out of marriage, would not discuss religion and one day when she was complaining about how big her husband was getting (and had been for over 10mins) I said, yeah, but you would love him no matter what size he was right? – Cue 6 months of her putting in reports about me claiming I was always late (I was 2mins late because she changed the roster after I had gone home the night before to put me on the morning shift that started an hour earlier than everyone else) and saying I was creating a dangerous work environment because I had a stack of books 6 books high instead of 5. She would set me up to fail over and over. It was awful. Whenever I tried to talk to her about it she would report me to the General Manager saying that I refused to accept feedback and was argumentative. Within a week of me being moved to another section the next manager (who had been warned about me) went to management and said she didn’t know what the other lady was going on about because she found me delightful and a hard worker. Next minute she was bring watched and ended up leaving.
    I have also had people attempt to up-bully me. When I took over a team at a job one of the long standing team members tried to force me to do everything her way. When I put up motivational statements she waited until I was off site one day and removed them. When I asked why she responded “in this office we keep our sh*t on our own desks”. Many times she pushed sometimes very hard to get her own way and it took me pushing politely back and in three cases actually telling her that she had offended me. She is much better now.
    Harassment behaviour is never acceptable no matter who is doing it or what type it is. Great post!

    • unsolicitedtidbits

      Wow! All I can think as I read your comment is that harassment absolutely is a trait of the weak (and not of the person being harassed). Thank you for this reply.

      • DitchTheBun

        I think you are absolutely right about it being about them being weak. Sometimes I think it is jealousy or a response to feeling threatened (which I suppose you could also attribute to weakness). The couple of attempts people have made to up-bully me (yes, more than one person) it has always been someone older than me in a much more junior position who has worked for the organisation for over 20 years. One of these people continues to try and undermine me at every turn (she is not even in my section which is so silly). Management have actually recently praised me specifically for my ability to rise above that kind of pettiness and the manner in which I have dealt with both of these situations. 🙂 It’s nice to know they notice these things.

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