I’ve been confronted with tons of situations over the years that have reminded me it’s weird to a lot of people that I am a woman and a metalworker. I have lots of tough lady friends who have also been treated unfairly because they are woman and athletes or woman and business owners or whatever. Anyways, the point is it can get kind of weird. But you don’t have to be a female metal worker to find yourself in uncomfortable situations with dudes.
I run into these situations all the time and it still surprises me when it happens. Sometimes it’s just a guy at the hardware store looking around for my husband when I’m found meandering the hardware aisle, or sometimes it’s more serious, like a bullying shop neighbor using aggressive tactics to push me out of my studio space. I’m lucky to have friends and family who will joke with me about how to really freak out the guy at the hardware store next time “Can you believe I was allowed to drive here myself!??!”, or offer me some legal advice- like how to take out a restraining order on the shop neighbor.
Despite the facts that I’ve become better at expecting people to act like idiots, and I’ve picked up tips on how to deal with situations that become threatening, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth talking about this issue anymore. I know women have been battling for years to be treated like equals and luckily many of these battles have been won, but there are plenty more to be had. As much as I’d like to be “one of the guys” and not have to deal with this stuff, that option doesn’t really exist because it is part of my daily life.
For years I’ve dealt with the inner voice that tells me someone has mistreated me because I asked for it, or that sort of situation doesn’t happen to strong women, or that if I talk about it I will appear to hate men. Of course this is all totally crazy, and is why it’s time to start talking about these things.
So here’s to putting the conversation on the table! I hope to share some stories with you- both funny and serious, invite female friends who inspire me to tell their stories and hopefully post some useful information along the way.
Alright so there’s the big intro! Now here’s a very useful document sent to me by a very cool, local business owner friend on how to handle sexual harassment in the workplace. I thought this was awesome because whenever I am bombarded with something like this I freeze up and don’t know how to handle it. I tend to just let it go on and escalate- not good! So it’s really cool to see these simple ways of stopping it- also cool to see stuff identified as sexual harassment that has always made me feel belittled and uncomfortable but gets played off as a joke or a form of endearment.
Sexual Harassment Overview
It’s the Law
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
This law makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Title VII applies to all employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments
In 2007, the Supreme Court stated that the employer is responsible for the actions of its employees, even when the employer is unaware of the employee’s behavior.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when: submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating hostile or offensive working environment.
Types of Sexual Harassment
Quid Pro Quo (Latin): “This for That”
² Conduct that carries the promise or threat of employment and/or contract consequence based upon whether the
victim is willing to grant sexual favors.
² One instance of quid pro quo will generally constitute sexual harassment.
Hostile Work Environment
² This is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, offensive or disruptive work environment.
² This conduct often takes the form of an escalating pattern of behavior, from mild to severe.
² The number of times a behavior occurs, and the severity of the behavior, are factors in determining if it constitutes sexual harassment, or inappropriate and unprofessional behavior.
Intent vs. Impact
Intent is not relevant in determining whether or not a behavior is sexual harassment.
² “I was only kidding…everyone loves a good laugh.”
w But jokes of a sexual nature are never appropriate in the workplace.
Sexual harassment is based on the impact of the behavior on you.
² “I meant no harm…I was just congratulating her for when I slapped her on the butt.”
w This is not a defense, and does not discount what you experienced.
Examples of Hostile Work Environment
² Derogatory comments of a sexual nature or based on gender
² Comments about clothing, personal behavior or a person’s body
² Sexual or gender-based jokes or teasing
² Requests for sexual favors
² Repeated requests for dates
² Terms of endearment: “honey,” “dear,” “sweetheart,” etc.
² Sexual innuendoes or stories
² A grunt, whistles, catcalls, etc.
² Staring or looking you up and down (elevator eyes)
² Making derogatory gestures of a sexual nature
² Kissing, hugging, patting, stroking, grabbing, etc’
² Inappropriately touching a person or person’s clothing
² Brushing parts of the body against another person
² Uninvited massages (neck, back, shoulders, etc.)
² Deliberately touching sexually or pinching.
² Impeding or blocking movement
Examples of Possible Responses
Note: There is no overall best way to respond to every harasser in every circumstance, and you should
determine the best response to a given incident in a manner where you feel both safe and empowered.
Project confidence and calm (even if you do not feel that way)
² It is important to appear calm, serious, and confident.
² Look the harasser in the eyes; speak in a strong, clear voice.
² Using your voice and facial expressions together, without mixed signals, show assertiveness and strength.
Do not apologize, make an excuse, or ask a question.
² You do not need to say sorry for how you feel or what you want. Be firm.
² Instead of saying, ‘Excuse me…’ ‘I’m sorry, but…’ or ‘Please…’, say directly, ‘Stop doing X.’
Do not get into a dialogue with the harasser, try to reason with them, or answer their questions.
² You do not need to respond to diversions, questions, threats, blaming, or guilt-tripping.
² Stay on your own agenda. Stick to your point. Repeat your statement or leave.
Do not swear or lose your temper:
² This type of reaction is the most likely to make the harasser respond with anger and violence.
Decide when you’re done.
² Success is how you define it. If you said what you needed to say and you’re done.
Some Response Ideas:
Name the behaviour, and state that it is wrong.
² “Do not whistle at me, that’s harassment.”
² “Do not touch my butt, that’s sexual harassment.”
Tell them exactly what you want.
² “Move away from me.”
² “Stop touching me.”
² “Go stand over there.”
Use statements, not questions to tell someone to leave you alone.
² “Leave me alone,” not “Would you please leave me alone?”
Make an all-purpose anti-harassment statement, such as:
² “Stop harassing women. I don’t like it…No one likes it…Show some respect.”
² Speak it in a neutral but assertive tone.
Use an A-B-C statement
(a) Tell the harasser what the problem is (b) State the effect (c) What you want
² “When you make kissing noises at me, it makes me feel uncomfortable. I want you to say,
‘Hello, ma’am,’ from now on if you want to talk to me.”
Miss Manners’ Approach
² I beg your pardon!
² I can’t believe you said that!
² You must have me confused with someone to whom you think you can speak that way!
² Would you say that (or do that) if your wife, girlfriend, mother or daughter was standing here?
² Would you want someone to say that (or do that) to your wife, mother or daughter?”
Buy a notebook and write in bold letters on the cover “Sexual Harassment.”
² Take out the notebook when you are being harassed, and ask the harasser to repeat himself so you can write it down.
² Make a big deal of asking for the date, time, location, witnesses, etc.
Buy a notebook and write in bold letters on the cover “Sexual Harassment.”
² Take out the notebook when you are being harassed, and ask the harasser to repeat himself so
you can write it