Sunday, March 29, 2009

On Ceilings and Elevators

Reader and fellow blogger Lucy invited my commentary on someone's recent blog post regarding "glass ceilings." The entry is brief, and the author concludes that "There is nothing stopping a person from moving up in the ranks...except for the person him(or her)self."

I suppose that I shouldn't be too shocked that the author feels this way; however, I can't help but feel...disappointed that the concept of the glass ceiling is lost on this woman. The concept of glass ceilings and elevators (I'll get to what these terms mean in a moment) are not particularly new, and because of this I have taken for granted that all women are able to understand the role that these concepts play in their lives and the lives of all women. I do not know if that author will read this blog, but I'd like to offer a deeper understanding of these concepts for anyone who struggles with their existence.

The term "glass ceiling" refers to, as the blogger stated, an unofficial barrier to advancement in the workplace. It is "glass" because it does not exist in any obvious capacity: There is no "No Girls Allowed" clause in the company handbook; nor is there any official policy that overtly prohibits women and minorities from rising in the ranks. We have "equal opportunity" statements on our employment applications, as well as government policies like Title IX. By all accounts, it does not appear to exist. But like the windows in my home that trick wayward birds into smashing their little bird skulls, the ceiling remains in place.

If you squint your eyes and crane your neck just so, you can still see the light reflecting off the glass:

The wage gap between men and women, especially in the upper tail of the wage distribution, is a large part of the glass ceiling. Currently, American women make 70 cents for every dollar that men make. Although this gap has closed over recent decades, it remains significantly large and persists across professions and education levels. This means that when scientists compare men and women, within the same profession, with the same amount of experience and qualifications for that profession, women receive less pay than men. Blatant pay discrimination such as this can go undetected for years, because we are taught that it is impolite to ask your colleagues what they make. Pay is considered private; therefore, women get the shaft and often have no hard evidence to make their case.

Wage gaps also occur when employers make judgments on the expected value, productivity, or reliability of employees. What this means is that it is not uncommon to find employers promoting men over women because they hold pre-conceived notions about how well women work. For example: As a woman, Kathy will become too emotional in business confrontations. Better go with Ross or Fred; they won't cry over firing someone. Get it? As people, employers often have unenlightened notions about how women act and how men act. Even if the fictional Kathy is completely capable of making decisions, firing employees, and dealing with conflict, her employer may assume that she can't BECAUSE SHE HAS A VAGINA. The female is then excluded from the 'male' job, and left with depressed wages.

Another theory for discriminatory promotion is that employers view the jobs that females hold as "less easily promoted." This means that employers may be reluctant to invest training in women in order to promote them. Employers may feel this way for any number of reasons, but commonly they feel that women are less worthy of investment because of their expected domestic roles. Let me break that down for you: We aren't training Becca for the role of regional manager, because she just got married and will probably have a baby soon, and will take maternity leave. Because our society is geared to think of the women as the sole domestic provider, women are likely to be passed over because of expected familial duties; whereas a man's marriage and paternity are rarely-to-never considered.

Other barriers make up the glass ceiling in addition to the wage gap. Sexual harassment, for instance, isn't going anywhere. Workplaces in which women are belittled or made to feel inferior because of sexual harassment are not conducive to promoting women or hiring them for top roles. Let's not forget about general perceptions of female to male performance. Numerous studies have found that traits in which we view as positive for males we view as negative for females (sum this up as if a man is assertive, he is seen as effective; however, an assertive woman is a "bitch" or "shrew.") Sexist stereotypes like these, which are embedded in our social hierarchy, often prevent women from reaching the upper eschelons of the workplace.

As if a hulking wage gap, sexual harassment and sexual stereotyping wasn't enough, women often must contend with barriers involving family and domestic life, while men do not. This is a very rich and complicated topic, but can be easily understood when you understand that society places overwhelming domestic responsibility on women, but almost none on men. We are given the expectation of caring for the homes and children, as well as other family issues, and as a result we take jobs with fewer hours and flexible schedules. These jobs offer less pay, less room for advancement, and less prestige. As long as society asks more of women in the home than it does of men, we remain stagnant.

All of these theories deal in the present; however, I have my own theory that the glass ceiling begins in childhood. From an early age, women are encouraged to achieve less than men. We give little girls kitchen sets and "pregnancy Barbie" dolls, but we give little boys Erector sets and chem sets and other mechanical things that help them learn and grow. We see that our daughters excel at math and we assume they will be teachers when they grow up; but our boys who excel in math will surely be engineers. The difference in treatment is often subtle, but the way we raise our children has as much impact on their future earning potential as do sexist workplace attitudes.

I'm also quite fascinated by the concept of the "glass elevator," which I think might be easier to see than the glass ceiling. By "glass elevator" I am referring to a phenonmenon in which men in female-dominated occupations experience various advantages that women in those occupations do not. So, in contrast to the glass ceiling, in which women suffer in male-dominated occupations, men in female-dominated jobs will enjoy advantages in hiring practices, rapport-building with male supervisors, and promotional tracking. The best example of this concept is the teaching profession, particularly elementary school. The primary-school teaching occupation is heavily female dominated; depsite this, elementary school principals and administrators are overwhelmingly male. Research shows that men who enter the profession as elementary school teachers are often "fast-tracked" to more prestigious and higher-paying adminstrative positions, while women who have equal or better qualifications remain. I know that this concept is not outdated, because I did a research paper on it last year in which I took the 2006 annual averages of employed persons by detailed occupation and sex from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and compared them using prestige scores from the Hollingshead Four-Factor Index of Social Status. My results very much supported the hypothesis that current labor data reveals male-favored occupational prestige inequities in occupational domains containing two or more heavily female-dominated occupations.

The topics of ceilings and elevators have spawned oodles of academic papers and studies, and in this post my goal is to simply touch on some of the main fruits of that research...I couldn't possible cover all of it in one post. I can only assume that ignorance of this research, and possibly personal anecdotal evidence, leads people like our blogger friend to assume that nothing stands in the way of female success. Trust me when I say that we aren't simply whining: These barriers to advancement are VERY real and felt by MANY women. Our society has not yet evolved to offer women truly equal opportunities in the workplace; although outwardly it might seem that we can achieve anything, in reality we face many obstacles that men never will. Many of these obstacles are so deeply ingrained in our society that I question whether we can ever completely overcome them.

If the author of that blog post feels that no one has stood in her way in her career advancement, then good for her. She's apparently found something that millions of us, myself included, struggle for daily. However, I think it's good for everyone to keep in mind that simply because they have not personally experienced limitations, that experience does NOT generalize to the rest of the population. We have not "shattered" the ceiling; there may be cracks, but trust me when I say that it is still far too thick to fall apart.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dooce, old people, and shitty jobs

I'm gonna cram a couple of things into this post. Let's do it in list form today, okay? I'll even use bullets, because I am all about efficiency.

  • I met Dooce!! That would be Heather Armstrong, the genius behind the most popular personal blog on the interwebikins (I am drinking wine). Armstrong's book, It Sucked and Then I Cried, came out on Wednesday and she held a reading/signing at a Barnes and Noble in Chelsea (or is that considered TriBeCa? I never know neighborhood boundaries. Sometimes I tell people that I live in Chicago, because I just don't know anymore). Her book is a simultaneously hilarious and provocative memoir that chronicles the events surrounding the birth of her first daughter; most notably, it covers Armstrong's severe post-partum depression and mental breakdown. It is fascinating and honest, and I can't put it down. Also, her reading was great...Boyfriend especially liked it, as he finds reading actual words to be tiresome and laborious, and much prefers to have someone else read things to him:

  • My 85-year old grandmother totally learned how to send email today. We moved her into an assisted-living home a few months ago, and she had hinted that she was taking classes at the home but that the specific class was a surprise. Turns out, it was some sort of computer class, because I got an email from her this morning. I can't even say how much this made my day. She sent the email to all of the grandchildren, so we all promptly g-chatted each other to gush about how completely awesomesauce our grandmother is.
  • The great email could not have come at a better time, as I spent this morning embroiled in a bitter battle over my vacation time. I work on a grant-funded project for a University, and apparently my boss feels like this gives him license to deny me University vacation time whenever he wants (It's a federal grant, so according to him we should only take federal holidays). Sorry, buddy, but if I was hired by the UNIVERSITY and told at the UNIVERSITY HR orientation that I am entitled to UNIVERSITY STAFF HOLIDAYS than I want my 3 days off for Easter, goddammit (you can't deny me my Zombie Jesus Day, no matter how godless I am). I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I've always had a lot of trouble controlling my temper and tongue, so it took EVERY OUNCE OF STRENGTH TO TEMPER MY HOMICIDAL URGES as my boss insisted that we attend work those three days. My jaw was clenched; I could feel my face warm as blood surged in my cheeks and forehead; my eyes turned to sharp, piercing, three-foot daggers. I have been told that my "mad face" is terrifying: This must be true, because I'll be damned if I didn't win this battle. The official "compromise" is that I get the promised vacations until the end of the fiscal year (which is like, in June), and then we follow a modified vacation schedule. Trust me, if I had other options, I'd be outta there faster than the RoadRunner. You don't tell a working-class girl that she doesn't get her days off. If I thought it would be possible to unionize my occupation at my place of employment, I'd fight that fight in a heartbeat.
Anyway, that last bullet explains why I'm halfway through a bottle of cheap wine right now. I am the queen of bad choices.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"That's so Gay" PSA

Oh, cheesy television PSAs. They're generally anti-drug these days, and the latest batch is ridiculously sexist and inaccurate (I'm thinking specifically of the "slut shaming" anti-marijuana PSA in which the girl realizes that scandalous pictures taken while high have been texted to the whole school. A: Marijuana doesn't work that way. B: Slut shaming is stupid). There's also that annoying "Optimism: Pass it on" PSA where the kid playing baseball alone strikes himself out and decides he's the greatest pitcher in the world. Alright kid: I can't help but notice that you're playing baseball all alone. That's pretty sad. Couple that with the fact that you genuinely suck at hitting the ball, and you should want to kill yourself.

Generally, I think everything would be better without these PSAs. The anti-drug ones are exaggerated and misleading; The other ones make my brain hurt. But today, I was watching Degrassi: The Next Generation (shut up) and a new type of PSA came on:

How awesome is that? A PSA for sensitivity towards gays! A PSA that actually says something on a topic that matters! (Sorry, but the 'war on drugs' is unnecessary and detracts from real problems. It isn't deserving of a bajillion PSAs).

Apparently there's a whole series of them, but I haven't seen them until now. Hilary Duff is in one (I suspect that she's struggling to stay relevant, but good for her anyway):

But my favorite by far is this one that Wanda Sykes did, not just because Wanda Sykes is super saucy and hilarious but also because she is ACTUALLY gay:

I, too, went through a phrase of calling stupid or bad things "gay," until I thought more about it. It's easy to say things like that when you hear other people say it daily (specifically as a teenager). I find it incredibly insensitive and annoying to hear now, though, especially when it comes from people who I think should know better. Gay people have to endure enough stigmatization in this country; let's not make it worse by using language to associate them with all things negative. It's not just a "saying," it's deliberately derogatory language. It hurts, and it perpetuates the association between "bad" and "gay" in the minds of those who use it and hear it.

Knock it off.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

But lifting the beer can to my lips IS exercise

About a month ago Boyfriend had a perfect storm of optimism and self-loathing that culminated in a gym membership. He only bought one membership, but it has an unlimited guest pass that is intended for me. I've gone a whopping three times, finding each excursion both physically and mentally painful. Ten minutes ago, Boyfriend left for the gym without me. I'm pretty sure that I won't be coaxed into joining him anytime soon.

I've never liked exercise of any kind. As my sister so kindly pointed out, I spend a lot of time harping on the importance of exercise and physical movement for women and girls, but no time practicing this advice in my personal life. I'll clarify: What I believe in is the opportunity for women and girls to be as physically active as men and boys; what I don't believe in is that I, personally, must drag my cottage-cheese ass on an elliptical as I cry on the inside. I never derived any pleasure from sports or exercise as others seemed to. At 5, I spent every single pee-wee soccer practice crying on the sidelines and begging to go home; At 7, I quit tennis camp after a little boy schooled me on the court and then teased me for it; At 11, I prematurely left basketball camp when I realized that none of the other girls would talk to me; At 13, I came in last at the first cross-country running practice and never returned; At 15, I almost got into fisticuffs with a much larger girl at softball and decided that softball wasn't for me.

What DID love was horseback riding. At 17, I had to quit my lessons so I could keep working my crappy job and earn money for the move to college. I haven't been on horseback since, nor have I found a suitable replacement.

I think the fact that I was gangly and naturally uncoordinated had much to do with my hatred of sports; coupled with the fact that my parents didn't really place any sort of emphasis on them and cared more about my schoolwork. Also, it seemed like every other kid who was into sports wasn't into me...I was weird or a goody-two-shoes or talked too much or cracked jokes that no one understood. The sports kids were not my kind. My kind liked to run and climb, but not in any sort of organized fashion. My kind liked to talk on the sidelines at gym class; not because we feared sweat or messing up our hair but because we just wanted a time-out from all the work and competition.

I refuse to feel guilt over this. This is how I am. I'm not overweight and I don't have bad cholesterol and I only get winded from walking stairs sometimes. Until those things change, I refuse to waste minutes of my precious life wishing for swift death on a treadmill.

Anyways, I'm 22. I can do what I want. I'm making a blueberry cobbler for dessert tonight and nyah nyah nyah nyah.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I'm not sure if I've adequately expressed my feelings on this topic before, but I really love bacon. Basically, bacon gives me a super-boner.

In this vein, I entered the Three Degrees of Bacon contest at Bacon Nation, which I found through the always-endearing Bacon Unwrapped blog. The challenge was to link any food to bacon with three steps or less. I linked sheep testicles to bacon (how do I know this? Let's just say that there are many things in life that I wish I could unlearn). Anyhoodle, I'm a finalist! Vote for me here so that I can add a sweet raw bacon weave cardholder to my collection of bacon salt, bacon toothpicks, and bacon thong.

Bacon thong pending.

I totally won! Thanks, guys!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama: Aw, yeah!

My favoritist president ever announced that he will sign an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. This council will ensure that federal agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and their families. That sound you hear is my reproductive organs cheering. Here is what he had to say on it:

My two favorite parts (although the whole speech was spot-on):

"When a job doesn't offer family leave, that also hurts men who want to care for a new baby or an ailing parent"--Do I smell reform of the Family and Medical Leave Act?!?!
"When there's no affordable childcare, that hurts children who wind up in second-rate care or spending afternoons alone in front of the television set." Universal daycare? I can haz universal daycare?!

I can't believe we have a president that actually gives a shit about women. Incidentally, we used to have a council just like this...until Bush disbanded it in 2001, along with a council on racial issues. This surprises exactly no one.

Valerie Jarrett will chair the council, a super-duper smarty pants who grew up in Iran, got her BA in psychology (a woman after my own heart) from Stanford, and a JD from University of Michigan Law School. She is currently a Senior Advisor to Obama.

Best part of the speech is the end: "Alright, so I'm gonna go sign this thing. Thank you very much." Man, that guy gets. shit. done.

Monday, March 9, 2009

At least I didn't have any cavities

As someone with a vested interest in the scientific method, I would LOVE to know what studies have been done on the topic of sexism in the medical profession. I'm not talking glass-ceiling/glass-elevator stuff; I'm thinking more specifically about sexist attitudes/entitlement among male medical professionals. I bring this up not only because of my prior experience with male medical professionals (and that guy wasn't the only one who behaved inappropriately in that office), but also because of what happened to me at the dentist today.

I haven't been to the dentist in about two years (you can imagine how psyched I was to finally get the layers of barnacles scraped off my teeth), so I was a new patient to this particular dentist. Therefore, keep in mind that the following things he said to me/in my presence were all things that he was saying to a total stranger. He ACTUALLY said these things to me.

  • "Rhianna and Beyonce kind of look alike. Well, Rhianna has the black eye, I guess!"
  • "I'm going to guess some things about your boyfriend, and you tell me if I'm right, okay? At night, you put your clothes neatly in the hamper, and he leaves his over the floor. You drink nice diet sodas and drinks and he drinks straight from the milk carton (me: No...he puts his clothes in the hamper and I don't drink diet drinks of any kind, and I'm the one who drinks from the milk carton). No? Really? He's gay!"
  • "Before I got married my idols were Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi...After I got married my idol was OJ Simpson!"
  • "Hey girlie!"
So...first he started with a joke about domestic abuse, then he attempted to insult my boyfriend because he *gasp* is a neat person, then he sandwiched that comment with ANOTHER domestic abuse joke, and then he topped it off by addressing me with a diminutive name when I returned later for my forgotten insurance card.

I will, obviously, not return to that dentist (on top of this, he was also quite rough with my teeth). Now, I know that this sort of sexual discrimination--the "trivial" stuff, as opposed to the more obvious sexual harassment/pay discrimination, etc--is something we encounter everyday, regardless of occupation. It's on the street when a stranger tells you to smile; it's at work when your boss calls you "sweetheart." But I can't help but notice that it's very, very pervasive among male medical professionals. EVERY male doctor I worked with at my old job seemed to be either patronizingly paternalistic or an alpha-male chauvinist. Nearly all called me "sweetie" or another diminutive on a regular basis (and my status as the youngest has nothing to do with this...a male of the same age in the same job would not be the office sweetheart). Many seemed to think that they could say things to me that were profoundly unprofessional, and which they would not say to a male employee. And now, I have this dentist, acting in much the same way.

If my anecdotal evidence were scientifically examined in a study comparing rates of daily discriminatory behavior across professions (I think I'm forming a thesis idea...), would it hold true that something within the medical profession produces or promotes these undesirable actions and words?

Perhaps, given their status in a male-dominated field that undervalues women, male doctors feel more entitled to behave this way than men in other fields. Perhaps they can say these things to the new patient or front-desk girl, because she will find their brazenness "charming." She won't say anything or even think to be offended, because in this world of men in serious lab coats and women in puppy-dog-printed scrubs, the men are untouchable. The fact that women in domestic abuse situations are "stupid" to the point of being hilarious; that young women enjoy being your "girlie" or "sweetheart"; that men are MEN who don't pick up after themselves and women are ladies who watch their figures with diet drinks for the benefit of the men...are these the symptoms of a profession that remains one of the great microcosms for greater societal gender inequities? What is happening between high school and med school that produces these behaviors among our pediatricians, dentists, and obstetricians?

More importantly, how can we stop it?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Uber Nerd post

We're pretty nerdy in this household, in case you haven't garnered that from my postings. For instance, we have a desktop computer with not one, but two monitors (I thought it was excessive at first too, but now I don't know how people do without them). There are also no fewer than three laptops (five, if you count the ones we sometimes bring home from work), one picture of Yoda, an old shell NES, a Family Guy-StarWars wall calendar, and a pink stuffed Domo (don't know what Domo are? Perhaps you might recognize them from this classic viral picture). We like our games. Admittedly, Boyfriend likes games a bit more than I, but I've got my weaknesses.

Case in point: I have been dying--DYING--to play three particular games in the last few weeks. All are totally inaccessible.

  • Kid's Typing: This is a weird one, I know. But it came with our very first computer, a Compaq Presario that ran Windows 95. Sloooooowly. This game was the shit, though. It taught typing with the help of a character called Spooky the Ghost. The game took place in a house that Spooky haunted. You started the game in the attic of the home, learning basics like home keys with Spooky. Then, you would go into the individual rooms to "test" yourself. The cool thing was, your typing was synched with something fun in the in the Baby's room, the toy xylophone would play classical music; the quality of the music would vary with how quickly and accurately you typed. I didn't really learn to type well with this game...what finally taught me how to type well was AIM instant messenger (I'm sure that's the case with a lot of people in my generation). I bet I would KICK ASS at Kid's Typing now, though (63 words per minute with 97% accuracy!)
  • The 11th Hour: My sister bought this game, but I may have played it more than her. I remember that the graphics were like nothing I had ever seen (I wonder what they would look like to me now). I think the game ran off of DOS. It was essentially a mystery game. You were trapped in a haunted mansion, trying to find your missing girlfriend. You had to solve a bunch of logic puzzles, and find your way through oodles of secret passageways. We had one of those cheat books. The puzzles were mostly too hard for me to figure out on my own, so I remember that I used the cheat book all the way until the last puzzle...but the fucking book didn't give an answer to the last puzzle! So I never beat the game. Also, I think there were some steamy video scenes...
  • Sims 3: The third installment of the highly-addictive Sims series was supposed to come out in February. I used a gift card to pre-order it on Amazon...and then the release date got pushed back to June. I really wanted to piss away my winter playing that game. I briefly considered installing Sims 2 on my laptop (it's currently on an old laptop), but I decided it would only heighten my longing for the new version.
The first two games I cannot have without finding and purchasing via Ebay...and I think that's BULLSHIT. There ought to be a statute of limitations on PC game copyrights. If software is nearly 15 years old, I want to be able to play that shit online FOR FREE. It's not like they're selling anymore, anyway. Some seller on Ebay wanted 25 bucks for Kid's Typing! Fuhgeddaboudit.

Anyone else got any warm fuzzy memories of old computer games?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I still said "No"

Sexual harassment...Or, as my father would say, "Her ass meant nothing to me!" Oh, dad...

Jezebel did a post a few days ago that I really wanted to address here, because I have a lot to say about it. The post concerned an article on AOL (does AOL still exist? Jesus, they gotta be hanging on by a thread) that advises women to not report sexual harassment. The AOL article's reasoning was that HR will immediately question your credibility, rather than work with you. Furthermore, the article reasons that the reporting process can be long and painful, and that you'll most likely be left awkwardly working with your harasser until you quit.

Naturally, the good Jezzies disagree, as do I. They also raise other issues, such as the tendency for outsiders to sympathize with the "nice" men who seem so wrongfully accused.

This topic is really close to me, because in my freshman year of college I had to endure the process of reporting a sexual harassment. At the time, I was working as a bitch for a medical office (Copy these articles! Then sit around and smile at the doctors as they enter the room! Now file!). I was all naive and fresh-faced, straight off the farm and adjusting to a moderately-sized city (now I'm old and haggard and jaded in a gigantic city). One doctor in particular was fairly young, and had just earned a promotion. I'm a bit flirtatious by nature (I call it "sassy," but whatever) and we often spoke and joked around. Because he had been promoted, he was moving to a new office. He asked me one day if perhaps I could do some filing and organizing in it, since he didn't have time. Since my day was already fairly packed and I could not earn overtime, he said he would be happy to pay me out of his own pocket if I stayed late to do the work.

Looking back, and I'm sure to all you savvy readers out there, this request should have set off alarm bells and I should have declined. But like I said, farm-girl. I hadn't yet acquired the finely-honed creeper senses that I have today.

So I stayed to do the work. I would say this is about the time he started coming on to me. At first it was the regular stuff: TMI about his personal life, comments about how cute/skinny I was, asking me about my boyfriend, etc. I think I sensed what he was about, but I felt awkward and rude about shutting him down, so I kept up with all the friendly banter. After all, he was paying me. He was in charge. What was I gonna do? So I kept staying after work with him.

Eventually, I guess he started feeling like this was really going somewhere for him. He started removing his wedding ring when he was around me. One day, I was typing up some labels, and he came behind me and started massaging my shoulders. (WARNING: This paragraph is going to start as a bad HR training video and move into bad soft-core porn territory). I sort of froze and wasn't sure what to do or say. He took my silence as an affirmation, I guess. He was talking this whole time; I'm not sure what, exactly, but it was along the lines of "I really like you." He moved his hands down to my waist, then under and up my shirt. He was grabbing my breasts and kissing the top of my head, whispering things into my ear. And I just froze. The fuck? I mean, I had been sexually harassed before. But not to this degree. And all I could think of was I had NO IDEA what to say or do. I didn't want to have sex with him. I had a boyfriend at the time, and I wasn't interested in cheating on him. And I wasn't particularly attracted to this guy, either. But it almost felt rude to say no. I felt like I had led him on, and it was my fault he was behaving this way. I thought he would be mad if I said no.

But I DID say "no." I regained myself after a moment and pulled his hands away. I told him I had a boyfriend, and I didn't want to do this. He PLEADED for me to have sex with him. No one has to know! I still said "No."

For the next few months, he persisted. He grabbed my ass when no one was looking. He bought me Grey Goose for my birthday (Okay: He asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I said Grey Goose. Can you blame a girl? I wasn't that stupid). He invited me to take shots with him in his office (not with the Grey Goose. This was a separate occasion). He told me that I was sexy over and over and over again.

When he did these things, I was not as firm as I should have been. I should have been colder. I shouldn't have giggled and smiled awkwardly. But that's how we're conditioned to react to men who behave that way. How many times has someone told you to "Smile, sweetie" and you bashfully flash a grin and laugh? We're supposed to be charming. We're supposed to WANT attention from men. So even though I was really uncomfortable with it, at most I would quietly say "stop" or nothing at all, but SMILE or LAUGH.

It was stupid of me. I was young. I know better now. I am a STONE COLD BITCH now, don't you worry.

Eventually I decided that I REALLY had enough. One day I was on a ladder putting books away, when he came up from behind and grabbed my ass. I wheeled around and whacked him with a medical textbook this thick. In the FACE. He laid off for a few days, but then he started again. At this point, I was getting mean. He would grab me and I would turn and shout "STOP" so that everyone in earshot would look. He would make a shushing motion and slink away.

But he would always start up again. I knew that he wouldn't stop on his own. I had to make a report. I walked into my boss' office one day with the door open:

"Alex, can I ask you something? Can we do something about men touching me in this office?"

Alex, thankfully, was great about the whole thing. He was super sympathetic, since he had been similarly harassed by a woman at his last job (Guess she couldn't pick up that he was gay?) But here's how it went down: I had to type up a report, detailing EVERYTHING that happened. Then, I had to give one copy to Alex, and another to the fucking Chair of the department. Then, they had to call in my harasser and speak with him about the accusations. Then paperwork had to be processed. By the end of it all, every secretary in that place had to have known what happened. Although no one said anything to my face.

At one point, Alex asked me what I wanted to happen to my harasser. I knew going into it that he would get a slap on the wrist; it's not like they were going to fire the guy. Basically, the first harassment report is a warning...even if the victim has already warned the harasser multiple times. It's looked at as a mistake. "Oh look, buddy. We all know the front-desk girl is just can't touch her anymore. Sure, we all make that mistake! Ha, women. They don't know what they want, I'm sure she was hard to read. Okay, back to work for you!"

So the harasser gets a mulligan. He gets embarrassed. I get embarrassed. But then...we have to work together. We get stuck in the elevator together. I still have to file for the guy. Where does that leave me?

It leaves me searching for new jobs at 2 AM, that's where. He gets a smack on the hand that everyone forgets about in six months. And I get to find a new job.

So in a way, I can see where the AOL article is coming from. The process IS long, and VERY humiliating. You are subject to scrutiny and criticism (Although I was lucky; in my case, no one asked me to "prove" anything. I'm sure if I wanted to take it further than a report, things would have been different). Everyone has to know that you "let" the guy get to second, you skank. Then, you still have to work with the harasser, and it sucks. And because it sucks, you eventually leave. So that begs the big question: Is it better, given all this, to NOT report that harassment?


Ladies, REPORT THAT SHIT. You know what I got for my troubles? I got that asshole EMBARRASSED AS HELL. He was HUMILIATED. For as embarrassed as I was, at least I didn't have to go talk about the time I molested the front desk girl to my superiors. Boy, was he ashamed. I tend to believe that people like my harasser will always be repeat offenders; but you know, if that humiliating experience at least stopped him from soliciting my replacement, then it was worth it. Really. And at the very least, I'm happy to say that he did not ask me to have sex with him for the rest of my tenure. If my goal was to get him to stop grabbing my ass and asking me to fuck him, then MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. He could barely look me in the eye.

I realize that my case was...lucky, to say the least. My superiors were sensitive. If anyone thought that I was a liar or a whore (and I believe many of them did; my harasser was one of those "nice" men that you would never suspect), they had the good sense to keep it to themselves. My harasser wasn't violent or vengeful, and didn't threaten or intimidate me for reporting him. I realize that this happens to some women, and those situations are terrible. Some women don't have the luxury of finding a new job; I was lucky in this area as well, since I was able to secure a paid internship with a few months of the incident and quit the old one.

I can't make judgments on women who, for reasons that I was lucky enough to avoid, choose to NOT report their harassment. It must be terrible to know that you can't find another job (or REALLY don't want to leave the old one), that your harasser may retaliate, or that your superiors and coworkers might blame or scorn you. What I can say is that sometimes, you gotta sacrifice. I knew when I made the report that it would be uncomfortable, and I knew that I would have to leave sooner rather than later. But knowing that everyone finally knew...that I had made a public declaration that THIS MAN IS BEHAVING INAPPROPRIATELY...I felt vindicated. It didn't matter whether people believed me or liked me. I knew what the truth was, and I had done everything in my power to stop him from violating me again, and from violating other girls. Contrary to appearances, I now had the upper hand: if he still felt the need to harass either myself or someone else in the future, here is all the documentation that it happened before. And maybe the next time he does it, he'll finally get what's coming to him.

I want to encourage everyone who gets sexually harassed, who is made to feel inferior or objectified or violated, to SAY SOMETHING. Do not let them get away with it. And if anyone gets in your way; if anyone makes it hard for you to make your case, THROW A FUCKING TANTRUM UNTIL YOU SILENCE THEM ALL. Don't let your employer handle your case inappropriately; take it higher. Don't let your co-workers make judgments: Tell them they don't know shit. Don't let your harasser threaten you: Tell your bosses or the police about that too, because then he's REALLY fucked. Don't let them make you quit if you don't want to: Stay and make it as uncomfortable for him as it is for you. Don't think that you encouraged it or led him on, and therefore don't have a case: You said no, and that's what you meant. Please. You can have power in this, I promise.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day!

Yes, it's quite snowy here today. Key difference between Boyfriend and myself: While I awoke at 7 am (a good 40 minutes earlier than usual), giddy to find out if work was canceled, Boyfriend woke at his normal time and proceeded to get ready without a thought as to whether or not he might have the day off. Had I not received the cancellation notice immediately, you can bet your ass I would have spent the next hour fervently trying to call back, rather than accepting it and moving on. So even though I got a summons for jury duty on Saturday, I think it's pretty clear who the real adult is in this household.

So this jury duty thing. Anyone ever get one of these before? Got any good stories about it? I used to think that I wouldn't be comfortable serving on a jury. I didn't want to be responsible for making judgements on strangers that could alter their lives. I didn't want to be manipulated by sly lawyers or faulty eye-witnesses. But as I stood there holding the summons in my hand, all I could think of was, "Hey, I get a day off work for this! And maybe more than one day! AND THERE COULD BE FREE LUNCH."

So you can see that my standards are really quite low these days. In fact, I like to imagine that it will be just like that Simpson's episode where Homer gets jury duty:

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