Occupy a Hostile Work Environment

My first job out of college was waiting tables (and yes, college-educated Baby Boomers had a hard time finding jobs, too).  An older, more experienced waitress told me that the owner/manager often made crude sexual comments but he was “just kidding.”  So when he said to me,  “Go to the back room and  wait for me with your panties off,”  I wasn’t supposed to take offense.  Ha, ha, boss – you’re so funny.

And when a customer asked me if I’d “warm up the rolls between my legs,” who was I supposed to complain to?  Yeah.  Nobody.  I hated that job and quit after a month.  I was able to quit because: 1) I was living with my parents and 2) I’d found another part-time job as a substitute teacher.

If you have even two brain cells firing in your head, you understand what I’m getting at.  Everybody can’t quit.   It shouldn’t be a big surprise to anyone that Republicans, especially Tea Partiers and Evangelicals, regardless of gender, don’t think that sexual harassment charges against Herman Cain are a serious issue.  These are the same folks who cheer for the death penalty and think a 30-year-old man should be allowed to die because he doesn’t have health insurance.  And they call themselves Christians.

After my brief stint as a waitress, one of my many jobs was in sexual assault prevention.  We identified three types of harassers:

1. The ones who don’t realize their behavior is offensive and will stop when told it is.
2. The ones who don’t realize their behavior is offensive and don’t stop when told it is.
3. The ones who know their behavior is offensive and don’t care and won’t stop.

Regardless of the type of harassment a woman faces, the onus is on her to do something about it.  Men often insist they were “just flirting.”  They’re sure their behavior wasn’t offensive because their target didn’t tell them it was.

Anita Hill taught us what happens when a woman accuses a powerful man.

So here’s my advice to men:  when in doubt, don’t.  You don’t get a pass because of your age, your race your party affiliation or anything else.  If you go ahead and “flirt” with that woman at work, you’re harassing her.  No matter what you tell yourself.


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