Have you seen this hashtag?
It’s trending on Twitter and being shared widely on Facebook. What is it? There are a few variations, but for the most part, women are being asked to copy and paste this status to highlight how prevalent sexual abuse is against women in our society.
“Me too… If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste.”
(Also, if a woman doesn’t type “me too” as her status, it doesn’t mean that she didn’t want to. And just because she did say it, doesn’t mean she wants to talk about it.)
I’ve talked about this subject before this hashtag started showing up. I’ve talked with my friends, my colleagues, on social media, and with my family. And yet…I’m shocked that so many people don’t seem to believe that this is a thing, that this is real, that it’s not JUST a problem for Hollywood celebrities.
What is Sexual Harassment?
It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.
Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.
Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).
The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
What is is Assault?
Wikipedia gives a detailed definition on their site. Here is an excerpt:
In criminal and civil law, assault is an attempt to initiate harmful or offensive contact with a person, or a threat to do so. It is distinct from battery, which refers to the actual achievement of such contact.
So just to be clear, a person doesn’t have to experience rape to be the victim of an assault.
Are you with me so far?
If you read the above definitions and you’ve never experienced anything that would fall into these categories, I’m very happy for. This is something that should never happen to ANYONE, male or female. In a perfect world, all humans would be treated with respect and dignity. Also, the #MeToo profile status doesn’t seem to cover discrimination in all its ugly forms, so that’s another topic altogether.
I’ve worked in retail for over twenty years, most of those years in management. And…unfortunately, because of this experience:
I’ve witnessed this. I’ve experienced it. It’s real.
I remember working as a Furniture Sales Manager for a big retailer. We had a number of men who would come to my place of business, usually dressed nicely in suits, who would harass the female employees. They had no intention of making a purchase. They were there to harass and humiliate.
These men might start out with a series of innocent sounding question. “Is this kitchen table in stock? Is it sturdy? How many chairs does it come with?”
They’d lull you into thinking that they were asking legitimate questions, before they’d ask, “Is this table sturdy enough to hold two people?” “Could two people have sex on this table?” And then the REALLY inappropriate questions would start, the personal ones regarding said table and personal sexual preferences and fantasies. In explicit detail. And you’d look at these men, dressed for success, and realize that this is just a game for them. They wanted to upset me and the other women I worked with. They knew that there was very little we could do to stop them. And many of my fellow managers seemed to take the attitude of, “Just walk away. Don’t say anything. What are you going to do, call the police? They’d never believe you. Besides, that’s a customer. You don’t want to upset anyone.”
I don’t think it was an accident that most of these predators were dressed in nice clothing. I think it was a power trip for these guys, dressed in their fancy clothes and driving their luxury cars. You don’t look at someone like that and instantly see a predator; they don’t fit the stereotype. But a couple of those guys…yeah, some of them seemed like the kind of fellows that might stuff a woman in the trunk of their car! They scared me! Sometimes, they wouldn’t let you walk away. Oftentimes, they’d block your exit. These guys weren’t just joking around. I have a great sense of humor. There’s a big difference between joking around and what these guys were doing. (And they never bought anything.)
Did I ask for this inappropriate attention? NO! Was I dress provocatively? NO! (Not that it should matter.) Our uniform was a basic polo shirt and khaki trousers. Did I work in an industry where I should just accept that harassment is part of the job? NO! (Seriously I’ve seen people using this as an excuse for bad behavior. There’s no excuse!)
To make matters worse, we all wore name tags. Predators would remember our names so they could call us at work—by name. Sometimes they’d go so far as to pretend to be a friend or family member. They’d call, you’d think it was legitimate—the guy did know your name after all—and you would find yourself listening to a filthy stalker. For this reason, some of us didn’t want to wear a name badge, myself included. We voiced our concerns, but since it was company policy, we had to wear name tags. One woman was actually reprimanded for receiving too many “personal calls,” as if she wanted this attention.
Is any of this as bad as what other women have experienced? I don’t think #MeToo is supposed to be a contest. I do think it shows that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you work. This is happening. Right now!
We can’t change the past, but we can make others aware.