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Hugo

Magnificent post, Happy, thank you for sharing. The key feminist task is to stop the mindset in which women are forced to police male behavior, acting as traffic officers. "Self-policing" is vital for men to learn and learn young, and that means not only personal restraint but taking the time to implore vocally for other men to restrain themselves.

Pete

Hi happy! I am soooooo happy that i discovered this blog. I've seen it before , but i just avoided it ....I wasn't sure what it was about....
I'm new to your blog. I guess it will take me a while to read all of your fine posts. __But I certainly agree on self-restraint....gosh, I guess I'm not too good at that...but I'll try.

Joel Monka

When I was younger, I didn't understand how hard it was for women to speak up in incidents such as you describe. Perhaps it's testosterone poisoning, but it's natural for young men, (at least back then- I was the age you describe in the incident 30 years ago), when told about such an incident, to say "why didn't you speak up?" I'm hoping that today young women are more aggressive in their response.

I also think, however, that more men would have taken your side back then had you spoken up than you suspect- especially if it happened among the crew, rather than as management involvement. Although they shouldn't have to, men often look to the women involved to set the rules- again, especially back then. I imagine that all the guys there knew what the offender was- that type usually has an exeggerated opinion of his standing in the male pecking order.

The Happy Feminist

Thank you all for your kind words. I think you are right, Joel, that a lot of the men with whom I worked might well have taken my side. I don't know however that anyone ever overheard my berating this guy. Even though I was quite loud about it, I don't know whether any other employees or supervisers were around. If they were, they never said anything to me about it.

Sidebar

That's one of the main difficulties with that situation--figuring out if the conduct is accidental or intentional. And, it's certainly a lot harder to deal with when you're young and inexperienced. Sounds like you did what you could about it once you set your mind to it. It's too bad your dad wasn't more helpful, but maybe he didn't know what to say.

I'm waiting to hear about the other incidents...

h sofia

So well put. I've seen this kind of behavior a lot on the part of young women.

The Happy Feminist

Sidebar, the other incidents are too tedious and mundane to make an interesting post. Probably the most egregious other thing I endured -- this type in a temp secretarial position -- was endless speculation by the owner of the company and pretty much everyone else as to whether I was a lesbian. The speculation occurred because (a) I was attending a women's college, and (b) I refused to state my sexual orientation when asked. The speculation somehow morphed into a lot of joking about whether I would abandon my lesbianism once I saw the company's "hot" male accountant. When the accountant finally came in, he turned out to be an obese Orthodox Jew. So there was a bit of homophobia and religious/ethnic/anti-fat bigotry to go along with the sexual harassment in that case. Good times.

Richard

I think it's great that you handled the situation yourself without feeling the need to run to an authority figure for protection. I once had the pleasure of watching a woman use razor sharp humor and sarcasm to completely annihilate and humiliate a male co-worker who had been making sexual advances toward her and couldn’t understand why she just wasn’t interested. Granted, she was much older (and therefore, I assume, wiser) than you at 17, but I thought it was wonderful how she handled it. She had everyone howling in laughter at her perpetrator, and he had to lamely laugh too, but you could tell he was devastated.

Women who can handle these things themselves gain enormous respect from both men and women alike, and gain, I imagine, a good amount of self-respect from the experience too. Parents shouldn’t be waiting for their daughters to ask them for advice when it’s already happening to them. It’s going to occur somewhere and the skills need to be developed, ingrained, and in place in girls starting at a very young age, so that they instinctively know how to handle that overbearing man when they come across him. Sure, you can wish it wasn’t necessary to teach girls these skills, but that’s a bit pollyannaish and of no practical purpose in this lifetime.

(220 words)

The Happy Feminist

Yep, I agree that it IF you can handle harassing or inappropriate conduct yourself, that CAN be an ideal solution. Of course, not everyone is possessed of razor sharp wit or perfect self-command -- and bullies and harassers (regardless of the sex of their victims) are inclined to pick on those least able to defense themselves.

I think even the less elegant, "STOP IT" is a good thing. Another solution I used to employ with "ambiguous" harassment was an ambiguously threatening response: "Ha ha ha, it's all fun and games until I sue you for sexual harassment," uttered in a maybe-I'm-joking-maybe-I'm-not tone of voice. Of course, this only works on people smart enough to take the hint. And, of course, this makes people squirm because there is authority to back it up.

I agree that teaching girls and boys about defending against and not perpetrating sexual harassment is a must! (And both sexes can use both lessons since sexual harassment laws are gender-neutral!)

Richard

>>> ...sexual harassment laws are gender-neutral!

True, but men don’t view themselves as being as vulnerable to unwanted sexual attention to the same extent that women seem to. With identical behavior from their harassing perpetrator, and in like circumstances, men are more likely to make light of it, whereas women are more likely to lose sleep over it. I make no judgment about which response in most appropriate, it’s just what I’ve observed.

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