Are you sure that is harassment?

Talks of sexual harassment, intimidation, and misconduct are everywhere as we head towards the end of 2017.  From politicians to Hollywood, to the social media movements such as #metoo where victims tell their stories in a show of solidarity.

It is hard for any person living in the modern world to not be aware of the topic lately.

But as much as the topic may be uncomfortable for some, it is a topic that needs to be discussed.  It needs to be discussed among families, friends, coworkers, in social settings and meeting rooms.  The discussion needs to continue until the understanding of what is and is not acceptable is universal.

In my day job as a reporter, part of the job is engaging members of the community in various interview settings.  This is part of the job.  Some of the people that we interview are fascinating, and we love to meet people and help to tell their stories.

Working in the type of environment that we do, we talk about social topics more than most.  We have talked and talked and talked about harassment in our office.

The conversations have been full of opinion and thought.

Then things hit home for us in an unexpected way.

A female reporter on our team was conducting a routine interview, which she was recording as per our policy, and the subject of the interview made some comments.

It needs to be said, that the reporter states she never felt she was in danger.  She never felt threatened.  But she did feel uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable enough to bring the interview to an end.  Uncomfortable enough to talk it over with her husband when she got home.  Uncomfortable enough to bring it up in the office.

Harassment does not have to mean that the person felt threatened.  The person does NOT need to feel fear.

Recent studies indicate that one in three women will experience harassment in the workplace.  In a workplace like ours, that may mean outside of the office space.  Sadly, those numbers are on the rise.

Talking to a professional reporter, in a professional setting, conducting a professional interview, about her appearance, marital status, and physical features is NOT acceptable.

Talking to any person in a professional setting about anything other than their professional accomplishments and the topic at hand is NOT acceptable.

As we processed this out, I began to realize, with painful clarity, that we are trained to accept it.

My reporter can be heard on the recording laughing at the man’s joke.  She did not think it was funny.

My reporter can be heard saying “sure” to a random comment in a mock agreement.  She did not agree.

Another person I talked with about the topic stated that when waitressing, she was taught to just smile and agree when customers say things that make her uncomfortable, or risk losing the table and therefore the income. The same server was told to not tell people that she was in a relationship, that customers want the illusion of the server is available.

I hit the roof.  I may have yelled at my friend who was telling me this, as I was so upset. The server needs to have the illusion of keeping my drink full and my order correct.  That is all.  Relationship status is irrelevant.

I know this has been said a thousand times. I know this is not a new topic.  I do not have a fresh perspective.

What I do have is indignation.  During this ongoing conversation, some have risen above as champions for women and their personal security.  Others have said, “oh, it’s not so bad.”

But it is bad.  The question I have begun to ask men who say the harassment is not that bad is this, “Would you say that same sentence to a man.”

It is that simple.  If you, as a professional, would talk with another male professional about his appearance, hair, nails, clothes, marital status, or any other item that women are forced to endure, then proceed.

If you would not, or the conversation would be odd, then don’t say it to women.  It is just that simple.

 

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