Harvey Weinsteins Everywhere: Let’s Talk About Workplace Sexual Harassment

Reading the Harvey Weinstein pieces in The New Yorker and The New York Times was intense, to say the least. Listening to that recording was chilling and familiar. It’s definitely the first time I’ve read a Gwyneth Paltrow or Angelina Jolie quote and thought to myself, “wow, stars really are just like us.” Of course it’s only the most recent account of a famous man using his institutional power to be a predator and/or a rapist — reading about Roger Ailes, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump was intense, too. Oh and David O. Russell and Roman Polanski and Larry Nassar and OH I could go on because there are so many men, and yet these men remain in charge of things. Men are still in charge of the whole world! Donald Trump is our president!

So it’s on my mind and it’s on a lot of people’s minds. And so I wanted to make a space here for us to talk about it — our own experiences with workplace sexual harassment and/or assault from the men who are in charge of our careers. Anne Helen Peterson, in Buzzfeed:

…when the gossip is authenticated in the press, it just confirms the sad truth we’ve gradually come to understand, from years of gossip and personal experience: that all types of men, in all types of positions and political persuasions, develop and maintain power by exploiting women’s lack of it. Whether it’s Donald Trump or Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein or the myriad “devils in pussy hats,” the message remains: We trust men at our own peril.

It’s actually easier to think of male bosses I’ve had who never said anything sexually inappropriate to me than it is to remember all of the ones who have. My first waitressing job, at The Olive Garden in Times Square when I was 18, offered me the extreme pleasure of working for a manager named Scott who was often accused, behind his back, of having a “Napoleon Complex,” which I guess was a way of saying he was short and fat without sounding like an asshole. But also, Scott was an asshole. He was THE asshole. I played along when he flirted because I noticed that the girls who flirted back got things, like first dibs on E-Meal and dishes that died on the line. To the side of the line there’d be these stacks of boxes — unopened shipments of stuff, I guess — and Teresa, Scott’s favorite, was allowed to sit there and rest when she wanted to, while the rest of us ran food. Scott didn’t just say inappropriate things; he’d touch us, too, and he seemed fundamentally incapable of completing a sentence free of sexual innuendo. He was one of many co-workers who’d slap my ass on their way past the Com-pri like it was a normal thing to do, like my body wasn’t entirely my own.

I went back to Michigan for school before returning to my esteemed position at the aforementioned Olive Garden in Times Square the following summer, 2001. I was shocked to learn that Scott had been fired for sexual harassment. I was shocked to hear some girls had stood up to him ’cause I couldn’t imagine doing that myself, and I was shocked that they’d succeeded. I wish I’d asked for specifics. I hadn’t been alive long enough to know that I’d just experienced something relatively rare.

90% of restaurant employees have experienced sexual harassment on the job, and the majority of them will not see their harasser punished, let alone fired. It’s possible that tolerating this behavior fundamentally changes how we handle future workplaces, too. From 9 in 10 Female Servers Say They’ve Been Sexually Harassed On The Job:

This dynamic stays with women for life, the report also shows that tipped workers are more likely to tolerate forms of harassment later on in life at different industries because ‘it was never as bad as it was in the restaurant industry.’

It certainly seemed common and basically normal to me, at that restaurant job and several others I had in what added up to five or so years of waiting tables. I’m lucky in that for me it didn’t feel traumatic, it just felt like life, and the men I worked with were like most of the men I knew outside of work, too. Life for a young woman is often just constant sexual harassment. Sometimes the girls would talk about it like we were gaming the system — male servers always made more money than female servers, so who wouldn’t try to get a better section by flirting back? I’d always been better at flirting than networking. I guess that was a master’s tools / master’s house situation. Restaurants, in my experience, were always very sexually charged environments, full of young, spry, unmarried people who drank together (on the job, after it, on breaks from it) and often slept together or dated. Sometimes the lines got blurry with managers, who’d often been servers once, too.

For my first few weeks in any new job as an adult, be it a restaurant or an office job, this or that man who liked me was usually my best pathway into the workplace social web. I wish I’d had more confidence in my work or my social skills. In retrospect, my gains were always short-term. But also this was just the world — is just the world. I’ve never been surprised to hear about a powerful man sexually exploiting women. It is entirely consistent with everything I know about powerful men.

I had a boss once who apparently declared to another co-worker, after a femme girl I was dating picked me up from work and subsequently left with me, “what a loss.” He meant it was a loss that we were dating each other, instead of men. I was reminded of this when I read about Harvey trying to coerce Cara Delevingne into kissing a woman in front of him, and told her she’d never make it in Hollywood as a lesbian. It’s none of his business, is the thing.

Eventually, I decided I wanted to get paid more for having to reciprocate sexual attention to men I didn’t like, and became a sex worker. The money I made went to me and it went to the girls who owned the place, not to a corporation or a man. It was hard work, and not always healthy, and often dangerous. But despite how frequently I was violated in that environment, I felt, finally, empowered in the workplace. Maybe I felt that way because I was prepared, I knew the risks, I knew my boundaries would be challenged, and I was making an hourly rate that reflected that risk. I also had lots of clients who I knew, because they basically told me so, that they were attracted to women they worked with but instead of acting on those attractions, they came to us instead. They were probably lying at least a little bit about that. Now I own my own business and never work with straight white cis men.

The truth is that men like Harvey Weinstein exist in every industry. The truth is that most of us here have probably worked with or for a predatory man.

1 in 3 women report having been sexually harassed at work, according to a survey in Cosmopolitan Magazine. 1 in 5 women have been sexually harassed by their boss. I have created this feelings atrium to be a space where we can talk about those experiences.


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Riese is the 35-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2436 articles for us.

52 Comments

  1. I’ve experienced sexism at work, but I’ve been blessed to not having been sexually harassed. I waffled over whether to comment, then, but just because I’ve not been a direct recipient doesn’t mean that I’m not affected. Because this: “I’m lucky in that for me it didn’t feel traumatic, it just felt like life, and the men I worked with were like most of the men I knew outside of work, too.” This!

    Ever since The “Election” I’ve taken pains to point out sexism when I encounter it, instead of suffering silently, or brushing it off as “normal” (even though it is the normal that we live with). To the point where my best male friends have asked me why I’m so angry, and to my face worried that I’m getting too focused on sexism to the point that noticing it and calling it out has “programmed” me (in response to my opening a discussion about how I’m noticing the ways in which we’re programmed by society to accept these instances as normal).

    My experiences range from subtle to blantant, from unintentional to intentional. But they’re all part of a society that fosters these powerful men and their behaviors. Their harassments and assaults. Why did people vote for 45? Why are these “women’s issues” when they affect every aspect of our society for the worse?

  2. One consistent pattern to my experience that I think is probably shared by a few fellow readers is that when I witness or experience sexual harassment/general sexism, people are less likely to take me seriously because they assume I hate all men due to the fact that I’m gay and more masculine of centre. Even gay men often assume this.

    I expend a great deal of energy in workplaces, classrooms, and even with my extended family, just subtly working to prove that I don’t hate men as a group, and indeed I’ve both been told directly or heard through the grapevine about male coworkers, acquaintances, friends’ husbands, ex-partner’s relatives etc who were “pleasantly surprised” to figure out over time that I don’t, in fact, have an irrational, seething loathing toward men. So in the workplace I am already in a position of tip-toeing around them.

    When I have experienced harassment, I tend to assume that unless there was a witness (especially male) I won’t be believed and reporting it will be more trouble than it’s worth. I’ve never reported anything. And when coworkers have been harassed, I’m also aware that I will likely be seen as a less credible witness, and my testimony may actually harm their chances of being listened to. I once backed up a coworker who took her case to HR and though she eventually ‘won’, the whole experience left me wondering if my help was a actually a hindrance. It just feels impossible to confront prejudice when others are already projecting that prejudice back onto you (and the same applies with racism etc).

  3. I work in engineering so it is a predominantly make office. Not long after I first started, one of my female coworkers brought up that she didn’t like being called babe or baby by some of the guys. I agreed with her but the HR person said oh well that is just how the culture is in the South. Completely dismissing the fact that this made both of us uncomfortable. This was 4 years ago and still happens. Minor thing but still.

    The grossest one that has happened to me was when a guy offered to have an affair with me if I ever wanted…he is a married man and knew I was in a long term relationship. He doesn’t know I’m gay because I don’t want to give him a lesbian fantasy on top of anything else he pictures. He often hugs me and tells me that I’m so got. Unfortunatley no one is around when this happens and he has been with the company for years so nothing would happen.

    • A male field crew member at my last job (as a research assistant) kept calling me, “sweetie.” He was from the South (I live in Montana) and the GM’s step brother, so I waited until there was a crowd of people around and he did it again to tell him not to call me that anymore, that it was disrespectful and unprofessional.
      He was gobsmacked and there was a lot of “Alanna is overreacting and what a bitch, blah blah blah,” for a few weeks, but he stopped calling me that. I think for a while the (all male) crew started call each other that to prove some kind of point about how he was just being nice. The fact that he was southern was lobbed at me as justification too, but just no. No.

      • Right!? I’ve only lived in the south and it is used so much to justify that kind of behaviour. That and they say oh well I don’t want to call you ma’am because you aren’t old. Since apparently we don’t have names that serve as a nice alternative

        • You have to make your own call on what’ll work for you at work. But you have the right not to be hugged at work and saying things like “I don’t want a hug” is a totally normal and valid thing for you to say at work. You’re not being rude by calling out his boundary crossing behavior he’s being rude by crossing your boundaries. AskAManager has good scripts for dealing with boundary crossing behavior from inappropriate comments to physical attention. http://www.askamanager.org/2013/02/how-to-deal-with-a-coworker-who-has-a-crush-on-you.html

          http://www.askamanager.org/2014/08/how-to-tell-a-coworker-to-stop-touching-you.html

          • @sparkymcdragon
            Yes.

            I don’t enjoy being hugged in 90% of contexts, and will straight up tell people I don’t like hugging. Your milage may vary, but I’ve had pretty good luck with deadpanning it and just couching it as a personal quirk so that it isn’t taken personally. I’m generally a reasonably warm but slightly odd human person so that may help.

            And because I’m pretty consistent and don’t even hug people I wouldn’t totally hate being hugged by it seems even more glaringly inappropriate for people I really don’t want to touch me to do so. I mean, there are people who suck and will violate boundaries because they like to and that’s not mitigable by this strategy (or any I know of).

            Actually it just sucks that we have to have “strategies” to avoid non-consensual touching and, you know, fuck everything.

  4. The sheer number of well-known actresses coming forward about Harvey alone is just astonishing to me. And it doesn’t look like that train is going to stop any time soon. It sounds like he has been able to get away with this for decades. I’m just blown away by this whole thing.

  5. I probably shouldn’t talk about this on the Internet, so this is of necessity a vague-ish comment. But it’s something I still have a lot of feelings about, and am trying not to be scared of anymore.

    It’s a long and complicated story, but here are the highlights: I used to work at a small magazine nested inside a much larger organization. The relevant staff consisted of the editor-in-chief (a dude), the managing editor (also a dude), a dude-intern, a lady-intern, and me (also a lady-intern). All of us but the EIC were pretty much fresh out of college, with virtually no work experience in general and no experience whatsoever in this field. So, we were vulnerable and our expectations were uncertain.

    The EIC was narcissistic and abusive. Among other things, he spent many months sexually harassing my female co-worker. Mostly verbally, though there was touching as well. (I still don’t know why I wasn’t a target for anything but general sexism, too, though I suspect it’s because I was taller than him.) Near the end of our term of employment, she filed a formal complaint and I contributed a supporting letter/witness statement. There was an attempt at an internal investigation, the memory of which will probably always fill me with blind rage.

    You all know how this story ends. We’re gone, and he’s still there.

    • maybe it’s because it’s the industry and environment i’m most familiar with, but there’s something that always feels EXTRA creepy to me when it’s like a writer or editor who is respected within the literary community or publishing. like, men who aren’t rich and famous (which is an assumption i’m making here ’cause you said it was a small magazine) but are well-respected and they present themselves as great intellectuals and liberal feminists and then it’s like oh great, you’re gross too. and then they go forward in life writing novels about 20-year-olds who fall in love with their married 65-year-old professors.

      • Unhappy shivers of agreement. You hit that nail on the head.

        Remember that scene in Nicholas Cage’s absurd vampire movie, where he’s running down the street screaming “I’m a vampire, I’m a vampire”? I used to picture my boss doing that, except shouting “I’m a feminist” instead.

        I am now in grad school for fiction writing, and my former co-worker is trying to set up shop on the editorial end of the industry. We both worry sometimes that he’ll use his position in the literary community to try and sabotage our potential careers—like, with little comments at AWP or some cocktail party about what humorless bitches we are. But there’s really nothing I can do about that except write as well as I can for as long as I can, and do my teeny timid part to smash the literary patriarchy.

  6. I have been cornered in the kitchen by other chefs. Blocked in the walk-in coolers. One of them said it wasn’t like he was asking for a kidney. I told him he had a better chance of getting the kidney. He told everybody about it like cornering me to grope me was perfectly ok. I wouldn’t even be able to guess how many times I’ve been asked details about my sex life and if they can watch me and my girlfriend. Plus a couple of suggestions about my twin and I getting together. Just, no.

  7. So at a thankfully brief discussion event recently there was this professor I didn’t know that was just dominating the conversation in a really obnoxious, male privilege kind of way. I was annoyed for days after the event and then it hit me that he reminded me of my history teacher from middle school. In middle school I was severely depressed, like constant suicidal ideations going through my head, I was dealing with a lot and didn’t really engage in class or outside of class. But this guy would stand in the hall in the passing times between class to greet people, and when I would enter his classroom he would move partially into the doorway making it harder to get by. He would say hello to me a bunch of times until I acknowledged him. He was often invading my personal space and it made me feel absolutely awful, which I imagine HAD to be visible! But he never stopped and it took me years to realize that what he did to me was really gross and awful, I just didn’t have the mental energy to even process the reality of it at the time because I was fighting my brain already just to stay alive. If I hadn’t been depressed and suicidal maybe I would have been able to say something or do something but it didn’t even cross my mind.

  8. I don’t think I’ve ever worked in an environment where men weren’t toeing the line of sexual harassment – either coworkers or customers. Only once have I taken serious action about it, when a manager whose guts I already hated refused to quit touching me to get my attention. The result was that I was ostracized by management, which was fine because I didn’t care about the job. But as a result I don’t think I’d be eager to report again.

    Currently I’m a pedicabber (bike taxi), which means I spend 98% of my time working around drunk party people. Sexual harassment is definitely the norm, across the board – men, women, gay, straight. Men like to be verbally demeaning, while women feel entitled to just grab my ass/legs. I almost prefer dealing with men, because they know they’re crossing a line and I can reprimand them while still remaining “fun”. Women are usually offended in the same way that gay men usually are – like, it’s obviously harmless because there isn’t a hetero dynamic, so what’s my problem. But overall, the acceptance of a certain level of harassment is required because I’m going to be paid cash by my passengers at the end of the ride. I really love my work, but it’s always in the back of my mind that I can’t/don’t want to do this forever… it can’t be healthy for me to subject myself to this level of misogyny and homophobia all the time.

    • Dude, I’m so sorry you’re going through that right now. I hope you have a way out soon. But I have to thank you for the courage to call out women and gay men. As a shot girl and go-go dancer I was gaslighted (in large part by my own brain) into accepting female harassment for years. Where I worked was one of those self-professed “classy” clubs with signs all over the place proclaiming that the staff can’t be touched, solicited, harassed, etc. And, boy, was that enforced, but only for straight-presenting men. Not only were the bouncers and management all male, but the bartenders were all male- while the entirety of the staff out on the floor with customers were female. This resulted in a lovely little patriarchy of male coworkers who considered themselves feminists and took their ultimate pride in “taking care of their girls”. This meant that any male customer who toed lines was 86ed without question. Male customers were 86ed even when we didn’t ask, even for verbal offenses, and sometimes they were held and the cops were called. These male protectors of ours regularly brought up how we should be grateful that they themselves did not harass us. “You lucked into the safest job on the street. Don’t forget it’s not like this at x”.

      Meanwhile every female employee experienced extreme physical harassment from drunken straight (“straight”?) women on a regular basis, and gay men less often, that was let run rampant because it was “atmosphere”. My pussy was straight up Trumped, my asshole was also penetrated by fingers, I was cornered and held down and kissed, they tried to undress me, peeped on me in the bathroom, they ordered shots from my mouth and cleavage and tried to transfer that into making out with me or my breasts. They tried to shove money and drugs into various holes on our bodies, and when I had a drink thrown on me for refusing to “grind chain” with a bachelorette and her maid of honor they were 86’d only for throwing the drink, and I was sent home early to “take a breather from a rowdy night”. Also, these women were constantly trying to hire us for prostitution (involving their husbands). One night two women trying to hire me waited out my shift and followed me to the car. Thankfully my girlfriend was picking me up and they split when they saw a person in the car. When I asked for help with any/all of this, I was literally laughed at and told “it’s your job to have fun”, and “come on, you can take them”. The night after the women followed me, I reported it and asked for a review of security tapes, a permanent 86, and maybe a police report. The manager laughed as though he really thought I was telling a joke, and then gathered the bouncers and told me to describe the women. All the bouncers chuckled as well when I described the women as skinny and average height. A few hours later a man was bodily 86ed for shouting “bitch” at a dancer from across the room. She hadn’t asked for him to be tossed. The bouncer who did it had a crush on her.

      Obviously I knew all this was insane but for all the various silly internalized bullshit reasons that have brought us all here, I told myself I was “gaming the system”, in Riese’s words, because of how much money I was making. Cause I was, y’all. But my final straw came a couple months after the stalker women. There was a male regular with a violent fixation on me who had been permanently 86ed over a year ago. We had filed a police report on him at the time and the graphic threats he made to me were so bad it was actually taken seriously, but for some pathetic reason I chose not to press charges. Also, I honestly felt safe that he’d been scared off. He was an easily scared kind of dude.

      But a couple months after the stalker women incident, he was spotted on camera lurking down the street staring at our club. I was pulled from the floor in the middle of a customer interaction and LOCKED IN the manager’s office while the cops were called. The following sentence is NOT a joke: The manager put a blanket around my shoulders and brought me hot chocolate with marshmallows and a snickerdoodle. Where did those things come from?! I will never know. It was May in Alabama. Then the cops actually showed and I was very eager to talk to them about my history with this man; in fact I had definitely decided to make sure I took enough legal action to see the man jailed that night. I was commencing Google research on the legal intricacies of the situation. But my manager didn’t let me talk to the cops. I heard them through the door, he told them they had enough to arrest the guy and that I didn’t need to “relive trauma” by talking them through what could be seen on security tapes and the old report.

      The manager aggressively insisted on driving me home even though he knew my routine, that my usual ride (my “roommate” to him, who I hadn’t called yet) would be on her way and he could have just had me walked straight to the car with an entourage. He whisked me out the side door when I think the cops were still out front. While we drove I started texting my girlfriend, who he well knew was on her way to pick me up, and he made a sarcastic comment about millennials and phones. He then apologized for “other men”, said he was “impressed” by how calm I was, and casually brought up his backrub skills. When we got to my house and he stated it would be best if he came in for a drink, I got up without a word, RAN to my house, and locked myself in. He tried banging on the door and screaming he was “worried about me.” Then my neighbor yelled at him and he sat in his car until my girlfriend pulled up and he drove off. And that night I blocked his and all the club’s phone numbers and completely cut off that chapter of my life. There are happy endings to this one. I pursued legal action against the terrible man on my own, and got lots of support. I now work with the nonprofit that helped me get the restraining order I never intend to stop renewing. I only wish I had one against those women as well. I want to take out a moment to highlight that my life is and always has been full of incredible men and straight women both. And queer womyn. And everybody! You get the point.

      And that’s my story vomit for this thread. To everyone else and whatever your shit is that brought you here: love y’all, stay nasty, and do not let yourself forget that YOU are the only person who says when your lines are being crossed.

      • @lucyf I feel you so much here. I definitely haven’t had the same level of violent harassment that you experienced, but so much of what you said echoes for me. I often joke that I’ve only had a couple of experiences where I thought someone was actually going to kill me, but also… I’ve had a couple of experiences where I thought someone might try to kill me. I kind of compare my industry to stripping, in that we are selling our bodies to do a certain kind of work for people, and in that process we become objects to the customers. And I can usually justify this experience because I make a dumb amount of money for it. But jesus christ, sometimes it’s the worst. I’m glad to hear you found something else to do that’s good for you. I haven’t found anything else yet that’s as satisfying for me, but I’m hoping I will before I completely burn out.

      • I wish there would be more talk about female abusers in the LGBT communities.
        This is a topic that has been breached again and again by some brave authors since at least around 2000, but it’s never really been addressed.
        It’s not the best of times right now, but still.
        I have to say that I was horrified by how women and FAAB get away with a lot more then men. And how their behaviour is normalized in LGBT spaces.
        I actually felt *less* safe in the so-called safe spaces.

    • Thank you for sharing this story (and Lucy’s below as well). I’m lucky enough to have never been sexually harassed in the workplace, but have been non-sexually abused both in and out of the workplace by multiple female perpetrators. And it’s hard to talk about that in feminist spaces a lot of the time, between the gender essentialism of abuse narratives and attitudes of in-group solidarity that tote meme-level rhetoric about male abusers while with the same breath celebrating that female abusers are sassy/empowered/getting karmic justice on the patriarchy/etc. There’s a lot of abuse perpetuated by straight white women and cis white gay men (and shitty people of all genders and identities) that gets completely ignored, even outright dismissed or laughed at or dynamic-inverted/questioned, by those purporting to be working to create safe spaces for abuse victims.

      I’m sorry that both of you have had to go through these experiences, and I’m sorry that people of all genders enabled them due to their stereotypical assumptions about what constitutes abuse based on the abuser’s gender.

      • @natalie4571 I see it all the time. For all the stories I have of being harassed by straight men, the men I work with have plenty of their own from women and gay men. They wouldn’t even call it sexual harassment because they’ve been conditioned to believe sexual attention makes them… more masculine, I guess? And the justifications that women/gay men make for that behavior mean dialogue about it absolutely belongs in feminist/queer spaces.

        • YES in the anti-abuse nonprofit I work for we deal with the lack of cultural space for male and masculine of center victims to speak out just as much as we deal with specifically mysoginistic rape culture. And both issues are equally and horrifically dangerous for all of society.

          Unfortunately even with all this website has done for me and others (which is SO much) I don’t always feel like AS is the most safe space for discussing these issues/feelings. If slivercake hadn’t opened the door I wouldn’t have bothered commenting on an article that implies workplace abuse stops when you stop working with men. But I’m glad I’m not alone here and I also want to reiterate that I think AS is great and very needed. I just hate to see threads like this that tend towards non-humorous misandry (and also hetero-bashing). The most important friend in my life who helped me deal with everything I’ve been through happens to be a straight man, and some of the things I read on here make me feel shamed or anti-feminist for that.

          And slivercake, I hope you figure out your next steps soon. The psychological wormhole of selling your body while demanding basic human respect is daunting, but the problem is culture, not you. In the meantime, stay safe (and make that money).

          And if slivercake and Nat don’t agree with what I said, I didn’t mean to loop them into it. I hope no one is personally offended, including Riese. It’s amazing that you wrote this article. I just had issues with some of the language.

          • Lucy, thanks for the reply. I’ve been thinking for a few days about exactly how to best respond to what you’ve said here. I also have a lot of issues with the way mainstream feminist and queer spaces (including AS) discuss abuse cultures in extremely gender essentialist, binary ways, and I feel a lot of the same alienation you express here, if for somewhat different reasons.

            I strongly hesitate to bring discussions of “misandry” and the like into this conversation, or to invoke the “but my best friend/partner/boss/etc. is a straight white man and he’s the most feminist person I know” strawman here. That is not in any way a slight to your friend or to the many, many wonderful male or straight or white or otherwise majority allies out there doing incredible things for social movements or in general toward the people in their lives. I am so glad you have your friend in your life and that he’s been such a solid support system aiding in your recovery. The existence of exceptional people within any identifier group doesn’t negate either the effects of the exceptionally bad (or middlingly compliant) members of those groups, nor does it (in itself) dismantle the social structures that allow the proliferation of societal prejudices and abuse in general. I’m not of the mindset that we shouldn’t praise people for being baseline decent human beings rather than actively exploitative or abusive – positive social reinforcement works, after all – but I’m also nowhere near being of the mindset that minorities or abuse victims venting their frustrations with the people and systems that allow that abuse to continue is some kind of equivalent -ism on par with widespread systematic social violence and discrimination.

            My issue with the in-group solidarity and gender essentialism in these kinds of discussions is this: it reinforces the same binaries and tribal mentalities that it purports to aim to deconstruct. It holds up the wall from our side of the fight, even if that wall’s construction is so fortified by the other side it would stand regardless. And perhaps most dangerously, it reinforces, intentionally or unintentionally, the rhetoric I see everywhere in mainstream feminist spaces, that the opposite of #f*ckallmen is solidarity to a sisterhood that somehow stands united across class, race, sexuality, and other factors, that the opposite of internalized bias held by all members of a majority class to whatever varying degree is shared experience by all members of the minority class affected by that majority.

            I’m not saying that all, or nearly all, women in Western culture aren’t at the very least acutely aware of the dangers of rape culture in ways that men usually aren’t, even if they haven’t personally experienced assault or harassment. What I’m saying is that a lot of people are repeatedly silenced out of these kinds of conversations when they’re framed in a way that posits the effects of Western rape culture and misogyny as being primarily perpetuated by violent, powerful, middle-to-upper-class, middle-to-older-aged white men (or their training-wheels version, the middle-to-upper-class frat bro), with everything else done by everyone else seen as an afterthought or a niche discussion. What I’m saying is that we lose a lot of the bigger picture when we don’t talk about the myriad of ways women perpetuate and teach misogyny to other women, even as a well-intentioned or understandable reaction to their own traumatic past experiences with the patriarchy. What I’m saying is that we risk so much additional perpetuation of abuse cycles when we exclude male abuse victims from conversations, what with the damaging ways we teach so many men to deal with trauma. What I’m saying is that, yet again, the people most silenced and hidden in this conversation are non-male people who have been abused by non-male people, who often end up feeling like discussing their experiences makes them traitors to the cause or even opened up to scrutiny about if internalized misogyny is coloring seeing their situation as abuse.

            What I’m saying is that, especially with all the stories in comments about harassment and abuse by women, cis gay men, etc., I agree with you that it’s uncomfortable to see AS take a position this gendered here, even if well-intentioned.

          • (I want to add and clarify that I’m also not coming for AS or Riese for writing this article and raising awareness about workplace sexual harassment. There are a lot of wonderful things that AS has done for queer and feminist visibility, and a criticism of certain ways conversations may be framed isn’t a criticism of AS’ overall mission, obviously. But it’s just disheartening to see abuse survivor spaces yet again only feeling like they’re open to one specific narrative, a narrative that feels particularly out of place to be reinforced this strongly as The Narrative on a website dedicated to queer women and people with non-mainstream identities and stories.)

          • Nat – can’t reply to you because of the threading but I really appreciate how you’re talking about this.

            I do think it’s important to talk about and I agree with you. Over the years I’ve become more and more uncomfortable with talking about sexul violence like it’s just a thing men do to women, because I don’t think it actually helps to solve the problem. (And I’m a woman who was sexually abused by a man.)

            The treatment of sexual violence has improved in the last 20 years and has become less gendered (at least in my experience as a survivor of CSA working with trauma informed practitioners, ymmv). My hope is that approach will become more mainstream and move into prevention as well.

            Here are misc things in my life that lead me to thinking the above:

            My first survivors support group was women only. One member was also queer (we were out to each other but not to the whole group). One of her abusers was female and the other male and it bothered her that everyone talked about abusers as if they’re always men. This was in the 90s, we were in college and I don’t think it occurred to either of us to bring it up with the group or the group leaders.

            I don’t think I encountered men in survivor spaces until maybe 3 years ago, and that was really healing and eye opening, although I was initially scared of it. One group, at a LGBTQ center, was inclusive across the gender spectrum. It was for trauma survivors in general but all of us happened to be survivors of CSA.

            My current group is all women and is also for any type of trauma survivor – the center it’s at runs men’s and women’s groups.

            When I was a teacher, I took my classes to various “prevent sexual violence / abuse relationships” type programs presented by various groups brought in by the college. The best program by far was this one that focused on behavior and red flags and didn’t use gendered pronouns at all. Seeing the difference in how my students responded to it vs the ones that were all he = abuser and she = victim was also eye opening.

          • Cleo, excellent points all around, and thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m aware of the trends away from gendered language and gender-exclusive safe spaces in professional and nonprofit spaces dealing with abuse over the past decade or two and I think that’s absolutely wonderful. I sincerely hope it will begin to have a spillover into mainstream feminist and queer spaces, especially as recent social-media-centric internet culture seems to be exacerbating a lot of casual meme-level gendered rhetoric in feminist conversations.

            It’s a particular sensitive spot for me because, as I said above, while none of my abuse has been sexual in nature, I have been in several abusive situations, all at the hands of women, and in multiple of those instances, at the hands of other queer and self-proclaimed feminist women. And as someone whose primary forms of abuse have been emotional/psychological, verbal, financial, and light/unconventional physical (often caveated as such with “no one will know if I don’t leave a bruise”) in situations in familial, non-sexual-harassment workplace and other platonic contexts (and as a bisexual person whose identity probably skews a lot closer to agender than female) it just gets disheartening and depressing to see abuse conversations so overwhelmingly dominated over and over by discussions that, in one way or another, center around the idea that all violence and abuse is the result of aggression caused by a penis and the fist attached to it. And it’s particularly disheartening to see that in queer spaces, because in addition to everything else, it severely runs the risk of delegitimizing the entire cause at stake by supporting views that queer women are queer as the result of male-associated trauma or political protest, not out of, you know, their attraction to women.

          • Nat and Cleo, I don’t know if you’ll get this reply, but thank you both so much for your wonderfully intelligent and measured replies, and Cleo for you personal story. I’m so excited to hear about healing spaces moving away from gendered language, and it’s especially heartening that you made a home in gender-neutral spaces even though your personal abuse experience was gendered. It’s awesome that you took a chance on that first mixed-gender group.

            As Nat pointed out much more eloquently than me, binary discussion of abuse is not only disturbing because it’s bigoted, but because even when it’s framed as sympathetic to women it’s still patriarchal at the heart. It’s an untrue narrative that assigns the looming spectre of “men” all the power and makes all the rest of us eternal victims rolling stones up their mountain. I don’t know about y’all, but that ain’t me. And I cannot thank you enough, Nat, for bringing up how much that narrative reinforces the whole “all gays were abused” thing. Now, I believe that for many, our experiences shape our preferences, which is obviously valid if that’s the case for you (it is in part for me and I’m not afraid to say so), but of course it’s not the only thing that “makes” a queer. Such baffling thinking, especially when rape is frequently the suggestion for “curing” female queerness. If rape “made” us, how would it “fix” us? A question for the ages.

            Also Nat, I want to address what you said about using a supportive straight male friend as a strawman. What I wrote and the way I wrote it was argumentatively lazy and you were right to call it out, but I didn’t mean it as a strawman device the way you took it. I think I meant almost the opposite of what you read, which I’ll take credit for. But the thing is, maybe I’m feeling overly defensive but it feels like you took my comment the wrong way because you were prepared to. You took the time out to say you were happy for me, and I thank you, but jumped immediately to assuming that the only reason I would even bring up knowing a good man was if I don’t take complaints about other men seriously. Then moved very quickly to talking about “baseline decent” men with a strong implication that that’s actually what my friend is, which is way off base. Or maybe I’m reading you wrong there. Like I said, I might be getting defensive and hysterical (AS WOMEN DO) because I’m also a survivor of male-perpetrated CSA, way before all the other stuff, and I felt a little bit like you implied that I’m taking away from acknowledgement of rape culture by mentioning my friend, which got under skin and came off to me like exactly the knee-jerk defensive reaction that misogynistic men have when we talk about women’s rights and they go “don’t forget about ours!”. Again, maybe I’m way off about what you said. I don’t know anymore.

            But what I meant to accomplish by mentioning my friend was not apologetics for the existence of men as a privileged class, because I 100% agree with all of that, or implying that men are in danger of the same kind of oppression the rest of us currently suffer just because of one article I took as misandrist; I meant it as a humanizing device to highlight my disgust with binary language about abuse. As a personal anecdote demonstrating that the issue is more complex than “man-bad-woman-good”. Because the thing for me is that the binary reinforcement I’m seeing in too much of the language on AS (yes, and many other places) seems just as freakishly clear as it does in other spaces that most of y’all would consider obviously bigoted, e.g. Breitbart, Fox News, fundamentalist religious sites (since I do research and political work with my nonprofit I spend as much time trying to objectively read “the other side” as I do anything else, which I might guess a lot of folks here don’t do?) but queer feminists at this moment in time are so (very understandably) defensive about cultural misogyny that they’re leaning into it in the same way that they judge consumers of those other sources for doing. I’m increasingly disturbed by this trend and I’ve actually seen many times IRL that adding a personal touch is effective in spaces that are inundated with coded language. It surprises people when they’ve just finished reading/hearing something where the word “man”, “feminist”, “queer”, “black”, or whatever it may be could be search & replaced with “other”. It’s not so subtle how this article grammatically and thematically places the words “men” and “male”, and it’s also noteworthy that the only two statistics cited- “9 in 10 female servers” have been harassed and “90% of restaurant workers” have been harassed- are the same, but one is gender neutral. The citing of those two studies is followed up with a quotation specifically about the effect of harassment on women and then the article launches right back into a paragraph that browbeats us with the word “man” framed negatively three times in a row. I like to think most AS readers would call out that exact strategy on a different site. Those of y’all who don’t spend much time reading socially conservative sites, and I mean actually reading them, not reading random quotations of what liberal sites say they said, should give it a try, and the framing strategies pushing demonized words that generalize large groups of people may seem more familiar than you’d like.

            With that being said, and reiterating what I said above about a binary narrative of abuse being patriarchal, the reason I think it’s important to stop and point out great- yes, actively positive, not baseline decent- men is because we can’t dismantle an established male-centric narrative without discussing men. Maybe it’s annoying to be discussing men in this space, I get that, but there must be two parts to changing the story: (1) changing the “victim” side, by acknowledging everyone whose story doesn’t fit the narrative, and (2) changing the “abuser” side, by breaking down that near-supernatural “evil male” spectre. And I think a necessary part of that is being able to acknolwedge good men without getting upset. Because the reason we’re pausing to acknowledge good men here is not FOR them, not because I’m arguing that they’re opresssed by us and they need it, but because acknowledging them feeds back into acknowledging US, all of our stories that don’t play into the narrative. As Nat said so perfectly, the people most silenced by the binary conversation are non-males, but I just worry that it’s easy to forget equality for those folks can’t be reached without including males in the conversation. I truly believe that philosophically, but those of y’all who don’t still need to consider it practically. I really hope that makes sense. Sorry I’m so stuck on the point but it’s super important to me.

            Lastly in case I’m coming off way aggressive or off base here (because really, I had a long couple days and I just can’t tell right now) I fully admit that I tried to make this post logical or whatever, but my personal issues come into this bigtime because not only am I a survivor of rape by a male and workplace harassment by males and females, but during the time when I was enduring male rape I was in the relatively unusual situation of my sole support system being a different man who is quite literally the only person who saved my life. So I know that I react more viscerally to binary rape culture discussions than many folks and I see more misandry (I stand by my use of that word, sorry) in rape/abuse discussions in feminist spaces because every comment that generally calls out men punches me in my gut when I think of how the man who hurt me and the man who saved me are more like different species than “men” and “women” will ever be. And having that experience immediately followed up with rampant and invalidated female harassment during the time in my life when I was becoming aware of the cultural feminist discussion for the first time after escaping the isolation of a CSA home shaped my personal feelings on all of this in a pretty different way than the majority of folks I’ve ever discussed it with. And thanks Nat for mentioning the explosion of highly binary casual meme shit, cause that’s all been hugely triggering for me lately with this issue. I recently stabbed a steak knife all the way through my table after reading a mindnumbingly stupid “mansplaining” meme. So that’s where I’m at right now.

          • Overall though Nat, I think everything you said was well done and amazing, most MOST especially the end of your last comment, on the 17th. Thank you!

            Also this: “the idea that all violence and abuse is the result of aggression caused by a penis and the fist attached to it”. Literal, wildly inappropriate LOL.

          • Lucy, thanks so much for the reply. Everything you said here is amazing and I agree 100%, and I sincerely apologize if my earlier comments put you on any sort of defensive or made you feel as if I was calling you out in particular for referencing your friend. That could not have been further from my goal, and I’ll be honest – a lot of the particular language choice in that section of that comment was not in any way directed at you, but meant to frame the argument as part of larger conversations, as more of an “in before” rationalization if others jumped on it with the kinds of common logic used in a lot of these sorts of discussions. I wholeheartedly believe that using the word misandry as an equivalent binary flip of misogyny follows the same logical fallacies as reverse racism, alt-right vs. neo-Nazi, etc., and especially as the word is so popularly used by MRA types, I don’t believe we should give it power for that reason alone even without discussions of false equivalencies involved. The baseline decent comment was not meant to be directed at your friend in particular, either – again, I am so thrilled you have such an exceptional person in your life to help you through the experiences you’ve been through, and I think similar extraordinary people are worthy of as high praise as we can offer, no matter their identifier groups. You’re right that the comment had prepared elements to it, but if that came across as prepared to interpret your anecdote negatively and undervalue your friend’s actions and attitudes, I sincerely apologize, as that couldn’t have been further from my intention. What I was attempting to do was strip my response as much away from possible common rebuttals and individual experience outlier fallacies to get to the same heart of the issue that you’ve discussed in your above comment. Similarly, the pointing out that the use of binary heteronormative rhetoric in structuring discussions within queer spaces harms abuse situations exclusively involving non-males most of all was an argument tactic meant primarily in the vein of giving an important reason for dropping said rhetoric that wasn’t related to men at all – fighting harder for the recognition and rights of situations that exclusively involve women and nonbinary people should be a motivator when the supposed coddling of the male ego isn’t. I couldn’t agree with everything you’ve said more, honestly. I promise we’re on the exact same page here, and I sincerely apologize if my comment – meant to head our conversation off in advance from the same kinds of rebuttals we’re both burnt out on to extremely similar points, it seems – came across as an attack your way rather than an attempt to keep our conversation going without derailment into “but, but, but, you used the word misandry/advocated giving men cookies for not raping people, therefore you both are misogynist” responses.

            “Queer feminists at this moment in time are so (very understandably) defensive about cultural misogyny that they’re leaning into it in the same way that they judge consumers of those other sources for doing” – YES. Everything about this. YES. Also, 100% agreement with everything you said regarding reading rhetoric put out by all ideologies, keeping up with rhetoric put out by extreme factions of right-wing ideology, etc. That’s also something I try to do as much as I can – not to the extent that your job requires you to do, I’m sure, but I can assure you that I do my best to stay far from living in a bubble of self-reinforcing like-minded reporting and discussion. I’m aware of what we’re fighting and aware of the rhetoric being used by other groups – which makes me even more frustrated when I see this kind of rhetoric being used by our side of the argument, and even more likely to point things out when the baseline argument in play is essential and well-crafted but the means of expressing it is flawed and potentially damaging. And honestly, at this point in time in a lot of social justice discussions, what terrifies me even more than the empowered rising actions of violent and abusive groups is the attitude in positive resistance groups that all critique of argument structure and effectiveness is tone policing, all identifier groups are cultural monoliths with no deviation and should be discussed as such at all times, etc. In addition to its extreme logical fallacies, that kind of rhetoric is simply not sustainable, either in-group or as an outside defense.

            Even though my abuse experiences have not been sexual in nature, it seems our experiences have definite similarities in broader senses, from what you’ve discussed. Though, again, non-sexual, my primary abuser was a parent, in a situation that left me feeling trapped and helpless for a long time and eventually escalated to escape from a life-or-death situation (which involved the help and support, similarly, of an extraordinary male friend, among others). I can SO STRONGLY relate to what you’re saying about your personal experiences heavily shaping your views on these sorts of topics and then feeling cognitive dissonance upon encountering mainstream feminist rhetoric for the first time after getting out of that situation. If there’s no shame in addressing head-on the ways our experiences do shape us, as you say, then I can’t say there’s been a more defining experience for me in my life than that experience – living a childhood so full of gaslighting that I had no choice for my own survival and sanity but to fully structure my own understanding of the world on my own terms, by my own observations, and then, often, feeling completely lost and alone and helpless to shout over the masses to bring any of that understanding to broader social justice circles. As I said in previous comments, I’m bisexual, although in a life partner relationship with a woman and, although not out as a non-cis identity in my daily life, have never felt my entire life that gender was a concept I could truly understand or relate to or was appropriate as a personal identifier label for me. I’m biracial, although some of the exact makeup of that racial identity is unknown as a direct result of my child abuse, I have no connection to the involved heritage because of said child abuse, and I’m white-passing enough that I have no idea if the passing but mostly nonthreatening comments I’ve received fairly frequently over the course of my life about it have had anything at all to do with times I’ve experienced abuse or discrimination in other regards, which leaves me constantly questioning if I’m inserting myself in conversations I don’t belong in in that regard or being completely oblivious to other ways my experiences have been compounded. I vacilate between if feeling so blank-slate identity-wise in that regard has given me a unique perspective that can offer insights other perspectives can’t, or whether it leaves me feeling like I belong absolutely nowhere in, and as a result don’t deserve to be a part of, a social justice world that feels, in a lot of ways, increasingly tied to solidarity with angular and divided, if not binary, labels that my life hasn’t afforded me the privilege to either affix to myself or to trust others on the basis of.

            “There must be two parts to changing the story: (1) changing the “victim” side, by acknowledging everyone whose story doesn’t fit the narrative, and (2) changing the “abuser” side, by breaking down that near-supernatural “evil male” spectre. And I think a necessary part of that is being able to acknolwedge good men without getting upset. Because the reason we’re pausing to acknowledge good men here is not FOR them, not because I’m arguing that they’re opresssed by us and they need it, but because acknowledging them feeds back into acknowledging US, all of our stories that don’t play into the narrative.”

            Saying “I agree 100%” doesn’t even begin to cover my feelings on the above. Saying “you took the exact words out of my mouth I’ve been shouting for years” in response to arguments about how men’s issues should be ignored because of the severity of women’s issues comes closer.

            I also love that you brought up the anecdote about your frustration with the mansplaining meme, because steak knife specifics aside, that’s the exact point I’m at with regard to feminist meme rhetoric. I quit Tumblr within the past year primarily as a result of the meme rhetoric (and partly as a result of a general social media stepback due to anxiety caused by 24/7 news fearmongering culture), and I’ve been going through a rough time lately facing the end of a long-term friendship partly as a result of similar disconnecting views. The person in question is also a survivor of male-perpetrated CSA, and I completely respect their experiences and recovery process, but they specifically find the meme-level rhetoric to be therapeutic and have repeatedly refused to listen to why it’s equally as triggering on my end (and others’, both in specific instances and in general) as it is empowering on theirs. It’s not nearly the only reason for conflict in the relationship, but it’s been a huge exacerbating factor, and it feels highly indicative of general disconnects in viewpoints we could sustain at 18 but not at 28, you know? But in general, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve thrown a random household object in frustration or spent an entire evening ranting to my partner about the pervasiveness of all that sort of rhetoric in feminist social media spaces, from the #f*ckallmen/mansplaining memes to the AAVE-appropriating championing of violent and abusive women as supposed sassy sisters giving the patriarchy its comeuppance, well.

            So in case it wasn’t clear in my original comments, I think we’re on exactly the same page here, and it’s always good to know there’s someone else out there who feels this way about these issues.

            (Also, in case the penis/fist comment carried any transphobic/transmisogynist connotations for anyone by accident, I want to sincerely apologize for that and make it clear that wasn’t my intention either, although it was very much meant to address the followthrough there with regard to issues like TERF ideologies, views on trans men and masculine-of-center nb people as nonthreatening/sexually viable to lesbians as sexuality stepping stones/etc. because of their AFAB status, etc. as much as it was meant to address mainstream feminist views on gendered violence.)

  9. There are things I never even realized were sexual harassment until thinking back on them now. Like the supervisor I had who used to tell me, regularly, that I should have sex with him because I couldn’t possibly know I was a lesbian if I’d never had sex with a man (even though when I asked how he knew he was straight if he never had sex with a man, he got VERY MAD AT ME) and would every once in a while “check” to see if I changed my mind, that the sex would be so good, that he could cure me. It was gross and I hated it but I just saw it as this annoying guy doing this annoying thing, because there were always annoying guys saying annoying things like this, to me, to my friends, to my coworkers. I’m so ready for this revolution of the people who can speaking up about this. I’m ready for this shit to stop.

  10. I feel like this story is shocking but not surprising.

    I’ve experienced very little workplace harassment but I am a survivor of CSA. I keep telling myself to stay away from this story and then getting sucked back in. I’m going to try writing down all my feelings here so I can stop rehearsing them in my head.

    It feels so familiar – Hollywood or at least MiraMax and Weinstein’s other companies seem shockingly similar to my experience growing up in a dysfunctional extended family with incest (my grandfather abused 2 generations of girls).

    All the survivors coming forward now – some saying that they just thought this was just how Hollywood was, the ones who were able to protect themselves, the ones who told friends or family and were believed, the ones who never told anyone before now. And the underground web of survivors warning the young and vulnerable. And this pervasive feeling that the perpetrator was all-powerful, unreachable.

    And some who had no idea what was going on. Or maybe they had a niggle, a sense of unease, but didn’t want to examine that too closely. Maybe a little part of them knew but most of them didn’t want to know. And so they’re shocked now.

    It’s so hard the read the outrage-poluzza going on now. All the surprise and outrage. All the condemnations.

    I am glad that the victims are coming forward and are being publicly believed and supported. I’m maybe more surprised by that than by anything else.

    And now I’m going to turn off my phone, drink apricot green tea and read the fluffiest, trashiest queer romance novel I can find on my ereader.

    Love to all of you.

  11. This had been so pervasive in so many professional environments I’ve been in — and I work in not for profit organizations! The worst for me was when a senior manager tried to kiss me in his office a week before his baby was born. We had been friends, and I was so stunned, and the whole thing thing another assault that had from someone I thought was a friend that I had buried for a few years. I didn’t report it at first, because I was newly promoted and he was a golden boy. We had to continue to work closely together for a YEAR.It took me a long time to not blame myself for what happened, and it took a long time to forgive myself for not fighting back. But when I eventually DID report it to HR (and provided the ‘proof’ that they asked for…seriously) it was handled so poorly that I’m relieved I didn’t report it when everything was more acute. In my exit interview 3 years later, HR was stunned when I referred to it as a contributing factor ….because my previous report had never been recorded. The whole thing still effects me all the time. It effects how close I get to coworkers, it effects whether or not I trust organizations and it could honestly have damaged my own career because the depression it triggered caused such a marked change in my performance and behaviour. I still have to get my confidence up before industry events before I run into him at industry events and he randomly emailed me 5 years after the incident in weird legalese referring to a ‘joke that went too far’. To be honest, as important as it is, I find the constantly media coverage to be really triggering, but I also needed to write this and it needed to be here 💜

  12. I don’t even know why I clicked. This is super triggering, I just went through this with a job and I’ve had a past with sexual abuse. This makes me think I should get help. Because everywhere I look my mind is slowly deteriorating with these allegations and the news. I have dreams of tsunamis often ( signs of too many emotions). This just makes me angry and sad.
    Sending love and creating change for everyone who has been sexually harassed and for everyone else trying to make change.

    • IKR? I’m sorry it’s so hard for you. I’ve definitely been there.

      I say go with your instinct and seek help so you can ride the tsunami waves and not get drowned by them.

      Getting help wasnt always easy for me but it’s made a huge positive difference in my life. I found working with a trauma informed therapist with experience dealing with sexual violence to be much more helpful than traditional talk therapy. I also found my first useful therapist at a woman’s center, not through my doctor. Ymmv.

      Good luck. This internet stranger is cheering for you.

  13. I work on farms and often that means I work in the fields with exclusively or almost exclusively men. On a farm I was working at about a year ago, the man with whom I worked alone in the fields pretty much every day started telling me I was pretty and asking if I had a boyfriend. A few days later it graduated to telling me to go out with him. The next day it was asking me to have sex with him. The only way I felt I could get out of that situation safely, since I was literally alone with him with nobody for acres, was to tell him I was 100% gay and never had sex with men (I’m bi so this was a lie). I then told my (female) boss about what had happened and she said she would talk to him. She did, and then told me we wouldn’t have to work together. That lasted about two weeks until she decided that because we were the only two trained for a specific task, we had to work together. We were once again alone in the fields. He started asking why I didn’t like him and why I reported him and stuff like that. I should have quit then but the job paid enough that I didn’t. He then started ignoring me which was far preferable. Eventually I got transferred to doing something else and pretty much never saw him. The whole situation sucked and it took a while to realize that none of it was my fault even though I didn’t always turn him down forcefully because again, I was alone in the fields with him and thus worried about my safety. But it wasn’t my fault and fuck that guy (not literally. never literally).

  14. It never seems to end does it.

    This has happened to women for generations. In every walk of life I can think of. One of the new twists seems to be that certain types of women are joining in now too. As well as being smarmed over by men, usually those in positions of power or authority, I’ve also been sexually assaulted by an older supposedly straight woman who was my section manager too.

  15. Okay, since we’re sharing. It wasn’t work per se, but I was harassed by one of my Accounting TAs in college. This involved physical as well as verbal harassment. He was a real creep. That was gross. Like Riese, I was a sex worker for a little while (in college, actually), and one client decided it would be fun if he choked me. That was scary. At Dragon Con one time, I had a random guy I didn’t know run up to me, bear-hug me, and press his face into my boobs. Another guy with him informed me “Oh, excuse him, he’s always had a thing for cute redhead cosplayers.” (Well gee, that makes it perfectly okay, I guess!). Ugh.

    Those are just the three worst (for me, anyway) examples that I have. In general, I try not to think about them too much. Out of sight, out of mind. Or something like that, anyway. (not trying to say that’s how everyone or anyone else should deal with this, that’s just what works for me).

  16. I have had reasonably good luck with my jobs but in one job I was verbally harassed by two much older cis men. They were joking about me having sex with one of them in the office closet and as I was seemingly grossed out and annoyed they said “it wouldn’t last long with this old man anyway”. I was 22 years old. I didn’t say anything to them and didn’t smile and they got sooooo embarrassed.

    At home I told my mum and dad about this but they downplayed it with the attitude that that kind of stuff is just normal, a bit annoying, stuff from older men.

  17. It’s not just men in positions of power. It’s all sorts of men, everywhere.

    Working as a plant technician, my job was to go to various businesses and residences around Hollywood and Beverly Hills and take care of their indoor plants. I loved my job, I loved being an independent contractor, and I loved answering to the plants first and the people second. Not that it should matter (but of course it does) I never, ever wore makeup to work, dressed in oversized men’s pants, wore glasses and wore collared t-shirts and a sports bras that flattened my chest every day. Part of my job was being professionally invisible… dipping in and out of conference rooms, silently watering plants as producers and financiers took their calls on speakerphone. My looks, and how I chose to present myself, partially contributed to this invisibility.

    One day, I wore a pair of denim jeans to work. Usually I didn’t like to wear denim to work because I feared it wouldn’t read as “professional” in an office environment, but I was finally wearing a hole in them from a year and a half of walking all over LA with a watering can in tow. So I came to work in jeans.

    As I filled up my watering cans in the employee kitchenette at one of the entertainment industry offices I did (easily one of my largest clients), the custodian Jose walked in and immediately started appraising my body, commenting on my legs, asking if I’d lost weight, giving me the a-okay fingers and looking me up and down. I tried insisting that I was the same weight as always, just not wearing men’s pants today, and hurried away with my watering can, feeling strange and violated.

    I tried to shake it off, but the next week I came back and the same thing happened again. “You look niiiice,” he said, finding me in the kitchen again, looking me up and down in that same way again. I felt sick to my stomach. I started working my way around the office, and once I got to the office of an employee I had grown friendly with (a gay man in his 50s who I’d chat about art and politics with as I’d water his plants, we’ll call him Joel) and he asked me how I was doing, I told him everything. He assured me that something would be done and that he’d tell his boss right after he got out of a meeting. After finishing up the plants and leaving the office, I called *my* boss and told her everything. Then she talked with Joel’s boss and then Joel’s boss (we’ll call him Steve) called me and Steve was LIVID with Jose for speaking to me that way. Steve started going off about how he had a 5 year old daughter and he was HORRIFIED at the thought of her experiencing the same workplace discrimination, and that they were a company all about equality and that they would treat this matter most seriously. I appreciated that my claim was immediately treated seriously and never once questioned, but I was a little taken aback with Steve’s… shall we say, over the top passion and display of righteous anger. It honestly put me in a position where I felt I wasn’t allowed to express any emotion over the situation because Steve was occupying all of the emotional bandwith. It became my responsibility to shoulder his emotions as he screamed exasperatedly into the phone, “This should not be FUCKING happening” and I just went “Mhm, mhm”.

    Steve told me that he had thought up a solution, and wanted to know if I was comfortable with it. He said there were two custodians, and they could just switch Jose’s shift with the other person’s so that we would never run into each other. He said, if it made me more comfortable, Jose could be let go, but that he was a father with 4 children and really a great guy and that “some things just don’t translate” but that Jose had admitted to making comments about my body and that something would be done about it. He then quickly said something about all of their employees receiving sexual harassment training in both English and Spanish? It was a lot to take in, and I just told him that as long as I didn’t see Jose again, I would be fine.

    The next week, there is a knot in my stomach all the way to work. I took deep breaths and tried to calm myself. I went back to the same kitchenette, filled up my watering cans, and headed out into the hallway to start watering plants. It was all going fine. I didn’t see Jose. When I come around to Steve’s office, he invites me in and closes the door. He starts up another emotional display, more “It’s not FUCKING OKAY that that happened to you, and I’m so FUCKING SORRY it did. It never should have happened. I don’t want my daughter to be dealing with any of this sort of bullshit when she grows up.” “I know, of course, thank you,” I respond until he feels like he’s done. He assures me that I won’t see Jose again.

    The next week, I come back, fill up my watering can, and as soon as I’m back out in the hallway I see him. Jose. He’s across the way, pushing the custodian card, probably 150 ft away from me down the hall. We make eye contact. I panic, duck into the elevators, and leave without watering any plants. What the fuck?!!?! They said he wouldn’t be here! I can’t catch my breath. I call my boss and tell her that he was at work again, and that this is unacceptable and I can’t have him around if he’s literally not going to do the *one* thing asked of him.

    Later, I get a call from Steve. It’s a baffling call. He tells me that Jose insists he was not there when I was there. But I saw him. I saw him and he saw me, and a hot shock ran through my body and I swear his face reacted too, like he had seen me see him. Steve says, “Are you sure? Because Jose says he knows not to come in when you were there and says he was gone today before you got there”. Steve then goes on to say, “Are you sure it was Jose? You know, we have a shoe guy that comes around sometimes. He shines everyone’s shoes, and he looks so much like Jose that we call him “Shoe Jose”. Maybe you just saw “Shoe Jose”?”

    I am baffled. Baffled by the blatant racism, baffled by the implication that I cannot tell Latinx men apart, baffled by Steve’s total 180 from believing me to casting doubt. I guess since Jose had outright admitted to Steve that he had made comments about my body, that case was open and shut. But once Jose expressed a conflicting story, my account was cast into doubt. The thing is, I saw the custodian cart. I saw Jose. And Steve could never confirm for me that “Shoe Jose” had even come by that day at all. Steve asked me to give Jose another chance before asking him to be let go (“he has a family!”) and I conceded. I said he could have another shot as long as Jose never worked the *whole* Wednesday I was to come in an do the plants so I would never have a chance of running into him.

    I never ran into him again, but my feelings changed drastically about coming into that office. I would feel nervous and tense and unsafe there the whole time.

    Little did Steve know, but the parking attendant for the building his office was in had also been sexually harassing me, for a matter of months about half a year ago, but I had cold shouldered him enough (literally not looking at him, not talking to him, not responding to anything he said) for him to stop cat calling me and professing his love and attraction for me. I didn’t know the parking attendant’s supervisor, so I never knew who to report him to. When I had told my boss about it, her response (as a 40-something white woman) was “Hispanic men are always leering at women on the job and then going home to a wife and kids. It’s disgusting, and I’m not trying to be racist, but it’s always the hispanic men.” I was confounded by her racism and her resignation. For the record, as a gardener formerly living in Los Angeles I have had the pleasure of working with many brilliant and creative Latinx men. The respect, friendship, and learning involved in those coworking friendships has meant the world to me. I was seen by them as a fellow craftsperson, and I never once felt objectified. I am horrified by the casual, insidious racism that my boss and Steve so effortlessly espouse.

    Another client of mine, a fat old white guy in his 50s who displayed casual misogyny on a number of occasions, made a lewd comment to me that made a chill run up my spine. I asked him for the key to the upstairs bathroom. He told me the correct key was the darker gold one, and I said, “Actually it’s the lighter key.” He, being a jokester, chided me, and I responded with a cheeky “Trust me, I’m right on this one”. He looked me right in the eye and said, “If you were my ex-wife, you’d owe me something right now.” It was clear the implication was that I’d owe him something sexual. I just grabbed the keys and walked quickly out of the room as my head spun.

    For the record, I have never ever ever been sexually harassed by a plant. Nor heard of anyone else being sexually harassed by a plant.

    • *Out of place humor* As an amateur gardener who can’t seem to weed an herb garden without getting scratched everywhere, I’m offended that you’re glossing over plant abuse. I’m living in weekly terror.

      *Humor over*. I’m so sorry all this happened and every layer of your story is so gross. I’m experiencing that baffling racism in my neighborhood right now. There are 3 regular catcallers who lurk outside our corner store, 2 Cuban and 1 white. There are also lots of lovely awesome Cuban and Honduran families on our block but whenever I’ve complained about the harassers to other neighbors, they’ve been saying shit like “I know, we need to get all the Spanish out of here.” I even heard that from other women getting harassed! They know there’s a white guy there!! And you know if you press them on the racism and bring up all the wonderful Latinx people in the world, you get challenged for your original complaint. Steve would have been like “if you’re not racist, what’s your problem with Jose?” And with a small-minded person there’s no way out of that conversation. I’m sorry you were caught in that twisted faux-liberal Catch-22.

      And as for Steve bringing up that “he has a family” nonsense… UGH. Reminds me painfully of the Brock Turner case and how stupid judge whats-his-name said that he let him off because he didnt’t want to see a promising young man’s life ruined. WHAT. If you assault people, your shit gets ruined. That’s how life should go. I bet Jose’s wife and daughters don’t know how he acts at work. Sigh.

  18. Most woman have experienced harassment of all kinds unfortunately. Random people on streets, work, family, friends, parties… I have dealt with more strong advances when it came to men not taking no for an answer. Saying I was playing hard to get and all that.

    But I have dealt with some women as well. Uncomfortable work situation. Maybe she was curious when she learned I am gay. Friendly talks and normal coffee breaks as happens a lot in between meetings and projects at first. But I started getting a weird vibe when she kept making some not so subtle comments even after I made clear to be in a relationship… kept trying to have alone time for projects.
    Didn’t quite reach harassment but it added to stress of knowing it would happen…

  19. While I’m glad for all of the attention this is [FINALLY] getting, it’s also triggering and frustrating and overwhelming and angering and and and. Ugh. I’ve gotten so used to navigating sexual harassment in the workplace I almost don’t notice it anymore–until this all came up this week. Yesterday at work I realized it was over a dozen times in a few short hours. IS anyone else feeling hyper aware (and thus hyper ______insert emotion here) after all the news? I’ve actually had less threats of career ruin from the men, maybe because I identify as lesbian and so I’ve always experienced a lot of seeing how close they can get to the line without actually crossing it. I used to think lesbianism was like a shield from the consequences (it’s not YOU, I’m just gay you see. Of COURSE you’d have a shot if I was into men)… Masters house/masters rules? It doesn’t make me feel less gross about it. Then at my last job my straight cis female boss constantly harassed me up to and including telling me I was great at my job but if I wanted to keep it I needed to go out with her. During my exit interview HR literally said to me “You’re the best at this position in the company, but it seems like this relationship isn’t fixable”. It was almost worse than all the sleazy men. The whole idea of sexual harassment being something we’re just expected to smile and laugh at and play into in order to be able to feed ourselves and not be homeless is so demoralizing, and now with Trump as president it feels like it’s just going to get worse.

  20. I’m not sure how it’s happened, but I’ve never worked for a man, so I’ve never experienced workplace sexual harassment from one.

    However.

    In the psych ward, the psychiatrist on call was deeply concerned with my sexuality. “how do you know?”

    this is not a helpful thing to be questioning, when one’s very sanity is At Question.

    He put “personal relationships” as something I needed to “work on” as a treatment goal.

  21. When I was in high school I worked at a Dairy Queen. The owners son and his cousin worked there and I often worked during a managers shift named Scott.the owners son and his cousin both told Scott I’d had sex with both of them, which had never happened. Scott believed them and kept pressing me for details and refused to believe the truth, neither of them had ever touched me.
    Scott’s wife and daughters had gone out of town for a trip, and during that time for some reason he didn’t have a way to get home. He kept following me around asking for a ride until I finally agreed to give him a ride.
    That night, I drove him home, he had me take side streets which was freaking me out. He had me pull over in the darkest spot around next to his house to let him out.
    I pulled over and he kept inviting me inside. I repeatedly said no, and he kept insisting. Finally he reached over, threw my seat belt off me and tried to pull me out of my car. I fought and managed to get the door closed and locked before speeding off.
    The next time I worked, he demanded I clean this storage space from top to bottom that had solid dust over everything in there and spider webs every where. It took me a week solid to get the room clean but it was spotless.
    The day I finished, his wife and kids came back from vacation and came to see him at work. I remember feeling relieved that I could look her in the eye and not feel completely ashamed.
    That night, me, Scott, the owners son and his cousin were standing in the kitchen and Scott kept talking about pain tolerance and was holding a kitchen hose to a sink that was turned as hot as it would go. It was getting so hot that the kitchen was steaming up.
    He turned to me, asked me if I could handle the heat, grabbed my hand and forced it under the water and held it there for a good solid minute.
    It was so hot, I probably should have gone to the hospital. Everything I touched for the next couple months with that hand made that palm feel like it was burning. I was a scared kid who didn’t want to lose her job, I didn’t say anything to anyone.
    After that, anytime I worked, whether they were scheduled or not, either the owners son or his cousin was there, usually both. They refused to ever leave me alone with Scott again.
    I saw Scott again years later while I was working at another job, the dirtbag had the nerve to ask me out on a date.

  22. My older brother was telling this “funny story” about asking two women at a shop he does distribution business with why they were together because they were so attractive. How could they not have snagged a man?

    He laughed almost in disbelief when my aghast mother tore into him for being “So rude, I raised you better”. While she was doing that I was counting and taking slow breaths trying to not connect the nice throwable items in front of me and his shiny head.

    He hates Trump because “he’s classless and everything that’s wrong with Americans” from his smelly fancy european cheese loving self.

    <_<

  23. I went through several advisors in my doctoral program. Second one had a reputation for not respecting female students. When putting my committee together, I asked one other professor to be on it who had been an informal mentor to me and who had some relevant background. Advisor’s response when I told him she’d agreed: “We don’t ask people to be on committees for emotional support.” Double-whammy sexism, disrespectful to both her and me in one short sentence. How nice.

    That story’s a lot less obvious and less extreme than what a lot of you have had to put up with. But even the “small” stuff gets corrosive over a long enough period of time. It’s hard to feel or be successful in a challenging environment when you have to police your appearance, your word choice, your tone of voice, your facial expression and your emotions constantly for fear of being thought flighty, frivolous, insufficiently committed, not smart enough, not worth mentoring, yada yada – and that’s before you even start thinking about spending energy on the actual quality of your work.

    I send hugs to any of you who’ve been driven to question your own competence or worth because of crap like this. Hang in there and keep going. You are worth the effort.

    • To you and seveal other commenters: I hope y’all don’t feel the need to apologize for your experiences being “too small”. It’s all important, it’s all wrong, it’s all part of the global cultural problem, and it all matters. If we think “oh, I got insulted but I can’t complained because someone else got attacked”, they win. Trickle down is actually a thing here. No one’s assault is less than someone else’s if they’ve been violated in any way.

      I also apologize if that was condescending and I didn’t mean to direct it at you as though you didn’t know it. It’s just a thing I often want to throw out there in these discussions and you gave me an opening.

  24. When the story first broke, I was mostly shocked at myself and how unsurprised I was.

    I used to have a gig in the video game industry. Once, one of my co-workers would not leave me alone, kept saying inappropriate things about how if I’d just “be friendly” and let him grab my ass/boobs/whatever his thing of the week was we could all get along. After months of repeatedly making it crystal clear that not only was I uninterested, but that that was never going to change, he commented that he got hold of my address and could make my dislike of him a “non-issue.” When I reported this, I was told that I was inflating the issue, taking it too seriously and was let go due to “having a negative impact on company culture.” Despite the fact that I didn’t mention the incidents to anyone in the company but HR. During my brief time there, 3 other women suddenly were either let go or “went to pursue other opportunities.”

    I feel like this is one of those times where news breaks that the sky is blue, and all the old white guys are like “OMG! HOW DID WE NOT KNOW???”

    My only hope is that more and more people are encouraged to say something when things like this happen and eventually it does become shocking that it is happening instead of shocking that people are shocked.

  25. When I was 16, I worked at a Greek restaurant. “Family” owned (aka two brothers) where a majority of the employees were paid under the table in cash. I would work 12 hour days with no breaks, mostly washing dishes or cleaning tables. This involved being fairly isolated in a corner of the kitchen where my only interaction with others was when the servers would come yell at me for not washing glasses fast enough. I once heard one of the owners talking to a young (19?) female servers about her tounge piercing, if it hurt, if she “liked pain” and if it made her good at oral sex. I always tried to avoid him. One conversation I couldn’t avoid was him asking me if I had a car, because if I didn’t, he would be glad to give me a ride home. I told him I did have a car, and didn’t need a ride. He then asked if I “wanted a ride anyway” and I just stared at him. He said something like “your boyfriend probably wouldn’t like what would happen if I gave you a ride” and then asked me what I liked to do with my boyfriend. When I asked him what he was talking about, he started asking for details of what kinds of sex I had. Being a very introverted, socially awkward 16 year old, I just laughed and pretended I had to go to the bathroom. Later, my dad went to that restaurant and asked to speak to the owner. I don’t know what he said, but I know I got paid about $700 for one shift, and never went back.

    When I in my 20s, I worked in the jewelry department of a major department store. The assistant store manager was typically really friendly. However, he seemed incapable of understanding how to appropriately interact with female employees. When I was being trained, he asked me a question about some procedure, and when I answered correctly his “encouraging” response was “oh look sweety you knew something!” In the same tone you would use when teaching a dog a trick. Being NOT an awkward teenager, I responded with “please don’t call me sweety” and glared at him. He also once commented on how all the female employees thought they were being sneaky hiding their phones in their bras, but he knew because we all hard large rectangular spots on our breasts. While it was creepy that he was looking, and commenting on what was in my bra, he was also correct. He once surprised me by coming up from behind me and massaging my shoulders. I jumped, and stepped away quickly, and he apologized. I told him that he should probably not touch people without asking first, and he, again apologized. I could never figure out if he was actually a creep or just really clueless. He always seemed genuinely embarrassed when he did shit like that. Embarrassed he was caught and called out, or embarrassed by his behavior, I have no idea. He was relatively mild though.

    I now work for a rape crisis center, the largest in my state. We have 28 employees, all women. First time in my life I’m not worried about being sexually harassed by a man in authority.

    • And this is not to say that it’s impossible for a woman in authority to sexually harass another woman. It happens, all the time. I think, however, the combination of working with all women, and working for an agency that fights against sexual violence makes me feel pretty safe, for the most part.

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