I said nothing for years. Now I confront sexual harassment at work.

CC image courtesy of Pixabay, lounisproduction.

I’m getting so much better at saying something when male coworkers say inappropriate things.

Today one of my coworkers at the coffee shop came up to me when I was making drinks on bar during a flurry of customers and showed me an explicit meme with Kermit and Miss Piggy with a caption like “where’s my bacon?” It was objectifying to women and just gross and not ok.

“That’s inappropriate,” I said.

“Aww come on now, we’re all adults here,” he said, and laughed.

Later in the back of the store, he asked me if he had offended me.

“Not offended,” I said. “I just don’t think it’s work place appropriate.”

I’m not weirded out by people discussing adult topics in general, but it was creepy and not the time or place.

“You basically showed me Muppet porn,” I said.

He protested and said the Muppets had clothes on so it wasn’t “that bad,” but I just told him again that wasn’t ok at work.

I wouldn’t have done this a year ago.

Ever since I started working at the end of high school, I’ve let men say things like this around me. Listened to their crude jokes and laughed it off, uncomfortable.

There was the man who made deliveries to my dad’s office when I was 18.

“Wow, you’re fast!” I said to him as he left a package one day.

“Don’t you ever say that to a man!” he said and walked out. I was too innocent to know what he meant at first.

There was the boss at the billing company I worked at in college who closed the door to tell me a sexual joke so no one else could overhear.

I told the unemployment office I was sexually harassed when I filed after quitting, and I won the dispute. But when he was telling me the story, all I could think about was how to escape the room without something worse happening.

There were the writers I worked with at a newspaper right after college who often made uncomfortable comments about women and their bodies. One day I was telling one of them about an article about synthetic marijuana my girlfriend wrote for the college newspaper when we worked together.

“If you have a video of you and your girlfriend, you can show me that!” he said.

I told him was not okay, but he brushed it off as “Oh, I know I’m bad.” I went back to my office, awkwardly. I made sure I was never left alone in the building with him at the end of each day, just in case.

My instincts are to be meek and quiet, avoid confrontation. Leave the situation, and try to avoid that person.

I’m not going to be quiet anymore. I’m going to keep speaking out. I’ve stopped being timid. I am strong. 💗

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