The economic impact of workplace harassment

Among the reasons I am leaving my job is the sexual harassment. It makes me uncomfortable and angry. At the supermarket where I just finished my last day (thank god!) I am hit on in subtle and not-subtle ways, and have been since I started working there.

The guys in produce stare at me whenever I have to go there. I used to have little conversations with them, to be friendly, and to break language barriers, and just be nice and make connections. But all these old guys (30s and up) smile in that sickening way, indicating that this is not a normal conversation, but that they want to fuck me. I can tell.

Same thing with the deli guys, old men hitting on me and giving me more smile than makes sense for the situation. I hate it. It makes me feel dirty and attacked and sexualized when I don’t want to be. It makes me feel like I can have a normal nice conversation with a man at my job (only with a woman), because they will imagine fucking me while I am talking to them. It disgusts me.

On top of that, when I first started working there, my manager Victor kept hitting on me and telling me how “sexy” I was, when I was completely insecure in this new job. I think I said something back to him…but honestly I don’t remember, because I’ve blocked it out.

Victor does that to all of the new girls and it is fucking unacceptable. Recently a girl was talking about telling the bigger manager, Tommy, about Victor (as if he doesn’t know! as if he’ll do something about it). She talked about a sexual harassment lawsuit if Tommy wouldn’t do anything about it. I told her I was behind her and would talk to him and do whatever if she would. But I don’t know if she did anything, we never talked about it again and honestly I would rather just get the hell out of that place.

I also have customers bothering me and hitting on me. The other day I was in the park by my house and this guy passed me and started talking to me, he’s a customer that always goes on my line, is 40 something maybe, and I made the mistake of having a friendly conversation with him at some point in the past. So now he knows a little about my life! Oh god. He knows I’ve been to Germany and he always talks German at me when I see him, and gives me the creepy smile. That same goddamn creepy smile, that seems to be intended to make me despise all men. So that guy passes me in the park and starts talking German at me again. I wanted to shout “I hate you and I hate that fucking language!!” (Because it reminds me of Nazis and the holocaust). Instead I just said “I don’t understand you” as he jogged away, and I avoided looking at him every other time he passed me.

These harassments remind me off all other harassments and worse that I’ve been through. I feel powerless and furious at the same time. I feel attacked from all sides. I hate it. I wish I could do something, and I know I can, by talking back to them, yelling back at them, or shaming them in front of other people. But I still feel horrible every time something like this happens, which is sadly almost every day.

Submitted by Emma

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  1. Sandy says:

    I used to have difficulties dealing with others who visibly could not control biological reactions to attraction. Sometimes redirecting your focus can offer two things:

    1. It puts a lot of issues into perspective. Racism, sexism, politics and religion are all very touchy subjects, and, unfortunately, for as many people are consider of others, the smaller percentage that crosses the line is also the loudest demographic personality type. When you recognize that it is not a personal attack, but a problem that person has not worked through themselves, it makes you feel less responsible for the attack. Imagine if you were an avid healthy nut and someone you loved had very poor eating habits that caused them obesity. When you admit it their consumption of one of the 7 deadly sins, but that you can have a balanced diet without being affected, it allows you love them inspite of the situation.

    2. Refocusing your energy often takes the tension out of a situation. I was horrified to think about unwanted sexual fantasies involving myself. At some point I realized it was dominating my thoughts. As soon as I changed direction in my thinking (ie: current events, science breakthroughs, etc) I was able to also redirect the incoming energy. Something in the way I presented myself commanded a different response from those I came into contact with. I didn’t give anyone room to be inappropriate because I engaged and challenged their mind before they had a chance to fall into detrimental habits.

    Currently, if I am caught off guard by an unwanted advance I calmly and firmly retort something along the lines of: “That’s forward.” I’m not snapping at the offender, or leaving any room for rebuttal. I’m simply letting them know they have crossed the line. Usually does the trick.

    I hope you find peace on this subject, as it can be all-consuming.

    Best,
    Sandy

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