Sarah’s Story: Don’t “learn to live with” it
I work at a restaurant. At work last weekend, a male patron called me “darling”. I find this very offensive, objectifying, disrespectful to my intelligence, and dehumanizing – I am not his significant other and he is a total stranger.
I told him: “Don’t call me darling.” He responded, shocked: “What?!” I said, “Don’t call me darling. I’m not your girlfriend.” He said, “I didn’t know!” I said, “Now you know.” He began arguing: “I call everyone that!” I said, “Well, now you know not to call me that. We’re done.”
When he left, he shouted at me, “Thanks a lot, Toots!” I replied, “Don’t call me Toots either!” as he walked away.
I told my manager about it and asked if we could ban him from the restaurant. She said no, because this wasn’t “sexual harassment” as defined in a course on workplace harassment she recently completed. She told me to just suck it up as there was nothing that could be done.
In her response, I heard several undertones: that either she really did believe she had limited options in responding to such incidences, and/or that she thought I should just sit down and shut up – relax and “learn to live with” offensive, derogatory, gender-based remarks, simply because I work in a customer service-oriented industry.
I don’t know what to say to my boss, aside from the fact that I feel (am?) entitled to stand up for myself against unwanted gender-based verbage from patrons, and disappointed that she didn’t have my back in this particular exchange.