As I have said before in other posts, I was a working woman in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and left my last job in 2013. Some of those years were great. Some weren’t so great, and some were downright horrific. Back in those days, you rarely saw women in authority, and those that you did see were pretty tough. They had to be; they were working with men who were not comfortable with women in their work space.
In those days in the business world, women had to “man up.” This meant laughing with the guys telling filthy jokes, ignoring the innuendos and groping. Complaining to the higher-ups was a sure way to lose your job, so you just buttoned your lip and got through it. The prevailing attitude at that time was ‘deal with it.’
And deal with it we did since we needed our jobs. This isn’t to say that I didn’t work with any decent men; I did. They did their jobs, kept their noses clean, and, for the most part were respectful.
Many years ago I was working at a lab facility where they sold rodents, rabbits, guinea pigs and primates to labs all over the country. I and a few other women were asked to attend a trade show, so we all flew off together to set things up for the event.
On the first evening of the trade show, the company vet for the primates invited me out to dinner. He was a handsome guy and had always been pleasant to me. During dinner we had some light conversation, mostly about the trade show and the company. During dessert, he asked me if I “would like a room mate” for the night. I choked on the piece of pie I had in my mouth, and probably said something stupid like “room mate? Do you mean you and me?”
When I could speak again, I said “but you’re married!” His answer? “So what?” I thanked him for the meal and left. When I got back to work the next week I confided to a male co-worker (I realize now that I should have talked with a woman) about what happened. His answer was this: “oh c’mon, you would have been disappointed if he didn’t make a pass at you!”
That was the first time that anyone I worked with made such a blatant inappropriate suggestion to me; it shocked me. I was still pretty naive at that time, and I never looked at that vet again without thinking about his wife and whether she knew what a sleaze she had married.
While I was still working at that job, one day my car needed work, and my boyfriend at the time drove me to work while my car was in the shop. He said that he would be back at 5:00pm to pick me up.
At 5:00pm, my boyfriend hadn’t shown up yet, so I walked all the way out to the barrier that lead to the highway. It was a pretty secluded area, but close to the highway. I was leaning back against the barrier, legs crossed and arms folded when a truck pulled up a few feet away from me. It wasn’t my boyfriend. As I watched, a completely naked man opened the door, stepped out and began touching himself.
I went numb. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move. I had sunglasses on so luckily the man couldn’t see what had to have been a horrified look in my eyes. He shouted something to me and then got back into his truck and drove away. I was frozen in place, trying to make sense of what had happened.
I realize now how lucky I was that nothing did happen. My boyfriend eventually showed up, and I didn’t tell him what had happened. I didn’t tell anyone about the incident. In fact, writing this is the first time I’ve mentioned it. For years I was ashamed of what happened, even though I knew it had nothing to do with me personally. The guy was just a creep and a pervert and I hope that I ruined his day by not responding.
So these days when more and more women are saying in every possible way: “WE ARE MAD AS HELL AND WE AREN’T GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!” I say it’s about time. Just speaking about sexual harrassment, back when I was working, that was just what women had to put up with. It was humilating, hurtful and in my case with the naked guy, downright scary.
It was partly because of that incident that I took up Tae Kwon Do. After achieving my first black belt, I taught self-defense for years. The toughest group were always young girls who felt that nothing bad would ever happen to them. At that time, a lot of girls liked showing a lot of skin. Most of my time would be taken up by indignant girls saying that they had a right to dress the way they wanted to. My answer to this was that they were right. However, too many males see this as an invitation to grope. Too many times male misbehavior is excused by the old “boys will be boys” crap.
However, a woman can be wearing anything up to and including a full-on burka and some men will still think it’s ok to grope. NEWS FLASH: IT IS NEVER OK—NEVER. When we are children, we are taught to keep our hands to ourselves. I also don’t buy the “did you see how she was dressed? She was asking for it!” defense, either. Bottom line: you don’t touch what is not yours. Period, the end.