Being a Woman · Sexual Harassment

On Protecting Men’s Feelings

Totally, 100% true conversation the Bitches had today.

 

CAR: I have an older student, nontraditional, who comes by my office often. Sometimes he has actual class questions to ask, but most of the time he just wants to chat about life. I can’t put my finger on why, but he creeps me out.

MT: Did he do something?

CAR: Well, first, he asked me if I was married. I refused to answer, so he guessed. I tried to laugh it off, and he said, “You can’t be married, you’re too-” and stopped. But it was all over his face- he was going to say something like I’m too young, or too pretty, or something. Then, another time, he said he appreciated my looks.

MT: And you don’t feel comfortable telling him to stop?

CAR: I don’t. I don’t really know why- I don’t think he’ll physically attack me or anything- but I don’t like that he clearly doesn’t respect me or my position or authority.

MT: I have a kind of similar situation at my institution. I have an older colleague, very kind gentleman, who compliments me on my outfits/hair/shoes nearly every day. I know he’s trying to be nice, but I don’t like how it makes me feel.

CAR: I don’t think there are many ways a man can possibly comment on a woman’s appearance at work.

MT: I know! But I just say, “Thank you!” and let him go on his way. I don’t have the heart to correct him. He’d listen to me, apologize profusely, and I’d feel so guilty. Why do women feel guilty for telling a man he’s being inappropriate?

CAR: I know why I’m not telling the student in my office that he’s inappropriate. I’m afraid to. What will he do? How will he react? What consequences would that have for me? He’d be so defensive, I know it.

MT: Oh I’m not afraid at all, I just don’t want to hurt my colleague’s feelings. It’s nice to be complimented, and I know he means well, but it’s still sexualizing me in the workplace. The place no one should be sexualized.

CAR: Exactly. You know, we’re both accommodating men here. You don’t want to say anything because “he’d be embarrassed, and I want to protect his feelings.” I don’t want to say anything because “he scares me a little, and I’m afraid of what he’ll do.” Why are we doing this?

MT: WHY indeed?

CAR: This reminds me of an article I found on Buzzfeed. The whole thing is about her feeling uncomfortable but having to be nice about it. It totally resonated with me.

MT: Oh, wow, that is SO true. There is so much pressure on women to make things comfortable or easier for men. We feel pressured to act a certain way to protect men’s feelings, when in our cases the man is the one who is in the wrong.

CAR:  And I know this, but I still just smile and laugh so he’ll go away without incident.

MT: And I just say, “Thank you!”

CAR: whomp whomp

 

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