Podcast
Sexual Harassment
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Sexual Harassment

- You should smile more. I’m just being nice! It was just a joke! Why do you care?
- Hmmmm…. Come here, little sexist. I’m gonna explain you stuff.

 

Voiced by Cheryl White

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At a performance review, my line manager once told me, “You should smile more. If you want to go places, learn to use your feminine charms.” At the time, I took that statement – and a wink that followed - as a sage advice from a seasoned corporate soldier who meant well. It took me months to see that interaction for what it was: sexual harassment. Subtle, indeed, but harassment nonetheless. My male friends to whom I relate this story – and everything that followed that first, seemingly innocent interaction - all respond the same way, “If that made you uncomfortable, why didn't you say so?” I've been asking myself the same question time and time again. How do you explain to men that for many of us this bewildering compliance is a survival mechanism? A recent study states that 75 percent of workplace harassment victims fear backlash for reporting it. Growing up, most women are conditioned to be nice and play nicely: don't cause any trouble – pre-empt and avoid it, don't stand outblend in to fit in. Otherwise, you're labeled “difficult,” and in the workplace there's no harsher verdict for a woman than that. Because we know all too well that “difficult” is shorthand for “aggressive men-hating bitch.” And men might say they like strong independent women, but the truth is, they like the idea of such women. As in, it's good to have them, just not in the immediate vicinity. So most women make nice and smile more. For no one is particularly interested in what these forced smiles hide.