Monday, January 12, 2009

So I'm sitting here perusing the feminist blogs as I am wont to do on a long day of filling, and the topic of workplace harassment came up. In this case a female flag person was being honked and catcalled. Now I've worked in a male dominated field for several years now and I've been part of the system (school) even longer. I rarely get any flak these days and more often in comes in undertones rather than anything outright. I really believe that we should have workplaces free from *any* kind of harassment, but what to do about it? There was a call to readers to put in their own ideas. Hell I should just link to the article in question already.

It's over at I blame the patriarchy. So there are some good responses and some that require the assistance of men. Like the suggestion of having two men stand by her while she's flagging and they don't get let by if they catcall. My instinct is that it puts out the idea that she still needs the protection of big strong men. Something I try to get away from. Everything I do at work I try my hardest to do myself. If something is too big or too heavy to move myself, there is usually some way to do the job safely with the right tools. I try to find that way by myself.

This reminds me of an episode recently at a local party. A friend (rougegentleman) had set up a kinky demo area at a party that is not specifically kinky, so of course there are a lot of spectators. Myself and another friend (wolfe) arrive later in the evening and decide to do a light flogging scene. Things are just fine until two rather drunk longshoremen came up and wanted to pay to have a go at me. If rougegentleman hadn't stepped in, the two would have interrupted wolfe more than just verbally. As it was we stopped because they were being quite persistent about wanting to pay me to hit me. That in and of itself was stupid, but rougegentleman was keeping between me and the two longshoremen with the idea of protecting me. I admittedly went along with this, but part of me balks at needing to be protected. I should be able to protect myself. However the system is not set up for this to be so. I have no illusions that if it came down to it, physically I would loose to two longshoremen.

So I think that maybe enforcing protection from abuse by using a big strong man furthers the idea that women are property to be protected. Whether it be by a partner, brother, coworker... whatever. It says to me that women need a guardian. I can't speak for anyone else, but I move through my life often by myself, I value my independence greatly and I realize that it comes with a risk, but I'm willing to take that risk. I think that maybe what the person recounting the story about the flaggers experience, idea was, might be a better idea. Fines for harassment, legal recourse. A process that doesn't require a person of a particular gender. (That said, I don't want to discount the big strong women, however they are a minority)

What am I trying to say here? I think that we need to be able to confidently pursue legal recourse when there is gendered harassment. Regardless of the extent of the harassment (verbal to rape), regardless of what is being worn (the flagger was wearing coveralls, I was in a short skirt and topless) and regardless of anything else, status, situation, location, etc. This needs to be *able* to happen and it needs to happen publicly enough that it sets an example. That people know that harassment is not okay and that there are consequences. Too often it is brushed under the table, women are too afraid of the very real consequences to themselves or justice is not served.