Tag Archives: sexual harassment

Bye Bill, Bye.

20 Apr

Yesterday afternoon at work a message from The New York Times appeared on my phone. It read:

Bill O’Reilly Out at Fox After Harassment Allegations

I threw my hands up in the air and hissed a quiet “yes!” to myself. Then I looked around the bar to see who I could share this moment of sheer glory with. The only other person behind the bar was a dude who I have not been overly impressed by. But, I thought to myself, perhaps I have been a little judgmental. If you know me it will come as no surprise that I have a tendency to be slow to forgive the poor behavior of new men that I meet. I am even slower to forgive the poor behavior of new white men. It’s my belief that they more often than not get the benefit of the doubt by default and are therefore allowed to get away with bullshit other people cannot. Not only can they get away with it, but they oftentimes benefit from it. However in this particular moment I decided, selfishly if I’m being honest, to set my pre-conceived notions aside and invite him to join in my celebration of the demise of one of cable news’ biggest pieces of shit. (And that’s saying something.)

So I walked over, still grinning from ear to ear, and told him about the news.

Bill O’Reilly got fired by Fox!

He looked at me, cocking his head slightly to the side.

Oh? For what?

I let out a slight exhale of annoyance. But I calmed myself. It’s okay, I thought, not everyone is up on the news. Not even HUGE news that is being written about almost constantly. Some people just like to live their lives and surround themselves by the things that matter to them and that’s totally cool. I surround myself by gymnastics, current affairs and institutional sexism and racism. That’s not everyone’s thang though.

Allegations of sexual harassment. Fox has settled for like $13 million with 5 different women and I imagine that is only the tip of the iceberg. Dude is a piece of shit.

He smiled.

Well, that’s good. Although I thought it would be something bad.

He thought it would be something bad. I stared at him, realizing that my suspension of previous judgements was clearly a mistake. The times he talked down to me and snapped at me for no reason. The time he scolded me for stirring rather than shaking a vodka martini by sneering

You’re stirring vodka? Shake vodka; stir gin.

And then walked away and joked with one of the male bartenders, leaving me stewing and feeling tiny in the corner. Because that’s what happens sometimes. Sometimes you end up working in a boys club. Where (white) dude after (white) dude talks down to you and scolds you meanwhile your male coworkers do the exact same things as you and they get a slap on the back. And so of course he wouldn’t think that sexual assault allegations dating back decades against the highest grossing cable news anchor in history is that bad. Of course not. Because treating women poorly is just part of life. It’s just the way things are.

Sometimes I want to look at someone like him, some doughy faced boy, and just tell him about himself. I want him to know I am smarter than him, better informed, kinder and more responsible. But that doesn’t really matter because he can go out and get hammered and not worry about getting raped on his way home and he can routinely show up to work 2 hours late, still drunk from the night before, and be up for a promotion. Meanwhile Bill O’Reilly has gotten far, really far, my mistreating women and the only thing that actually got him ousted was Fox’s bottom line. And no, not the $13 million, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what O’Reilly brings in. It was because of the loss of advertisement dollars. It was because O’Reilly had to start doing 8 more minutes of show daily to make up for the shortening of commercial segments. And everyone can say that this is a win for the idea of corporate social responsibility, that this is capitalism at work, that large companies do in fact care but the fact of the matter is they care about where the money is. Meanwhile the true heroes are the women who are strong enough to take on one of the biggest men who works for perhaps the most misogynistic company in media today. That shit takes ovaries. Big fucking ovaries. Because you better believe that the die-hard O’Reilly fans are taking to the internet to harass, shame and threaten these women for bringing their idol crashing down. No matter that he did it to himself. And no matter that, although he won’t be returning to Fox News, he will be fine. These men are always fine. Look no further than Tucker Carlson who just took O’Reilly’s spot. He might not have racked up sexual harassment allegations but he is no stranger to treating women like garbage.

I had that moment of happiness, and although I am still happy about it I no longer see this as a win. Sure, O’Reilly is gone (for now) but what will replace him? Will the culture change? Will Fox, and the people who watch Fox, start asking themselves the tough questions about their behavior and their privilege and their opinions that are founded in ignorance rather than fact? Or will they just turn an angry eye to the accusers and the liberal scum who support them and retreat deeper into their hole? Because the truth is that O’Reilly might have lost advertisers but he did not lose many fans. And that is a problem. And it’s a problem that runs super deep because as offensive as my co-worker’s statement was, it was an accurate reflection of a normalized viewpoint. Sexual harassment against women isn’t that bad. Misogyny isn’t that bad. Rape isn’t that bad. The patriarchy isn’t that bad. And for those of us who believe the opposite, it is like living in an alternate universe. And it makes it hard to even celebrate the demise of one of the most hated men. It is hard to relish in his downfall. Because this is all a distraction from the bigger conversation. Bill O’Reilly’s ouster does not change the culture; he is just another scape goat for it. He will find himself another microphone. We have not seen the last of him. And in ways it feels as though we are no better off today than we were yesterday.

Woman from Street Harassment Video Receives Rape Threats, No One is Surprised

30 Oct

Over the past few days a video documenting the degree to which women experience street harassment in New York City has been making the rounds on the internet. As of this moment, 11:49am on Thursday, October 30, 2014, the video has been viewed 15,831,699 times and that is only the official link from Hollaback!. The Hollaback! video was a small excerpt from a 10 hour long silent walk that Shoshana B. Roberts did, all the while being videotaped by Rob Bliss who walked in front of her, a camera hidden in his backpack. If you haven’t watched it, you should. This will either bring back memories of your own experience of street harassment, or give you a little taste of what it is like to be a woman walking the streets of New York, and, really, any other city.

Watch it. Because while there are some problems – as pointed out in this Slate article although the video claims that she was harassed by people of every background, the vast majority of the men featured in this video are either black or Latino – it makes a really great point of what it means to be female in public. Just yesterday, for example, on my walk home from the super market, a man in a truck honked at me, and then proceeded to park in the crosswalk I was about to enter in order to comment on my outfit and my legs. The only response when you’re on a relatively desolate street right near Hamilton Avenue? Keep your eyes straight ahead and walk on lest you are dealing with a person with anger management problems. And the thing about it, the thing that is so incredibly fucked up, is that that shit didn’t even phase me. I had already experienced 3 other men commenting on my legs, been “god blessed” about half a dozen times, been leered at, honked at, had cars slow down as they passed me, been wished a good day, and had someone tip his fucking hat at me. And it was only 4:30 pm. I had left the house at 1. This shit is so goddamn normal that I completely forgot about it until I came across an incredibly upsetting article.

Since the release of the video, Shoshana B. Roberts has been receiving rape threats on the internet. I would love to say that I am shocked by this but the reality? Not so much. This is completely and totally unsurprising. And I am not the only one to feel this way. Kelsey McKinney over at vox put it really well in her article on the subject, emphasis mine:

“Let’s lay this out in plain terms. Women are forced to feel uncomfortable and scared for walking down the damn street. Then, when one woman takes the time to show just how uncomfortable those interactions are, people threaten to physically assault her. If the video reminded us that women are constantly made to feel unsafe when they leave the house, the response is a reminder that women are constantly made to feel unsafe when they simply turn on their computer.”

And it is so true. I don’t know if you guys remember a few months back when I decided to poke the bear that is the Men’s Rights Movement. I wrote three different articles on the subject and I have to say I don’t think I have ever received so many comments, all of them negative. None of the comments were scary or violent in nature. They were just, well, stupid. They were written by angry people who have created for themselves some incredibly bizarre alternate reality within which they, American white men and their brain-washed white female supporters, are somehow the oppressed class. There is no reasoning with them. They live in a land where logic simply does not exist and all events can somehow be changed and manipulated in order to feed into their myth of the misandry of American culture spear-headed, of course, by the “feminist agenda.” They have been in the mix of people claiming that if Roberts were to have worn something less revealing then maybe she wouldn’t have been harassed so much. As David Futrelle from We Hunted the Mammoth said,

“Today I learned that wearing clothes that cover up most of your body is the same as going outside practically naked.”

Sadly I am reminded of this fact daily, whether I am wearing running clothes, a dress or a puffy fucking winter jacket. Back to the point. So after Day 3 of me fucking with a bunch of MRAs, my dad called me up and said, and I am paraphrasing here,

“I know this is going to make you mad but hear me out. I need you to lay off this stuff you’ve been writing about.”

And you know what? It did make me mad. Because I should be able to say whatever the fuck I want. I mean, everyone else does, right? I should be able to call people on their bullshit and tell people that there is nothing complimentary about having a man whisper in your ear as you walk down the street on your way to mail your cable bill, or have some assholes in a pick up truck comment on your clothing while they drive past, only to then run into them 20 minutes later in the super market. But my dad also had a point. The reality of the situation is that while the internet appears to be a safe place for the anonymous rape and death threats that men seem to feel entitled to hurl at women who speak their minds, the internet is very much not a safe place for those of us doing the speaking. Under our real names. Because we are responsible people who stand by our beliefs. I didn’t really see it at the time, probably because I am stubborn as shit and don’t like to be told what I should and should not discuss on my own personal website. And I also believe that I have a responsibility to myself, and to women in general, to say these things. We should be able to speak our minds, to design video games, to call out bullshit, to believe that we are deserving of respect and safety. And you know what? We shouldn’t have to fear our information being made public. We shouldn’t be bombarded with threats of violence. We shouldn’t be going into hiding. This is fucking ridiculous.

And the thing that makes it even more ridiculous is that all this shit does is prove the point that women, and our allies, are trying to make. That we are not safe. Anywhere. That we are not valued. That our opinions don’t matter. But guess what? We aren’t going anywhere. So bring it, mother fuckers.

Also, that video has now been viewed 16,451,646 times and counting. Let’s keep the conversation going and let Shoshana and the Hollaback! team know that they are supported and, hopefully, safe..

Harassment via Loud Speaker! A Novel Experience!

19 Nov

What follows is a rant.  So, consider yourself warned.*

As I have mentioned before, I enjoy running.  I love that it allows me to move my body. I love that I get to clear my mind.  I love that, as a four-season runner, I get outdoors on days when I normally would cower inside, wrapped tightly in my house sweater.  (Yes, I am aware that the fact that I have a “house sweater” makes me sound old.)  Perhaps most of all, I love that when I go out for a run I leave all technology behind.  Well, okay, that is not entirely true.  Sometimes I bring a podcast with me but that is only on days when I run over 13 miles.  Aching hips and the monotony of repeated running routes can spell the premature end of a specific workout and can, if repeated weekly, make the race I am training for terribly uncomfortable.  Believe me, I know.  And so, on those high mileage days, I allow myself a slight distraction.  Normally, though, I find the freedom from technology and the ability to take in the sights and the sounds of my neighborhood a perk to my running habit.

Today was no different.  I am just starting the process of training for the Manhattan Half Marathon at the end of January.  Yes, January.  In Central Park.  Sadly, this will not be my first time being stupid enough to run this race.  I am actually embarrassed to say that a few years ago when I ran it the temperature at the start was something like 13 degrees with a real feel of like, 5.  For the entire first loop of the park my feet were so cold they had gone numb and I literally felt like I was running on planks of wood.  It was absolutely terrible.  And yet I registered for it again.  Like a moron.  So I headed out of my house for an 8-9 mile training run, abandoning my phone on my bed.  I made my way up and around the cemetery and then, on Fort Hamilton Avenue, I experienced what was perhaps the worst case of street harassment directed at me ever in my life.  Well, it’s tied with that time the food delivery guy grabbed my ass like three houses up from my front door.  So there I was, minding my own business, enjoying the fall colors and the weird car-repair place that looks like an old-school drive-in restaurant with those girls that deliver the food on roller skates, when I heard, from what sounded like an intercom,

“Can I eat you down there, honey?”

Wait, what?  I stopped running.  I honestly could not believe that what I thought I heard was actually what I heard.  I looked around, saw an out of service MTA bus, the driver staring at me.  And then, just as I began to run again, thinking my ears must have deceived me it happened again.

“Can I eat you down there, honey?”

I turned around.  Through the haze of my anger the only thing I thought was that it must have been coming from the bus.  I took note of the time, the bus number, the cross streets.  I thought about whether or not I could give a description of the driver.  I hyperventilated.  Running when you are insanely angry and feeling violated and kind of afraid is no easy task.  I rehashed what happened again and again in my mind for the next mile until I convinced myself to let it go and think about something else.  Without a phone I couldn’t report it right then and I couldn’t snap a photograph.  I did, however, check my memory of the bus number every 5 minutes or so to make sure that when I made the report, which I was most definitely going to do, I would have all the details correct.  So I enjoyed the rest of my run as best I could, which was actually made easier by the fact that the park is one of my safe spaces.  I am always, always happy in the park.  If there comes a day when I am unhappy in the park, I will move away and not look back.

I arrived home and immediately went online to find the number to report complaints about MTA subways and buses.  511, in case you were curious.  I called and, after going through a whole lot of different menu options, I was connected with an extremely unhelpful lady.  The conversation went as follows:

Me: Hi. So I would like to file a complaint but I first am wondering whether or not it is possible for MTA bus drivers to make announcements on some sort of outside speaker.
Lady, snottily:  Well, why would you want the inside announcements to be heard outside?
Me:  Well, I wouldn’t, which is actually part of why I am calling. I just don’t want to make a complaint against someone and have them get in trouble for something that it is not possible for them to have done.
Lady:  So tell me the complaint and I will let you know.

I relayed my story to her.  She laughed.  Asshole.

Lady:  Well, I just can’t imagine anyone would say something like that.
Me: Yea, I couldn’t either until someone said it to me. So you can imagine why I would want to report this person.
Lady: Hold on.

I was then on hold for like 5 minutes while she did some combination of the following things: continued laughing, told all her friends about what I had told her, pretended she was doing something when actually she was just sitting there playing Candy Crush on her phone, or sought out a supervisor or bus-knowledge-haver to find out whether it was possible to make outside announcements.  She came back.

Lady:  It’s not possible.  Anything else?
Me:  No.  Thanks for your compassion.

It occurred to me that maybe the lady on the phone was lying.  I don’t know why she would do it but I thought it possible.  I hung up the phone and immediately posted on Facebook the following message which some of you may have seen:

Does anyone know whether MTA drivers have the ability to make announcements that can be heard outside the bus?

I received the following message from my friend Kevin which was so funny that it almost made the whole experience  worth having:

Does anyone know whether MTA drivers have the ability to make announcements that can be heard outside their heads?

Anyway, the whole experience sucked.  And it sucked even more because I was so convinced that it was the MTA bus that I didn’t look around for vehicles like cop cars and tow trucks that would be more likely to have outdoor speakers.  But also, it’s like, fuck you.  Who does that?!  Who makes sexually explicit comments to someone running over their fucking intercom?!  It’s like, let me broadcast that I am completely devoid of a moral compass.  Let me express my manhood by publicly making this woman feel entirely disempowered.  I hope someone sticks a nail in all his tires, breaks his speakers, and kicks him in the nuts.  Not necessarily in that order.

*That was really for you, Dad, since I know how much you love the rants. 🙂

In Solidarity with the 22 Former Juventino Employees

30 Aug

I have been mulling over a number of posts this past week or so.  Mostly they are in draft form, requiring the kind of editing that I tend to be too lazy and too attached to specific sentences to really undertake.  I suppose it’s the difference I find between writing about a personal experience, or an issue that I have personal experience with, and those things I feel very strongly about but maybe don’t feel entirely qualified weighing in on.  It’s mostly a fear of misrepresenting an issue, coming across as an enemy rather than an ally due to a poor choice of words, or inadvertently insulting someone I care about because I lack the depth of knowledge I really need to adequately express myself.  My post on Chik-Fil-A met this fate, abandoned to draft status after being alerted by my wonderful sometimes-reviewer that one of my paragraphs could potentially be misread by someone who doesn’t know me and my liberal social leanings.  The topic today, however, does not fall under that category.  It is something I know very well indeed.

While perusing Jezebel this morning, I came across this article written about sexual harassment in the service industry.  (The complainants have a blog which you should check out.  Hopefully more hits will let them know they are supported.)  As I have written here before, I am a bartender and have been for the past number of years.  Ever since my senior year in college, when I was 21 years old, I have been working some sort of food-service job.  I was a barista, a hostess, a server, a cocktail waitress, a reservationist, a bartender, not necessarily in that order.  I have done it all.  Over the years I have come across all types of sexual harassment, usually at the hands of patrons, but occasionally by bosses and coworkers.  One specific instance I remember occurred when I was in my early 20’s working as a server at a crappy Irish pub in the West Village.  I was working 6 days a week — 5 nights and one lunch shift — for a man who, for lack of a better description, totally sucked.  He lived in Bay Ridge and had the entire restaurant outfitted with cameras that live-streamed to his television set at home.  He and his family would watch the non-events of the restaurant unfold while eating dinner.  We got admonished for wearing sweatshirts over our tops during a particularly chilly week and there were rumors that the wife and kids watched one of the male bartenders (women were not allowed behind the stick) change clothes in the basement.  I regularly came into work paranoid, afraid that an errant coffee ground would send my boss into an unreasonable abuse-session where he wouldn’t fire me, but would certainly point out my lack of intelligence and poor work ethic, making me aware that I was lucky he wasn’t sending me packing.  He, however, knew how to keep his hands to himself.  One of the bartenders — different from the downstairs changer, he was a standup dude — did not.  One instance during my weekly lunch shift I went to the end of the bar to get some sodas for my first table.  The bartender on shift slapped my ass to get my attention and when I turned around he shoved me against the wall, out of view of the cameras but not of the 5 men sitting at the bar, and kissed me, tongue and all.  I turned bright red and stormed off to calm myself down, chalking it all up to “industry culture.”  The men at the bar hooted and hollered.  The bartender was about 15 years my senior and expecting his first child.  After the attack, he routinely sent me text messages requesting we play a game of strip poker at my house.  I never reported the harassment to anyone.

As any regular reader of my blog knows, I am not one to keep quiet about harassment.  Currently, I work at a bar with incredibly supportive bosses who would (a) never behave in a manner such as Juventino Avila has been accused of and (b) are supportive of me when I call a customer out on inappropriate behavior.  It is a luxury in this industry to work in such an environment and I feel incredibly lucky.  That being said, the industry as a whole needs to change.  Inappropriate touching and comments should not be allowed and employees should be better protected when voicing complaints about the behavior of employers and coworkers.  The 22 former Juventino employees who wrote this blog should be commended for coming forward.  It’s a much overdue step towards acknowledging and challenging the overwhelming belief that sexual harassment is an inevitable, and acceptable, aspect of the industry.  I only hope their complaints get the attention they deserve and that residents of Park Slope and beyond hold Juventino Avila accountable for his abhorrent behavior and withhold their business from his establishment.  I know I won’t be eating there.