Following a survey that found that 6 out of 10 women and 4 out of 10 men felt sexually harassed in the workplace, Billy Shears interviewed a couple of workers, female and male, to hear their thoughts on the subject.
Catherine, an architect from Bristol, states, ‘Sexual harassment is rife. When I have a business suit and high heels on, it is always an unnerving experience when I have to walk past a building site with workmen there. The builders almost always ogle and whistle at me, the misogynist pigs, treating me like an object. However, if they don’t whistle, then they must be gay because, in my business suit, I look amazing. I have almost caused a few car crashes’.
I asked Catherine if she could explain the situation regarding sexual harassment in the office. Is it ever a vague issue with lots of subjectivity that can cause confusion? ‘No, it is simple to understand. Unattractive, less powerful men often harass me in the office when I act flirtatiously and wear a low-cut blouse designed to catch the eye of my amazing and hot boss. He only married his horrible wife because he was too young to know better at the time, she probably deliberately got pregnant to catch him, and because he is such a decent human being, he hangs onto what is obviously a failing marriage. He has asked me to stop flirting with him because it is inappropriate and he feels uncomfortable, but I know that he is only saying that because he is a gentleman. Also, that coldness turns me on more, what you can’t have…grrrrrrrrrr, it gives me the tingles. I’m going to play the long game with him, wait until the office party, after a few glasses of champagne and my tiny black dress on, he won’t stand a chance.
When it comes to what is and is not sexual harassment, a half glance is fine from the right man at the right time in the workplace, but a stare is not, especially from the wrong man. Like Kevin, the chubby and spotty admin assistant in the office, he often talks to my cleavage, not my face. That is blatant harassment. Women don’t clearly show men who are the right ones and who are the wrong ones. It is much more subtle than that, and women are complex. To avoid acting in a sexually harassing way, men have to keep up with these complexities. I’m certainly not going to stop wearing low-cut blouses or stop flirting. That would infringe upon my human rights as an empowered woman. I’m a professional architect and do my job well, but I’m also a sexual being. If men can’t handle that, that is not my problem, and it’s theirs. There is no excuse for sexual harassment. What is and is not sexual harassment in the workplace is so clear cut, isn’t it?’.
Stan, an office accountant in his late 20s, says he is so confused by it all that his office flirts are restricted to a computer-generated Anime girl called Nene, whom he chats with online during lunchtime. He says, ‘Many of my work colleagues, both male, and female, are single and fed up, resorting to clubs or online dating where harassment is rife. The only other opportunity they have to meet and get to know the opposite sex is in the office where they spend most of their time. But everyone is confused now about what are the acceptable rules for courtship in the workplace. Nene thanks me politely when I compliment her on the way she dresses, so I know where I stand with her. I’m afraid to compliment the lovely Janet who sits in the cubicle next to me.
Sadly because Ne-ne isn’t real, we can’t cuddle up on the sofa together with a bottle of wine on a Friday night. Actually, she says she drinks sake, not wine. Cross-cultural and cross-dimensional 3D/2D relationships can be challenging.