The first time it happened I was 19, in retail, with my best friend. An older colleague kept grazing our bodies. We confided in each other and both realised we were having the same experience of being touched and lightly groped. We, together, reported it to our floor manager. We, together, were told, “His wife has breast cancer, how dare you suggest such a thing”.
The second time it happened I was 21. I was a few weeks into my first professional role. It was a work function and an executive twice my age got into my UBER and followed me home. He made sexual remarks in the car, then got out at my apartment and suggested he come inside. I ran into the foyer not looking back. On Monday morning he told the office he’d been to the bar across the road with friends and that’s why he’d left with me.
The third, I was also 21. I was working in the same professional role dealing with a client. He told me, “I’ll only listen to what you have to say if I can take you to dinner”. He then proceeded to tell his entire workplace that he was going to “fuck me”. He still works for this business, he’s still a client I have to serve.
The fourth was a month ago. I was sitting in a meeting of ten staff. Eight men (managers), myself (junior) and one other women. She was completing a ‘managers in training program’. One of the most senior men at the table stated, “I don’t get it, I didn’t ever get to do a ‘men in training’ program. It’s not fair”.
What’s not fair is not a single woman in that business was a manager. What’s not fair is women having to prove their worth beyond the value of sex over and over again. If the workplace was a sprint, we’re starting the 100m race at the 200m line and expected to win.
Every day I hear, “the world has gone mad, we can’t even joke or flirt anymore”. Frankly, the world has always been mad. We can’t just do our god damn job without someone, somewhere, trying to either sexualise us or make us small. And no, not all men. But not enough men to make the perpetrators realise they’re the odd one out. I am not unique; these stories happen to us all.