IT’S JUST A JOKE, LIGHTEN UP
This is a story to shed light on social structures that support the objectification of and violence against women in our community. On Halloween 2018, a popular, and unbeknownst to me, radio personality came into my place of work to attend a professional meeting dressed in an extremely offensive costume. He wore a white doctor's coat with blood splattered on it reading "GYNECOLOGIST" on the back in big, bold red letters and a name tag pinned to the front of the coat "Dr. Oliver Clothesoff". He proceeded to walk through the office of primarily women snapping blue surgical gloves around his wrists, making eye contact with the women in the office, and asking "Would you like an exam?"
HALO EFFECT – HE’S A NICE GUY
He was in our office for over an hour. I was grappling with my nausea, trembling hands, and racing heart, yet somehow found the courage to directly address him. I asked him about his costume to which he justified. I took a picture of him and explained the offensive nature of what he was wearing and saying. This exchange took place in front of my boss and coworkers. They stayed silent. Later it became clear that his social status was impacting the situation; he is well-known and well-liked. On the outside I was “handling it” as I addressed him, but on the inside, I was going through psychological turmoil because of experiences in my own past. All of the fight or flight responses had kicked in. This emotional response lasted for days as I sifted through my thoughts.
WE ALL REACT DIFFERENTLY - MAYBE YOU OVERREACTED
The disappointment ran deep in that my boss did not stand up for the young women in our office and I lost trust in her that day. It reached a level of unprofessionalism and unethical behavior in the workplace that I had not experienced before in 20+ years in the workforce. I also understand that the other young women in the office did not speak because they probably did not want to "rock the boat". Who on earth would want to intervene in this situation and confront this man? I also saw that they were following suit with the boss’s reaction, which was to not react. These are women that do not want to jeopardize their jobs, their mortgage payments, and their resumes by making a statement about what is right and just in the workplace. I get that. Sure, we all react differently to various types of situations, but to discount the nature of this type of open aggression towards women is a surefire way to support a community culture where aggression towards, sexualization of, and violence against women is downplayed and accepted. To my knowledge there were no repercussions for this man. He’s still employed and doing business as usual. You can turn on the radio any day of the week and there he’ll be.
WHY SPEAK-UP? CULTURE SUPPORTS BEHAVIOR – HUSH UP!
What has deeply concerned me to this day is why did I have to speak-up? Why did I have to directly address this type of belittling/patronizing/misogynistic/aggressive behavior in my workplace? Well, it’s because my community is accepting of this type of behavior. It’s in our culture, in our community fabric, coded into our DNA to accept, comply, and turn a blind eye. Wikipedia defines rape culture like this: a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence, or some combination of these. It has been used to describe and explain behavior within social groups. I am sharing this story because it is the tip of the iceberg and simply scratches the surface of the social norms that we tend accept because it’s engrained and deep-rooted.