Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Truth Shall Set You Free

When I was 19, a budding feminist and an angry live wire, I worked at an Arts & Crafts store. We had an Assistant Manager who was grossly inappropriate with the female staff and many of the customers. He would often follow attractive female customers around the store, attempting to chat them up, all the while ogling them. In particular, two co-workers were repeatedly sexually harassed by this sleaze. With one, a married, petite woman who wore oversized glasses and shirts, he would go so far as to call her at her house, ask her out and say sexually explicit things to her. With the other, a bombshell partier, he would make sexual innuendos, blatantly check out her breasts or ass and, on many occasions, would physically grope her. The female employees would discuss his rude behavior in hushed tones, no one really wanting to be the one to say how violating it was or how uncomfortable they really were. Men like that, situations that are that insidious, make one question oneself. You think things like: Am I over-reacting? He's just being friendly. He doesn't mean anything by it.

But then he did it to me.

We were cleaning up after the store had closed. While standing in the bead aisle, putting away go-backs, he and I had a conversation that went something like this: (for storytelling purposes, he will be referred to as A.S.S., AKA Assistant Manager Sleaze)

A.S.S.- "What are you doing after work?"

Me- "Going out."

A.S.S.- "Oh, you have a hot date?"

Me- "Sort of. I guess."

A.S.S.- "Why don't you give me a ride home?"

Me- "I just told you I have plans. I can't."

A.S.S.- "Come on! I need a ride."

Me- "Sorry. I am meeting someone right after work. Besides, I am tired."

A.S.S.- "Hey, you don't even have to drive. I will drive and you can suck my dick."

EXCUSE ME?!

Yes, he said that. I stood there, mouth agape, a look of utter horror and repulsion on my face. I believe I said something akin to "Fuck off, you prick!" as I walked away. The next day, it was all over the store. The two most harassed female co-workers approached me, asking me to say something to the Manager who was also my friend. I hesitated, thinking "Who am I to approach him? Who am I to say something? What if I get retaliated against?" They stood there anxiously, with pleading looks in their eyes saying, "You have to do this. You are the only one who can do something."

So I went up to my boss's office and asked him if I could discuss something with him in private. He agreed and within 15 minutes of telling him what had happened to me and just scratching the surface of how he had tormented the other women at the store, my boss had picked up the phone to the district office and A.S.S. was fired and escorted out the door.

I didn't go into that office thinking I would get him fired. All I had with me was my integrity, the faith of my female co-workers and the truth. In that instance, I learned a great deal about myself and about life. I hadn't thought about that experience in a very long time. In light of recent events, I feel the fire of that angry young girl alight in me as I steady myself for the what lies ahead.

14 comments:

sue said...

That's right, gf...buck up and go deep and pull that girl up and let her womp ass....er...whatever...

I know you can come out on top of this, Siz... you're too good a person for it to beat you down. Trust me. I know.

kathryn said...

Sexual harassment...if only the people who need to know the truth about retaliation knew.

It happened to me when I was younger, too. I wish I'd known what to do about it instead of being too afraid of losing my job.

Gratefully, those days are over for me and if it ever happens again, it will be a most unfortunate day for the perpetrator.

Good luck, girlie.

Amanda said...

Good for you! You have more strength than some of the women I know. I'm impressed!

Sue said...

Well done... It's good to hear that people will do things like that - make a stand eventhough it might not have been intended for something as serious as what resulted.

I can appreciate it as I don't believe I would have been able to stand up to him too if I was in any of your positions.

Very cool of you :)

Anonymous said...

No one ever learns:
Light a fire under Sizzle and you get burned.
Give 'em hell

circe said...

How brave and wonderful. I had a much older boss when I was 18 and he wanted me to sit on his lap. I didn't get pissy but there was no way in HELL I was doing that. Guess the sec ahead of me did...
And today, I would blow a gasket if anyone said or did anything I felt violated my personal space or truly was sexually offensive.
Well done!

Mrs. Ca said...

That was an incredibly brave and great thing you did. I can't believe how sleazy some people can be and they think they can get away with it. I've had my own experiences, but unfortunately never did anything about them. I still regret that sometimes.

Bex said...

i can't believe people get away with that crap. bravo, sizz!

Krisco said...

Sizz,

Whatever it is, good luck. Be strong; I hope it goes well.

And, just as a general precaution, document everything. Whatever it is, be able to totally back up what happened. Even call a person here and there and report on the days events and ask them to note it. Just a thought.

Krisco

Moonchild said...

In 1996 I sued a non profit organization I worked for in Lincoln, NE for sexual harassment. Me and another coworker. It took a huge chunk out of our lives and she divorced her husband because of it and he didn't believe us. We fought on and won in May 1997. I moved far away from there in June and never looked back. It was a scary thing for me to do then at the age of 28 but I'd do it again for all the right reasons.

Bill said...

Sheesh ... your posts drive me crazy. Each one makes me want to write an essay. In this case, a rant about personal character.

What struck me most in what you wrote was how, despite the situation, everyone was waiting for someone else (like a Sizzle) to stand up and do something about it. Not that it's an easy thing to do, still ... most people don't have the balls (metaphorically speaking) to do it. Only a small number of people - and where would we be without them? (The name Rosa Parks comes to mind.)

The truth of the world is (and I don't mean this in a cynical way), most people aren't that strong. They may work out and have great abs and so on, but in terms of character they are puddings.

Wouldn't it be nice if even 10% of the effort people put into yoga and running and pole dancing exercises for the perfect bod, they would put into developing the kind of people they are?

Yeah, and that sounds like pontificating - I'm no prize myself. Still, if they did maybe the assholes of the world wouldn't feel quite so free to behave the way they do.

Bill exiting soapbox now. :-)

Paul said...

Good work!!

Melissa said...

I like you more and more every time I read your postings.

Ms Smack said...

hahahahah suck THIS, fucker!

Great post!!!