To The Woman Who Thinks Dressing ‘Properly’ Stops Sexual Harassment — F*ck You

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sexual harassment
Sex

HOW ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS?

Okay. 

I want to say this at the beginning so we can get it out of the way and I don't have to apologize later: I am angry. 

This is an article written by an angry woman, and I'm not going to apologize for that anger or try to ameliorate it with quippy jests, I'm going to just be angry, and if you don't want angry, that's too bad, and if you do want angry, be a dear and hold my hoops and glasses while I tear into some fresh nonsense.

 

TheFederalist.com published this article by writer Suzanne Venker on April 24, 2017, headlined "How Women Can Prevent Sexual Harassment At Work."

I've linked to it because that's just good manners.

But I'm linking it with the warning to anyone reading it that you might want to have some bleach nearby to douse your eyes with post reading and/or a pillow handy for any and all screaming into the void you might need to do. I know I could have benefited from both. 

The title alone made me give the piece the middle finger.

That's right, I'm so exhausted by victim-blaming that I gave my very own laptop the bird, doubtlessly angering the robots who live inside said laptop to no end.

That said because I work in publishing and I know that very often headlines are designed to get a reaction, I decided to actually do my homework and read the article about sexual harassment in the workplace.

By the time I was done reading my cat was cowering under my bed as a direct result of the torrent of obscenities that had been pouring out of my mouth. Imagine a possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist ...

 

...but scarier. 

The article suggests that "strong women" have three ways of "keeping sexual propositions at bay". 

Those ways?

  • Dressing appropriately.
  • Not flirting.  
  • Nipping it in the bud. 

That's right, you too could be a "strong woman" stopping the sexual harassment from your powerful CEO and all you need to do is wear a dumpy suit, never smile, and keep everyone you come into contact with at arm's length. 

Here's the thing Miss Suzanne Venker lamentably left out of her helpful advice: 

Identifying as female and/or having a vagina is seen by some men as an open invitation to some to objectify and harass you, and no amount of defensive work will stop them from doing just that.

You could wear a rucksack and some asshole will still talk about wanting to fuck you in the supply room.

You refuse to smile and say hello to male colleagues you find threatening and they can still corner you at the office holiday party and call you a withholding little bitch.

You can get uncomfortable in a work dynamic with a male peer and try to "nip it in the bud" and find yourself accused of making a hostile work environment. 

And you know what?

None of that is your fault.

You know whose fault it is? 

The man who thinks it is okay to treat you like an object and not a human being. 

The man who thinks sexual harassment is okay. 

If a man sees my boobs and thinks that their size makes it okay for him to rub up against me in a crowded elevator, I don't need to read another article about how to keep myself safe. I have read all of the articles about how to keep myself safe.

That, and being born a woman, have equipped me with the skills I need to try and stay safe. I do not need another lesson, nor does any other woman out there. 

What we need are articles FOR men about HOW and WHY not to sexually harass (And for men to actually read them.)

What we need is for it to be universally understood that women are people. Yes, you might like having sex with women, but that doesn't mean that is all women are for. 

What we need is for women everywhere not to tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace. 

What we need are women to point out harassment and say "this is not acceptable behavior." 

I am not so naive that I think the problem is so simply solved, but I do think that a lot of good could be done if we simply changed the narrative into one that more accurately reflected the truth: Everyone deserves to feel safe at work. 

While we still live in a world where women are made to feel like we are both the problem AND the only ones able to come up with a solution, there is no hope. It's that simple and that sad.