I recently weighed in with Bustle.com re. their piece entitled “How to Respond to Harassment at Work, On the Street, and Everywhere Else when the Cat(caller)’s Got Your Tongue” (11/17/14).
My new favorite thing to do lately is share the full text of written interview responses. I put a lot of time into these things and sometimes writers/reporters can only incorporate a faction of what I said… and since what I have to say is important (ha!) – well, here you have it!
Reprinted below are the reporter’s questions for this specific piece and my responses – enjoy!
You can read the full article, including how my insights were incorporated and the greatest quote ever – “At least in the ‘70s people were honest about being sexist assholes.” (which you will notice is not exactly what I wrote) – on Bustle here.
Bustle: What is it about our culture that makes it seem like a good idea for bosses/coworkers to comment on our appearance and/or suggest ways to enhance our look?
Dr. Chauntelle: Though I would never suggest this is the only reason why many women continue to feel harassed (with varying degrees of intensity) in the workplace, I would say that one significant reason contributing to this sustained nonsense is our cultural tendency to assert we live in a post-feminist society.
It seems to me that many people are of the mindset that the ‘70s and ‘80s happened (…because feminism only happened then – just kidding), during which we achieved and have managed to maintain gender equality. First off, no – structural inequalities centered on gender still exist in virtually every corner of society. Second off, in believing or claiming that gender equality has been achieved, people perhaps then rationalize harassment as niceness, jocularity, advice, etc.
This is exceptionally problematic as perpetuates inequalities behind a veil of egalitarianism. At least in the ‘70s people were honest about being gender-discriminatory and/or sexist assholes – today, people claim that it’s no longer an issue.
Bustle: Is there value in these sorts of “micro-responses,” however delicate but direct, to defend ourselves and tell these offending individuals that their comments won’t fly?
Dr. Chauntelle: Honestly – yes! Every situation is different, and many factors come into play, including a person’s comfort level, the overall environment, and the intention (real or perceived) behind a comment. Further, every exchange is a potential teaching moment, and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that all of us are socialized beings – we have to learn how to interact with other humans, knowledge is a privilege that is amassed over time, and there’s always the possibility that clueless co-workers do still exist, even in 2014. That said, regarding “micro-responses,” every delicate-but-direct exchange contributes to the wider conversation – even the tiniest step forward is still a step forward.
Bustle: If you have any suggestions for ready-made responses for these sorts of objectifying comments on the job, I would love to hear them and attribute them to you!
Dr. Chauntelle: Haha I wish I knew some! Situations vary so dramatically that I can’t even begin to think of one. I guess the only real ready-made thing I would assert is to go with your gut – misunderstandings can be repaired, but outright harassment will never stop on its own.
(pictured: getting hassled via Bustle.com)
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Got a sociology question? Need some social justice informed life advice? Contact Dr. Chauntelle right here.