Let me preface by saying that this post has been a long time coming and I'm not surprised that I'm writing this with coals under my feet.
I came home last night vulnerable and broken and angry. The past several weeks have been a bit of a trying time for me for a list of reasons I don't care to explain currently. I've been quickly running out of steam; refueling my battery every night for the hour or so I get to spend in peace with Randall holed up in my room. Every day's been getting harder to push through- mentally, emotionally and physically. But I've been managing; silently struggling and pushing.
But yesterday was enough to practically break me in half.
A cluster fuck of shortened tours and entitled guests that stomped all over their guides and hosts would've normally been enough to crush any employee's spirit but it was the men in particular that made me feel incredibly small.
Let me back up a little bit to give a bit of a precursor to the actual rant I feel I need. A lot of men don't understand what I'm about to try and describe, or the feeling of being small in the same sense a woman can be made to feel small. Now this isn't a big middle-finger to men post, because I know not all men are like the ones I encountered yesterday, but I'm hoping it might be an eye-opener to some. I don't want you, you good men who do treat women with respect and as equals, to feel as if you've done anything wrong.
But let me just give an example from yesterday as to what I deal with on practically an every day basis (yesterday was an even crazier example just because it was FULL of this type of behavior):
I stood behind the bar as my coworker brought her rambunctious tour group up to the space where we were going to be leading a tasting of four different beers- beers she and I know plenty about. So much in fact, that we could talk circles around the group of ten men sauntering up to my bar. But of course this was her tour, so she was the one leading the tasting as I was just pouring her beer for her. One man in particular burned holes into my skin with his gaze. I felt him watch every move I was making, leaning across the bar to pour and pass beers, being careful not to bend over in front of him, avoiding eye contact with him where ever possible.
And let me interject here really quickly and explain one other thing. I, and many other female coworkers of mine have experienced these men slicing our bodies up and down with their gazes. And to me, it's disgusting that this has become a common occurrence for us. So common in fact, that oftentimes, like in this story in particular, we decide to just try and ignore it. If we call them out, some men will then take that as an invitation to try and flirt with us, for whatever ungodly reason. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't stare at me, sir."
"How can I not? I mean don't tell my wife- hahahaha, but she'd probably stare at you as well. Look at those eyes! And you're shaped like a model. Ever think of modeling?"
"I need to go in the back and get some work done."
"What kind of work, huh? Why don't you just bring it up here so you can hang out with me."
So some days, it's easier for us to just avoid this unless it escalates.
But anyway, this man was staring me down and I was half expecting him to interject eventually. "Are you even old enough to serve me beer?"
"I'm twenty-four," I said as I dropped his beer off and immediately went to turn my attention to a dirty stack of glasses on the other end of the bar.
"Twenty-four," I mumbled into the sink.
"So you barely made the cut, huh?"
"A little more then barely, I'd say." He started laughing with his buddies and I could feel his eyes return to my hips as I twisted to put more glasses away.
It seems like such a minuscule thing. But for almost a decade now, these subtle actions and sly remarks have taught me that I need to stay in my lane. And by lane I mean my place behind a small rope with a bench. My place as an exhibit, where I know nothing but the four walls that surround me and these stupid, putrid men that come in and out to look and admire and take photos of me.
"Great tour! I wasn't expecting you to know that much," another man said to me last night as I was clearly very busy and focused on my work at hand. I could've taken that as a compliment, "being a woman and all", but I wasn't expecting you to know that much?
Maybe I should've responded with "Thank you! You know I also know the order of the twelve months AND I can do long division! Shocking, right? Would you believe I went to college AND managed to graduate too? Women do that now!" But if I'd done that the poor man's head might've exploded.
Really I should've said that to the man who gave me his name while I was checking people off of an alphabetized list, took the list from my hands and said "You're on the R page, my last name is Brooks, so we should go back a few pages to the top of the alphabet." Excuse my French, but are you fucking kidding me. Are you fucking. kidding. me.
Now I feel like I need to slow myself down before I wind up just filling up my screen with story after story from yesterday or previous days at work. I'm not writing this blog post to vent. Well, I'm not writing this blog post just to vent, as a more accurate statement. But I'm writing this as a bit of a plea. And I'm not asking for help, but I'm asking for support. I can't tell you how many of these types of situations occurred with male coworkers standing nearby or even participating in it. To me the participation in this type of behavior is practically inexcusable. But I can understand how things can go unnoticed as a bystander; or I've even seen men stand in shock as they listen to a situation unfold between a guest and me.
Please. Please for the love of god, please support the women in your life. In general, but in these sorts of situations in particular. I appreciate it when I've ranted to male coworkers about this type of behavior and they'll agree it's inexcusable and gross but I can't even imagine how grateful I'd be for someone to step in and back me up. Women will do this for one another, often. We'll check on each other at bars, or stand behind other women who are behind harassed.
And I understand. Men sometimes are afraid to step in because of this whole PC issue. "Well when I have stepped in, the woman has gotten upset because she feels I'm trying to save her. Or help her." You're right. It's our fight that we're fighting and sometimes we don't appreciate the feeling that we need a man to help us or save us from a situation. But like I said, we'd just appreciate it if you'd back us up.
But I'm off to another day at work. Every day I assume the best of people until they prove me wrong. So hopefully today will be a better day than yesterday.