I can’t stop thinking of one episode that has happened to me recently. I was invited to a nice event to meet a person, a boy, to talk about business ideas. We chatted a bit on LinkedIn before meeting and it seemed that we shared a vision on how to improve the world. I figured that meeting in person was the best thing we could do.
However, when we met at the event, we talked about nothing other than bullshit. What I clearly remember, though, were his continuous attempts of slowly touching and stroking me. At first I thought it was just by chance, that it was my impression. So I moved away. But every time I scooched over, he’d slide closer and start again. I was trying to follow some serious speech at the event, so this behavior really pissed me off on many levels.
I must say that, unfortunately, this has not been the first time someone has hit on me or made sexist comments while in a working environment. Occasionally, they were even meant to underline the fact that I was a girl, thus that I had to accept to be a natural target of this kind of comments, and was not worthy of having a serious business talk with them. Even though these bad vibes were never my fault, they left a bitter taste in my mouth, affecting my day or week.
The reason why I am writing about this aspect of my working life is not because I am a hopeless feminist. These big or small unwanted attentions and remarks are annoying because they make me lose focus.
I always feel the need to be self-defensive around men, because they may say and/or do something that sucks us out of the professional mindset in an irritating, sometimes repulsive, way. I can’t concentrate on more important topics if I have to think of turning them down or cope with a bad feeling.
I want to focus on big ideas, on projects, on concrete strategies to change the world! Why getting lost in petty sexual jokes?
So now comes my solution. Going back to the story at the beginning of my post, I did something that felt bold and right at the same time: I addressed the topic directly with the person, in that precise moment. “Can you please put your hand somewhere else? I am trying to listen to the speech, if you need more space on my chair to listen to it as well, please let me know and I’ll give you my seat.” I said it as a joke, he laughed, but it worked.
The obvious effect was just around the corner. He stopped making an effort to talk to me, and by the end of the event he was totally disinterested in even saying goodbye. I can’t say I was crying for the loss.
So girls, has this ever happened to you? Please write me!
Should it happen tomorrow, remember my advice. Don’t pretend it’s a funny thing, don’t ignore the comment. Face the man and his inappropriate approach. Depending on the social positions you both have, consider the right attitude. Never be aggressive, but choose from a range of very calm reactions: from coldness to fun and everything in between.
I’ll tell you more: use that comment to your advantage. Now you know his weakness, manoeuvre the game in your favor! If he thinks you are “a girl”, well you are! And you’ll show him what that means!