First of all, as an introvert, I know a thing or two about keeping to myself. I often don’t become comfortable enough to talk to others in anything other than a reserved manner until I’ve had a chance to meet them. I understand when others like me do the same. But the important thing that is often missed about us introverts is that while we may not always be overly social, we are almost always watching. I have learned by watching all my life, and I can read moods like they’re books on almost anyone around me. This makes it incredibly annoying when I find that no one can do the same with me.
As an employee, I have never been less than one of the very hardest workers. I take every job I’ve held seriously. Sometimes this has lead to a physical breakdown or an emotional one. Often this means my work ethic is taken for granted and those in a position of power make my life a living hell.
I am one who keeps my nose to the grindstone, I watch others, and I try to always play fair. When others around me don’t act within the boundaries of polite behavior, I notice. And I will say something. However, what happens when I say something and no one is listening?
In light of the #metoo movement, I gave serious consideration to a coworker’s actions. This man has pressed himself into me, forcing me to walk into a solid object to get away. He has cornered me for the excuse of getting something, but really he just wants to have a visceral graze of my boob. He crowds my space, follows me around, and makes me as uncomfortable as any coworker short of the devil herself has ever made me. I made the decision to bring this to the attention of my management team. It was promptly turned into a joke.
THIS right here is a key reason we women don’t speak up more. We are either called liars, told we brought it upon ourselves (I was born with a genetic predisposition for big boobs, not sure how I’m supposed to help that one), etc. The excuses for why men are allowed to act as they do is endless. With the gain in momentum for women’s voices, though, there has finally been at least some reckoning. Unfortunately, on the small scale, there are so many more of us who attempted to voice a concern and have nothing but the mockery of our coworkers to show for it.
I would never have brought this issue up lightly. I have often worked in a male dominated work environment. I understand all about “locker room talk” and I understand that even my friends are likely to say or even occasionally do things I’m not overly fond of. However, this particular man has crossed that boundary multiple times to the point that I view him as a threat. Of course, he works for a union, and even if I were to successfully lobby for disciplinary action, the union would never actually fire him. I know where this road leads, and it does me little good to follow.
The problem, then, isn’t in the actions of this entitled perv, but in the actions of my management team. When they first started laughing and trying to make it a joke, it hurt me. I pointed out that to me it was no laughing matter, and for a time they shut up. But like a terrible sense of deja vu, it just keeps cycling back. Today was the point that I nearly broke down in tears because of it, and so, as an introvert who usually manages her problems in writing, here I am.
The topic had, for the most part, been allowed to rest. There is no real recourse, but it has been noted, and that was all I could really hope for. However, today it came back after another coworker noticed that the man in question did follow me around the night before. I had sought safety by being near one of my coworkers whom I consider a friend, and as we were in the open, there was truly no more danger than discomfort. When my coworker recounted this man’s actions, it was then turned into a joke – to the point that it was implied I was seeing more of a threat than was really there. Again, I stressed that I do not bring this up lightly. Again, after some discussion that gained no traction, it was shoved to the side again.
I like to consider myself a respected employee within my work group. If even after I have brought this issue to the attention of others it is still brushed aside in a place where everyone knows my name, what happens to women who face far worse in larger companies? What happens to women who do not have the benefit of some standing beforehand? What happens when our voices are left unheard not because we did not speak, but because no one would listen?
Sadly, even this introvert cannot find comfort in the therapy of writing tonight. I’m am simultaneously disheartened by what my treatment implies for women all around the world and reassured by the amazing bravery shown by women who have spoken out. If by speaking out, again and again, we can finally be heard, then there is still hope for a better future.