Mixed up

BY KATHLEEN RAVEN

The situations below are mixed up chronologically so you don’t know who did what to me. I’m not naming names. But please note: my name is on this. Life isn’t fair.

In the classroom, journalism professors exhorted students to consider the just-so balance between the public’s right to know and a person’s good name. When is it OK to rely on an anonymous source? Should the raped woman (or man) be named? Does a journalist warn a public figure that he or she is about to be exposed?

No one is exposed here — except me.

But it’s time. I want men in professional settings to know what they cannot do.

1) You cannot suggest that you would like to have sex with me;

2) You cannot kiss me;

3) You cannot enter my private room when I said, “Please do not enter now.”;

4) You cannot stroke my calf muscles while I stand next to your desk;

5) You cannot tell me that you love me;

6) You cannot say “If I was years younger, I’d be hanging out with you all the time.”

7) You cannot make off-color jokes about men and women in their underwear;

8) You cannot tell me privately, as my instructor, while I’m sitting in your health class, that women can have more orgasms than men;

9) You cannot force me to sit in on your lap in the office;

10) You cannot massage my shoulders in front of the entire newsroom;

11) You cannot talk about sex with me if I have not invited the topic;

12) You cannot take me out to dinner if I have not expressed the slightest desire to do so;

13) You cannot drive places with me in the car, groping my legs the whole time;

14) You cannot ask me to meet me after work and suggest monetary compensation to have sex;

15) You cannot ask to take my picture, asking me to pose by myself, at a conference, so you can have it for later;

16) You cannot meet me for coffee under the guise of wanting to talk about a potential internship, only to talk only about yourself, and later act like I don’t exist;

17) You cannot take advantage of the fact that I am, by default, a nice person. I have a hearing loss since birth that requires me to concentrate hard (lip-read) on what you are saying. It may come across that I am acting like you are the only person in the room, but really, even with my hearing aids, I am simply trying to hear you;

18) You cannot call me bad names in an attempt to control me;

19) You cannot ignore the fact the fact that I am married;

20) You cannot invite me, alone, to your mountain house;

21) You can not rape me.

All of these things have happened to me, from age 15 to 30, let the forces of the universe be my witnesses. Do I have it on tape? No. Is it my word against theirs? Yes. But I’m a journalist. I love facts. I treat them with utmost respect.

I know that until Power dynamics must change. Women will always have do NOT have to put up with “Hey, nice smile!” “Not only are you smart, you are beautiful!” “You look good today in that outfit.” “Nice story – did anyone ever tell you how beautiful you are?” That’s NOT fine. I don’t want men (and women) to read this and think I have to be treated with kid gloves.

Throughout my career, I have forgiven. I have tried, against criticism, to be friends with some of these men in my career. I’m sure I have “led men on” out of pure terror. But the moment a mistake – in my book, one of these 21 things – is committed, then I’ve lost all trust.

I count among my professional and personal acquaintances men (and women) whose company I look forward to and enjoy. They treat me with respect. They have not done any of the 21 things.

Women, how will we support each other if not now? If not now, when?

Men, next time, I’m dropping names.

UPDATE 10/16/2013 at 5:16 PM: A fellow female science writer rightfully said that not even comments should be tolerated. I’ve updated this post to reflect that.

72 thoughts on “Mixed up

  1. Thank you for putting this out there. One more person standing up and speaking out at the potential cost of a very large backlash. As a rape survivor and woman in technology, I stand beside you.

  2. I’m not often angry online, but you’ve hit on my pet topic. I majored in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at a Top 5 program, and now I work in film/tv/theatre. The stories I could tell you (and names I could name) would make you pop a vein. From a fellow weary young woman in the trenches, bravo for speaking out.

    Frances Uku
    New York, NY

    http://imdb.me/francesuku

  3. I am very proud that you spoke out, and while being so sympathetic that you endured these, I am not at all surprised. But I want to be very clear that by saying, “It happens to all of us,” I don’t want in any way to diminish the shock and disappointment of each of us. I wonder, if we each wrote out our lists, if the men we know could bear it.

    • I already can’t bear it. I’m a young scientist, so a lot of my peers and friends at this stage are young women who are especially vulnerable to harassment. I literally cannot think of a single one of my female friends who hasn’t confided to me a list of their own. And you’re right, the fact that it happens so often does not diminish the shock and disappointment. It does, however, sometimes make me incredibly discouraged trying to figure out how to put an end to it.

      To Kathleen, I just wanted to add another voice thanking you for speaking up and to express my sympathy and support for you.

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    • Jay, in other contexts, this could have been a joke. But I approved your post to show that this kind of behavior cannot go on, and will not be tolerated. No, you can’t say that and then “cover it up” with men being a$$holes. So, everyone: this is a case of inappropriateness. What else do you need to know that this is wrong?

      • I suggest an addition to your list: “You cannot make unwelcome and/or outrageous advances and then claim they were just jokes”.

    • I could say Cis gendred females as arbitrarily decided and categoried by current societal norms and definitions… But chicks has less syllables. :p

      Having said that i really don’t want to detract from the very good message of the article we’re all commenting on so ill now out after this post to ensure i don’t.

      Ps:- and yes i agree with Grace Alexander good people can just help. But an invitations better. Especially with an empowered woman yeah? Drive smart not right, i know it’s not fair, you shouldn’t have to but it’s more effective if you do. Your call, just some friendly advice is all.

  5. Sadly, Douglas, it is NOT about good people vs bad people when there is such a huge disparity in attitudes by gender. The things described above happen to men. Sure. Sometimes they are even perpetrated by women on men. But when the overwhelming balance is tipped towards men taking advantage of and abusing women, it’s impossible to level the playing field to make men feel better. It’s not actually our job to invite you to “join forces with us”. It’s your job to ( A ) not do any of these things and ( B ) speak out and actively discourage other men form doing these things. Whether or not you help the world to be a better place shouldn’t depend on how well you think you’ve been invited to be decent.

    • Grace, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Yes, men are harassed, but a post about women being harassed and assaulted is NOT the place to discuss it. It’s the place to show solidarity and support and to call out harassment, no matter who perpetrates it.

    • Thanks Grace, I agree with everything except the first sentence: I think it has as much to do with a disparity in power as it does a disparity in attitude. Erasing the power differential will help. I hope it helps a lot because this is disgusting. Ive been reading these accounts for most the day, and honestly, I really had no idea how bad or pervasive this all is. Im really shaken by it all.

  6. Great post. I think that we could make a list of these forbidden behaviors and hand them out BEFORE professional in-person meetings. Only partly tongue-in-cheek. Observation thereof would prevent a great deal of damage. Out of your own trauma, thank you for once again giving me motivation to talk to my daughter and tell her what is definitely unacceptable from any colleague or hierarchical superior (man or woman).

  7. Can I add one, that I’ve personally endured repeatedly as a musican from an instructor that at the time I did not know was sexual harassment (being a very naive autistic young woman who no one ever talked to about sexual harrassment) and led to me having panic attacks so badly I ended up switching instruments just to get away from that particular instructor?

    22. You cannot use one-on-one meetings to inquire about my dating status nor question my sexuality, my sexual orientation or my attitudes about sex if I refuse to tell you my dating status or any other personal information

  8. Wow, I’m sure Kathleen really appreciates the “support,” there, Douglas.

    I’d just like to make a few points if i could, in all good faith etc.

    Firstly, “You’re doing it wrong” isn’t actually a very supportive message. You know, at all.

    Secondly, if you don’t think the world is divided by gender, and that this isn’t very much a gender issue, then you still have a lot of reading to do on the subject to catch up.

    Thirdly, you don’t need a sex change operation to sign up to what’s being expressed here.

    • “Whether or not you help the world to be a better place shouldn’t depend on how well you think you’ve been invited to be decent.” THIS. And not just re: this article but in general.

      Anyway, I don’t care about the well-intentioned broseph calling chicks “chicks,” but I agree that any attempt to make this issue gender-neutral is a distraction from the very real male-female power dynamic that’s been playing out for millennia. Not saying all men are driven, consciously or not, to dominate women, including their female colleagues. In my journalistic experience, I’ve somehow avoided the worst of what’s on this list (not all of it, of course), but something as simple as rubbing a young female coworker’s shoulders in front of the whole newsroom, or referencing her sexuality/personal life, shows an entitlement — a cavalier, insidiousness, “safe” form of domination. Just enough to let her know that you think of her more as an inferior, sexually available being than as an equal and a colleague. Sure, there are women who invert the paradigm and act inappropriately with their male colleagues. But men aren’t socialized to tolerate this kind of behavior for fear of appearing too brusque or “serious.” It’s just not the same. You can’t look at this shit in a theoretical vacuum; it’s part of a whole big stinking continuum across time and place.

  9. Re: “Douglas McDougall”: The phrase “most of the chicks I’ve worked with” pretty much killed anything you had to say. Assuming that you never worked with baby chickens, in which case what you said was just bizarre.

    Re: the article: Well said. And while naming names is good, I find it awfully depressing that you’d need to go to work every day carefully documenting behaviour so you’d have the required evidence to answer any backlash (social or legal) naming names would generate. And even more depressing that even with such evidence people would still hide from the issue.

    I think the best thing people can take from this is to look out for each other in the workplace. If someone is being harassed or bullied, try to help. If decent people look out for each other, the jerks of the world will lose.

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  11. Since I, as a heterosexual white cis-male, have not done any of the things on this list and don’t intend to do, I did not feel uninvited to join forces against sexism and unprofessional behavior. And calling it a “good people vs bad people” issue obscures the very real imbalance we’re dealing with here.

    • How are those double standards? In both, the sex of the inquirer and the sex of the inquired are not stated, and therefore is a neutral statement to be observed by both sexes. The conditional phrasing is important. You wouldn’t ask a co-worker or family friend about their sex-life uninvited, would you? Wouldn’t you feel uncomfortable for anyone that you’ve shown no interest in sharing that information with asking you something like that? People can give hints as to being comfortable about what they’re willing to talk about regardless of the professional atmosphere, straightforward or not. I think it’s pretty acceptable for anyone to ask of their colleagues and superiors the respect to not probe them with sexual questions or comments.

  12. 9) You cannot force me to sit in on your lap in the office;
    9a) You cannot try to coerce a 14-yr-old girl to sit on your lap in a restaurant
    Thank you for writing this powerful post.

  13. KR – thank you for your post. I shed tears while I read. I am not known for shedding tears, but the strongest are often also the most vulnerable. While the rest of my day will have me occupied with other activities in the world of science, this will weigh heavy on my mind. My thoughts are with you and all women who have had old memories stirred by your post today. My thoughts also go forward to you and all women who will remember your post the next time something like this occurs. Because it will. Be prepared. Don’t let it go by unrecognized. And as Kevin said, try to help others and look out for each other.

  14. While most of the list boils down to “people should be professionals with co-workers at work, and elsewhere especially when it is a supervisor with employees/trainees”, I feel the need to mention explicitly that numbers 14 and 21 are *crimes*. Not only should those not be tolerated, they should be prosecuted. The only reason men (or women, but 90+% men- admit it, guys) have gotten away with it is that we live in a truly messed up society.

  15. If you wouldn’t do it to your mother or your daughter, don’t do it to anyone else’s.
    If you wouldn’t be proud to say it in front of your mother or daughter, don’t say it.

    • I dislike this standard. Why do they have to be told to think of the women in their lives in order to act like decent people? Even if people DON’T like it said to people they know or are related to, they will do it to strangers. It’s not acceptable no matter who the person is.

      • Because the women in their lives are real people. Thinking of them will remind them that other women they meet are real people, too, not objects of desire.

  16. And of course:

    If you wouldn’t like it to be said or done to your mother or sister, wife or daughter, don’t say it or do it at all.

  17. My goodness, I’m so sorry about 21. Can’t put it into words.

    I can’t tell whether it’s better that it’s not just me, or worse, that this sort of stuff is happening to other people too. Obviously it’s worse, but being in any of these situations can leave you feeling isolated, trying to ignore things and get on with it, not cause a “fuss”, wondering if it’s your fault….

    I re-read your list – 1,2,4,5,6,7,10,11,12,15,16,17 (about taking advantage of being nice) and 18 – check. I’d fill in the gaps with: a) You cannot grab my arse as I walk by, b) You cannot beg me to go swimming with you after a conference dinner, c) You cannot assume that if I talk to you I want to sleep with you, d) You cannot change the reality of facts just because it’s woman telling you them

    Perhaps it’s time I wrote my own post. I’ve been meaning to for a while. Thank you for writing yours.

  18. 20/21 of these I’m 100% behind you on. Behavior like this is unacceptable, period.

    But there’s one I want to understand a little better: “You cannot talk about sex with me if I have not invited the topic.”

    I get the sentiment you’re going for here: you don’t want to be treated as a sex object, you want to be treated as a human being. This, again, I’m 100% behind you on.

    But I’m a man who works in tech, I’m 6’5″ and bearded, and I’ve had women literally walk up and tell me that I “look like a rapist”. I’m basically at a point where I’m terrified of interacting with women in professional contexts at all because I’m so concerned that I’m coming off as threatening. (Being from the Midwest, where interacting with other people is considered a social faux pas, doesn’t help matters.)

    And so it really irks me to be in a position where I’m not allowed to talk about sex, but the woman is allowed to invite the topic. Why is there a dichotomy here? Because I’m a man, and ergo a threat? (That’s a generalization I simply can’t accept.) Because of patriarchy? Because of the historical cultural relationship between women and sex? Why?

    If it wasn’t your intention to suggest a dichotomy: fair enough. But then I honestly don’t, in a professional context, know what constitutes “inviting the topic of sex” without “talking about sex”. I’m open to the HR default of “just don’t talk about sex at all”, though I think that’s kind of a disingenuous attitude in any aspect of life.

    Another possible interpretation of this regards your use of the phrase “sex with me”. I’m fairly certain that there’s no such thing as “one person having sex with another one”, just “two [or more, I suppose] people having sex with each other”. If we’re talking about cases of the former, let’s just call it what it is: rape.

    • You are assuming that the woman is allowed. She’s not allowed. You have every right to tell them to stop harassing you. Harassment works both ways and absolutely is unacceptable no matter who it comes from. The point of the post is that this is her perspective and her experiences and they were all with men.

      • Dear Yael, Many statements can imply many things. I don’t think that’s the most helpful way to interpret the 21 statements here. They should be accepted at face-value: do not talk about sex to me (any gender) if I have not invited the topic. Period. Also, all 21 things have happened to me in and around professional settings and professional meetings — with the exception of the health class in high school. Sex, unless it’s a topic of research, shouldn’t appear in convo at all.

  19. What the? 5) You cannot tell me that you love me; <— Is she serious? I mean… I understand that there are lines that should not be crossed… but expressing ones honest emotional feelings in words that are not harassing… I just don't get this one at all…

    • What’s there not to get? I’ve seen this happen. MOstly women, but sometimes men, barely know the person or only know the person in a work context. Yet that person decides to share that they are in love with them and that they should begin dating or they should be together. It’s like the harasser had a one sided relationship and the person being harassed is only aware of it after the harasser confesses their love.

    • Brad, again, this is behavior that cannot be accepted. “I love you” is never an acceptable comment to a (married!!!!) woman in a professional setting.

  20. Hello there. Very well written and pognant list you have there. I find it sad and unfortunate that all these nameless men did these atrocious things to you. They are for surely lacking in social graces and respect. I too have a list I would like to share. Not naming names, just to give everyone else a good idea what happens on the other side of the coin. (in no particualr order.

    1. you can not touch me without my permission even if you are my babysitter and even if i am too young to give it.
    2. you can not share me with your friend to teach me how to kiss.
    3. you can not poke holes in my condoms to try and get pregnant with my child
    4. you can not tell lies about me and send your brother to beat the living daylights out of me.
    5. you can not tell me you love me and the next day kiss a grown man in front of me and then laugh in my face.
    6. you can not cheat on me…again.
    7. you can not call the police on me because i broke up with you.
    8. you can not vandalize my property because i broke up with you.
    9. you can not lie about me…period. (her word against mine…mine against hers…that one stuck with me a long time)
    10. you can not treat me like a child in public and announce things about our sex life to strangers.
    11. you can not talk about the size or shape of my penis in public.
    12. you can not seduce my best friend…twice.
    13. you can not tell your father and mother you had an abortion, of my child, when you didn’t and never had sex with me.

    Luckily for me i have a strong family and friend base. they saved my life. next time i am dropping names

    I would just like to add. Sometimes…”You have a terrific smile” means just that. “you look nice today.” means …”you look nice today.” There is no sexual conotation to it. Compliments make people happy sometimes. Sometimes they don,t.

    Just know. Men and boys have hard times too. Professionaly, scholastically and in life in general.

    thank you for your time.

    • Dear William, Thank you very much for sharing these things. If I understand correctly, this list of quite very, very hurtful things happened beyond the professional environment and/or professional contexts? This *does not* diminish at all the gravity of your list. I’d just like to point out that our contexts (I think) are different in this case. If a male co-worker politely offers a compliment related to my physical appearance, I’ll accept it happily, and, yes, it would probably improve my day. If my male boss, who hires me and fires me, says I have a great smile and we are in a workplace setting, then that could be grounds for sexual harassment. Unless a woman explicitly gives her male boss/editor permission to compliment her looks, it cannot be done. It works the same way for a female boss complimenting a male worker who is beneath her. These things can no longer be said. The student who harmlessly talks about “bringing a weapon to school” must be followed-up with. I know that men and boys also struggle – I’d like to make safer work / professional environments for all genders.

    • William, it seems like you have socialized with some pretty awful personal relationships. However, this column is about professional relationships. Also, once your “friend” has sex with your lover twice, it’s time to hold him responsible, too. Seems like you need to focus on finding more trustworthy people, rather than post personal anecdotes on blogs about what is and isn’t proper professional behavior.

    • William, again, not to diminish what you’ve been through, but did you understand that Kathleen was writing about a professional context, not about romantic relationships? And do you understand why it’s necessary for women to write about these things in professional life, and why it shouldn’t be necessary?

      Have you had to put up with sexual harassment while trying to make a living and a career? And have you had it made clear to you that if you didn’t go along with it, you’d have no money to live on, and your name blacklisted? Have you had people wary of hiring you because they were afraid you might call someone (like maybe themselves) out on sexual harassment, instead of going along with it like all the other girls?

      Is this an environment you have no choice but to live in?

      Think carefully instead of just reacting. Also, a compliment is not a compliment if it’s unwelcome. If you don’t want to run afoul of the law, make sure you understand that.

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  22. I am sorry you have been subjected to this. Thank you for sharing your experiences. They are important to show how endemic they are to so many professional settings. Thank you also for leaving in place some of the questionable comments because as useful as sharing your experiences is in shedding light on the fact that these experiences are widespread, a few of the above comments are essential for clearly demonstrating the disconnect that exists even after reading about them. How can jokes be appropriate? How are anecdotes about bad breakups relevant? Thanks again for sharing.

  23. Thank you for this post. As a guy who was subjected to the flirtations (and no, I didn’t lead her on) of a female assistant manager who eventually turned on me after I didn’t reciprocate and tried to make my life miserable, I understand in a small but real way some of the things you mention here. Sexual harassment, while vastly more common happening to women than men, is a serious issue and you are doing a good thing by shining light on it.

  24. Thank you KR. This is heartbreaking and moving. Ive got three young daughters and I dont want them to live in a world like this. I want it to change before they grow up. Regardless, I want them to have the courage to call it out like you did here.

  25. Sexual harassment really happens all the time, especially to women. In Brazil it’s even worst because it’s often associated with violence. Threats/Insinuations are not enough. We have our laws, really, but just a few cases have been brought to trial since they were approved. I believe the huge socio-economic inequalities (and cultural issues, for sure) aid to promote a more extreme sexual behavior, even in a professional context. e.g. Brazilian women do not express decreased job satisfaction when faced with sexual harassment – can you believe it?
    More info can be found here: Merkin, R. “South American perspectives on sexual harassment: The standpoint in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile”, Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, 10. 2009, 357-376.

    Thank you for the excellent opportunity of discussing this theme.

  26. To me, one of the main causes of this sort of behaviour in today’s society is the prevalent objectification of women. When so much advertising and so many cultural cues suggest that women are sexual objects of affection, the result is that many men will fail to fully respect women and not objectify them (in a professional setting or otherwise).

    In other words, the objectification of women seems to have created the cavalier entitlement that Veronica Lemmons mentioned above. Men feel like they are entitled to make sexual advances on women they feel attracted to, almost regardless of context and social setting. Not only that, but macho patriarchal attitudes amongst men are still VERY much engrained in society (in some cultures more than others). So men are encouraged to “take charge,” to be superior and dominant, and are told that it is disgraceful to lose to women.

    I can tell you from personal experience, it’s hard to rid oneself of those sorts of attitudes until you surround yourself with people who don’t share those views (something that doesn’t seem to be common amongst young — and therefore impressionable — men).

    I think that eliminating the power disparity between men and women, as John Bruno said, as well as each of us (and parents, in particular) making an effort to abolish the objectification of women, will have a massive impact in ridding us of this sort of behaviour. Now if only advertisers realised that wit, quirkiness, and humour can have an even larger, gender-neutral impact than selling sex, that’d be a great start…

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  28. To me, reading this post feels a lot like listening to a war veteran explain that he doesn’t want anyone to turn on any loud appliances in his presence. It’s understandable. It’s a little concerning, too. To offer an example, here’s something you’ve indicated must not be tolerated in a professional setting:

    “Hey, nice smile!”

    I think that to most people this sounds positive, even chaste and appropriate for workplace talk. On it’s own, without any kind of unsavory context, commenting on a bright and happy disposition is admirable. I would encourage it.

    What I’m saying is that I’m afraid your experiences have colored your perspective on everything men say, regardless of their nature or intent. Everything is suspect by default. That sounds like a very sad way to live. I would positively despair to work in a place where this isn’t tolerated. Yes, we go to an office to work, but we are still humans, and we’re allowed to have feelings — especially positive ones — and express them. The fact that other men in your life have mishandled their feelings professionally is no reason to place a blanket ban on all life and humanity in the workplace.

    • The problem with your request to not request a ban on “Nice smile!” is that for most women, this is something that’s told to them constantly. Over and over, many times from multiple people in the same day. Regardless of the intent behind it, it can be the straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were. And especially in a professional/work setting, this kind of thing isn’t appropriate. You can be nice to someone without being personal and commenting on their appearance. Women are policed about their expressions, “Hey you should smile!” all the time. We’re not allowed to look solemn, serious or upset while doing anything. It’s the micro aggressions that turn into macro aggressions. And truly your comment is victim blaming. “Just get over it, not everyone is like that.” It’s not okay.

    • Dear Daniel – Thank you for taking the time to leave a note here on the post. You are right: For a time, the friends and family of a war veteran suffering from PTSD will need to respect his/her wishes and not run loud appliances in his/her presence. It is part of the healing process. Time heals many wounds. My experiences have colored my perspective, as I have forgiven time and again, while also I have been taken advantage of over and over. So, I think my extreme skepticism is healthy at this point.

      However, I would like to suggest that you may have mis-read my post. I put a “blanket ban” on the 21 things. Not “nice smile” per se.

      What I’m hoping for as a result of this post and others is that men and women move closer to equals in the workplace. Do you tell your male colleagues that they have a “nice smile”?

    • I’m with Daniel on this one: I was with you 100% until the part about not having to tolerate compliments.

      If a man tells you you look nice in that outfit, can’t it simply be something nice he’s saying? If I told a colleague he looked sharp in his new suit, would that be inappropriate? People often need a little positivity and kindness in their day.

      I’ve certainly had compliments that were given in an inappropriate way or had a sexual undertone; we all have. But I’ve also had colleagues compliment me with simple kindness. And I’d hate to think we’re telling men not to say nice things to their female colleagues.

      • Dear Gigi – Again, I’m glad this conversation is continuing here in the comments. This is exactly what I hoped would happen! That we would continue to dissect and analyze the very tricky area of sexual harassment in professional work settings. So, just to be clear, I wrote: “I want men in professional settings to know what they cannot do.” And then I listed the 21 things that I have experienced that are completely unacceptable and should never, never happen. Complimenting a woman is not on that list, and so, it is **not** a ‘forbidden’ thing to do in my book.

        However, and this is only regarding my personal experience, when a man in my workplace has told me I look nice in an outfit, or that I have a nice smile… it always had a sexual undertone. How do I know this? Because it was usually followed with an invitation to get dinner after work or a shoulder massage (which is what I mention in the list of 21 things). The male mentors and friends that I have — and I do have many! — have *never* told me that I look nice while we are in professional work situations and I am very grateful for that. It created a very safe environment for me.

        Now, I compliment men and women all the time about their looks because, I agree, it feels good to be noticed in a positive way. To a woman on the street, I’ll compliment a fancy jacket, or to men, I might give a thumbs-up to neon-orange wingtips.

        But I hope you understand that, like the war veteran in Daniel’s analogy, compliments in the workplace have been ruined from me. Nothing good has come form them. And now I cut them short — to draw a very clear line.

    • Daniel
      It might be splitting hairs to you, but your comments on body parts – even a smile- are often unwelcome. Why not just comment on the persons cheerful demeanor? Unless you’d say pretty much the same thing to a make colleague, and I doubt you would, it often comes off as patronizing and sexist. As if we are here for you to gaze upon and comment.
      Do you have any idea how often strange men on the street admonish women they don’t know to “Smile honey!” It’s a thing, happens to many of us frequently. I recall a week when my Dad was dying getting three or four of those comments. Like I’m upsetting stranger dudes because I’m not providing light hearted enough scenery. Really?
      Rule of thumb- compliments to work and behavior, fine. Compliments to body parts, no. Not unless you have the privledge of a relationship outside the office, where you can relay your feelings in an unprofessional setting. Because you’re treating her unprofessionally, and that’s where that belongs.

  29. Pingback: Want to Prevent Sexual Violence? Accept That You Know a Rapist « WORDVIRUS

  30. Every single thing you’ve written here resonated with me. I, too, have hearing loss and #17 deeply struck a chord with me. Thank you for this post.

  31. I’m a male and I do feel hugely ashamed as a man that many women have been subject to behaviour from men that they find objectionable: several posters have correctly observed that such objectionable behaviour is much more common by men than by women. My congratulations to you for writing this post and I do hope it will have all the good effect it should. I believe something more may be useful and appropriate (see below).

    I happened to arrive at ‘Mixed Up’ from your guest blog at the Scientific American “Chemistry and Physics: One Needs the Other” (dt. July 1, 2013). I plan to subscribe to your blog – partly for the science, but partly in the hope of learning how I may contribute to such issues (see below).

    I do not use Twitter, but would like to describe to you, by way of attachments to an email message, about a powerful ‘systems aid’ to problem solving and decision making that – effectively applied to this specific purpose – could impact the problem beneficially in many ways: it will not eliminate the problem, but certainly could help diminish it quite significantly. Some of your readers have correctly commented that this probably has a great deal to do with the ‘gender power structure’ in society. (I’m from India, and I believe the problem here is rather more severe than in many of the ‘developed’ nations – I’m sure many there are aware of the horrific gang-rape that took place last year in Delhi bus [and a great many such crimes have occurred here since then]).

    By the way, writing this blog-post of yours is amongst the ‘Things To Do’ that would develop by using the problem solving tool I recommend – but obviously more, MUCH more is required.

    –GSC

  32. Further my last (which may appear under the name ‘thinkitandoit’ after moderation), here is some background:
    1. The late John N. Warfield made some seminal contributions to ‘systems science’, developments from which enable any individual or group to choose a ‘Mission’ of interest and – from currently available good ideas – to develop and workable and effective ‘Action Plan’ to accomplish it. Conventionally, Action Planning little allows us to strengthen or modify our weak/wrong ideas, particularly when such ideas arise from bias injected by the systems within which we live and work (including our educational systems). More information about Warfield’s contributions to systems is available at http://www.jnwarfield.com and from the “John N. Warfield Collection” held at the library of George Mason University where he was Professor Emeritus – see http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=gmu/vifgm00008.xml;query=; .
    2. The specific development that enables any individual or group (high-school up) readily to apply ‘systems thinking’ to issues of interest is the ‘One Page Management System’ (OPMS). I hope to put up adequate information about the OPMS in due course. Meanwhile, there is some information available at my (restricted) ‘YahooGroup’ “Towards Democracy” along with the freely available prototype OPMS software (to help with the ‘representation’ of our ‘mental models’) – check out http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/towards_democracy/conversations/messages. (If you should like to join this group with a view to explore OPMS, use the software, etc., just mail me at gs (underscore) chandy (at) yahoo (dot) com ). In due course, in the next couple of months, I hope to have an OPMS website up and running.
    GSC

  33. Most of those should be obvious and common sense for people, but I do wonder why you include some relatively harmless ones right next to blatant sexual harassment.

    #12) Are you suggesting that men shouldn’t ask women out to dinner? I understand if the man is aware that the woman is in a relationship already or is married, but otherwise how else would you know if a woman is interested?

    All you have to do is clearly communicate that you aren’t interested and I(and most men I would think) wouldn’t pursue it any further. I think a large problem that some women may have is they are afraid to reject the guy directly and immediately, which leads to an unpleasantly drawn-out interaction that could have been avoided in the first place.

    That and also your comment on compliments leaves me perplexed. If I make a compliment to a woman that she looks attractive, that is not me making an advance. I think millions of women look attractive, and I usually have no reservations making a comment about that. Especially if they have dressed up in a very noticeable and different way. Does it really bother you that someone makes a compliment on your appearance? Or if someone asks you out to dinner?

    Sorry, just my observations, but those seem significantly less harmful than some of the others on that list, such as the ones related to directly engaging in physical behavior.

    • Hello Jared, Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m planning to write a follow-up that addresses some of the issues that you and others have raised here. It’s all very good – and part of the continuing process of understanding where the lines should be drawn, by whom, and when. So, once again, I’m glad you took time to comment.

  34. I had an interview with a male interviewer last summer and the whole time he just kept saying, “smile.” It was really irritating and unprofessional. I decided about halfway through that I wasn’t going to follow up, if that’s how he was going to talk to me.

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