Monday, 25 April 2016

Tip Over the Sexism Iceberg & Slap Its Ugly Face


Last week, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel was published and praised for her op-ed piece on sexism in parliament.  She speaks truth;  it exists here, there, and everywhere.  But I found the entire piece to be lacking in comprehension of the true depth of the issue. Kind of like complaining about Camembert being served cold on broken crackers while others rely on the food bank.  Though Rempel is correct in her observations, she's truly only seeing and speaking of the tip of the sexism iceberg.

Personally, in 29 years of working I have encountered sexual harassment at almost every single job I've had.  If not sexual harassment then most definitely sexual marginalization.  For years I ignored the comments, the "compliments", being called "sweetheart" and "doll" in front of customers who were meant to respect me.  Being told of my physical assets as though they should matter at all at work.  I've been told all kinds of things that I suppose were meant to make me feel good.  Or were they supposed to set me off my track?  Were they said to marginalize me? Define me?  Intimidate me?  Who knows.  I know that some of us say things before we even think.  Doesn't mean it's right though does it?

At the moment, I am pushing through the mental scarring so I can pay my rent. What scarring you ask?  To make a long story short, I started a new job mid-December and by mid-January, a male supervisor decided to share with me in detail, his alternative lifestyle in which a little BDSM often falls.  This was the first time I had to work alone with him, it was 2 a.m., and after he sent the other employee home early. This was also after he stressed to me how our boss relies on him and his opinion of new staff~that new staff being yours truly.

As he described his escapades and what his partners and he did, all I could think was, "just do your job" ... "you're almost done" ... "just smile, he can get you fired".  And I might have been able to forget the words, but being a visual person, it's what happened next that is imprinted in my already shaky grey matter.  After going out for a smoke, this supervisor stopped beside my desk and put his phone in my face.  There was a clear-as-day picture of his erect penis, not a foot away from my eyes. I sat with my head-set on, ready for the next phone call I was expected to answer, unsure of how to react. My eyes widened and as once again that instinct to laugh-it-off took over, I turned back quickly to my computer screen telling myself it was a joke.

But I was a fool to think it was over.  Oh no it wasn't over, because this pig wanted to know my opinion of the picture.  He asked me how it compared to others I'd seen.  He held up his arthritic hand and with his thumb and index fingers he showed the circumference even, as though I needed to know that.

This is raw, and it has affected me more than I ever imagined.  It has affected how I see myself and how I see my own sexuality.  This co-worker has taken something sacred between my hunni and I and made it feel ugly and dirty to me.  But it's what we deal with daily in minimum waged jobs or in jobs that require tipping.  I would LOVE to be told I'm being too emotional sometime.  It would certainly be better than being told something that whittles my entire existence down to two mounds of flesh.

So here's the rub Michelle.  I went to our boss and office manager.  I wrote it all out in print as hard evidence.  He got a week off.  And though I received lots of concern from my office manager, I also got informed twice that if I couldn't work those same late-night shifts with my harasser, I'd likely lose hours.  So as it stands today, aside from two other weekend shifts free from him, I am expected to work 8 out of 32 hours every week with this man that turns butterflies into angry bees in my stomach. Why should I lose hours when I did nothing wrong?

Sexism and this over-sexualized culture we have, is rampant in the workplace. And clearly Michelle has not worked where I've worked. She is correct though in stating that this cannot be fought on the ground by those in the action. This too is an ideology, a belief system that sees women as lesser. Perhaps MP Rempel can start a hot-line for women like myself to call for assistance in matters like these.  I cannot lose this job, what am I to do?

As it stands today, as Michelle has rightly pointed out, we have a normalization of sexism and female marginalization in the workplace.  I cannot change it.  I can only be affected by it.  Dear Parliament, over half of your workforce are at risk of being treated as less than or as the brunt of a bad joke over and over and on the daily.

In the year 2016, we should be calling that a barbaric cultural practice.