The moment I thought about wearing a ring on my left hand ring finger, was the moment I knew I had to say something. Wear a “wedding ring” in order to get guys to stop bothering me? What?! That’s not me. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m normally not one to bite my tongue. But it’s different when sexual harassment happens in the workplace, especially if it’s being done by a person who is superior to you.
The first time I experienced this was during an internship during my senior year of college. I was working at a high school for a college and career counselor and we got along really well. He was a lot older than me, had a wife and kids, and I liked him so much I started to think of him as an uncle. Until the day he closed his office door and started talking to me, telling me how cute and pretty I was – basically making me feel really uncomfortable. I must have made a disgusted face because he stopped and asked, “Wait, is this ok? Are you ok with me telling you how pretty I think you are?” I was stunned. I gaped, looked him in the eye and told him “No, it really is not ok,” and I walked out.
Since I needed this internship to graduate, returning was really difficult. I told my professor about it and she was very accommodating and I eventually found someone else at the same high school to work for. A woman. I shouldn’t have to prefer working for women because I feel uncomfortable working for men. That’s not right.
Luckily, the awkwardness subsided and I was able to complete my internship. I don’t know if it was karma or bad timing, but my supervisor had to stop coming to work because he had cancer and needed a serious surgery.
Since graduation, I started a new job in human resources/office administration at a local college, and everyone I work with is great. No uncomfortable awkwardness, only friendly and helpful people. However, the students I work with and see everyday step over the line way too often. Guys repeatedly ask me on dates, refer to me as “Sexy” and don’t even know my name, talk to me as if I’m inferior to them, etc. It’s sickening.
For the first time, this made me consider changing my looks. I thought about not doing my hair for work, wearing things like frumpy sweaters and less attractive clothing, then I thought about wearing a wedding ring because telling them that I have a boyfriend simply isn’t enough. Then, I was disappointed in myself for even having these thoughts. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been the confident-wear-whatever-the-fuck-I-want-no-makeup-messy-hair-naturally-pretty kind of girl. Random strangers never had the ability to make me feel small until recently.
Should I wear this sleeveless shirt? Is this too much eye makeup? Ooh, maybe I should wear flats instead of heels… Women should not have to dress down in order to avoid sexual harassment and rude behavior from men. We should be able to wear whatever we want, act how we normally act, and feel confident about ourselves. Since this is the “real world,” and I can’t necessarily be a bitch and tell someone to “fuck off” in the workplace, I started reporting these people. Instead of giving them a sarcastic and witty remark, which essentially just makes them want more, they’ll probably get kicked out of school. Do I feel bad about that? Not at all.