Feminism | Posted by Crystal on 04/25/2012

How Do I Deal With Sexual Harassment?

my fine place of work

I work as a bagger in a grocery store where the majority of my co-workers are male. Ever heard someone say something like, “To him, women are just a piece of meat?” Well, that’s the mentality of most guys at my work place.

The men at my workplace discuss women a lot. They have a phrase for them even: they call women “burgers.” Often when a few guys are on break or about to get off work, they talk with the other guys about how they are going to go get some “burgers.” Then they discuss what they want on their “burgers.” Lettuce for pubic hair. Bacon for under age of consent. Toasted bun if they want the girl to be intoxicated. And so on. If they do something to those women that makes them emotional, which I can only imagine is something awful, they call it “leaving a mess” for the next guy.

Because I do not live in a city, and have not had many jobs, this is new to me. We recently had to watch videos on sexual harassment at work, but the sexual harassment has not stopped, nor has anything real been done to counter this problem. It makes me sick to my stomach. It makes me shake with rage. It makes me tear up at the fact that these guys have so little respect for women that they really believe that they are only meat to be consumed. Rarely are any of my co-workers over the age of 22, but the older ones indoctrinate the younger ones, who are often as young as 16. It’s so upsetting to me that they speak like this and that they don’t care if I am around to hear it. It’s so frustrating not to be able to tell anyone, because I know all that will happen is another round of educational films that will just be ignored.

On the rare occasion that I do tell anyone about it, I get the age old “boys will be boys” or “So? Aren’t they allowed to have their sexuality?” It’s so very frustrating to have to explain dehumanization to every person I seek advice from. How has anyone dealt with this situation? How can I deal with it when all I want to do is quit, yet do not have the luxury of being able to lose my job over this, nor a boss that will do anything with my plea for attention to this situation?

To know that to these men I am nothing if I am not attractive, and if I am attractive then I am meat, scares me. To them, women are not human. Not people that exist and have lives of their own, feelings and beliefs. They are “burgers” to be consumed by their sexual appetites and left to be someone else’s “mess.”

I fear what will happen if I bring this up to a manager since some of them are also in that group that uses “burger” lingo. If I am less than human now, without having done anything more than just existing, what more will I be to them but a target if I do speak up?

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  • Maggie Arden @ at 11:43 am, April 25th, 2012

    I had a similar experience. My first job was a bagger at a Jewel-Osco – one of a few girls. It’s a tough first job, being surround by hormone fulled boys and cranky customers. I heard all kinds of things, but I don’t think I was as aware at 15 as I am now, nor was my fuse as short as it is now. My biggest issue was when I parked in the employee area early one morning and noticed the guy parked next to me – naked and masturbating, knocking on the window to get my attention. I immediately went to report him, with not much of a result. I didn’t feel like they had my back, which made it hard to go to work. Speak up, you might be the only one! And maybe look for another job.

  • Gigi @ at 4:54 pm, April 25th, 2012

    This is very upsetting, and I STRONGLY suggest that you do speak to the manager about it. It really makes no difference if they use the same sexist lingo – explain that it is sexist, offensive behaviour that is most certainly NOT suitable in the workplace.Explain that it makes you feel uncomfortable in your place of work, that you feel degraded and angry about it, and that legally, the individuals participating in this behaviour need seperately talking to. Even write a note to the manager if you feel it’s too much of a collosal task to verbally explain. If that doesn’t seem to be working, mention reporting the company and going above their heads about their disrespect for laws that specify that this is not okay. Good luck and thanks for writing this. :)

  • Gigi @ at 5:12 pm, April 25th, 2012

    Also, if they do go over the territory of boys will be boys” or “So? Aren’t they allowed to have their sexuality?”, perhaps explain to them that the dehumanizing, extremely sexist treatment of women isn’t something that the majority of people would attribute to someone simply being male, and as far as the other thread bare suggestion goes, everyone is entitled to their sexuality – and although I wouldn’t classify what they’re saying as sexuality, just plain insulting behaviour, it is NOT appropriate to go around proclaiming one’s sexuality and sexual desires in the workplace.

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 5:28 pm, April 25th, 2012

    That really sucks what you’re going through, Crystal. I want to go into sexual harassment law, so what you’re saying really hits home. I’m very far from qualified to give you any advice, but I want you to contact someone at the National Women’s Law Center http://www.nwlc.org/contact. They’re extremely nice and can really help you out. Don’t be afraid to ask! You’re only asking for your federally-mandated right to a workplace devoid of sexual harassment. If you want me to hook you up with anyone specific, you can email me at starofdavida@gmail.com.

  • Sarah @ at 7:31 pm, April 25th, 2012

    do you have a human resources department at your grocery store’s main office? Maybe going over your manager’s head is the right thing to do in this case.

  • Michele @ at 7:58 pm, April 25th, 2012

    What is happening in your workplace is ILLEGAL! The state you live in should have contact information for you to file a complaint if speaking with your supervisor has yielded no results. And most importantly document EVERYTHING. You will need to be able to back your complaint. Also, if you are forced to quit because of a toxic work environment you will be entitled to unemployment subject to your length of employment at your job. Good luck and hang in there, you will know what you need to do when it’s time.

  • Amy @ at 12:09 pm, April 26th, 2012

    Hi Crystal, Thank you for sharing this. It is so heartbreaking and enraging to hear about their behavior, and to know that you are stuck in a room with those boys (they will never be real men) every day. It sounds like it is a much bigger problem than just at your workplace, but I hope you are able to get yourself out of that situation, and file a complaint against them, because no one should have to work with people like that.

  • Crystal @ at 5:14 pm, April 26th, 2012

    Update: I’ve told one of my managers about an incident where the front end guys made a couple of girls feel really uncomfortable, to the point where they went to the bathroom (which I was in at the time) and talked about how creepy they were. Then later tried to get out the front doors without being seen by the guys again. And asked me how to leave the store. I told them there was an exit to the right or they could pull the front doors really hard to open them. Which they then went back and yanked on the front doors until they were able to leave.
    The responce I got was generally this: If you see the girls again, point them my way, I’ll talk to them and we will get this sorted out.
    So if I can’t recognize the girls again or if they won’t talk to the manager about this themselves (being that they were 15 or 16 how likely is that really?)nothing will be done.
    I did not mention the ‘burgers’ problem to my manager because I’ve decided to write down every time they talk about ‘burgers’ to document it so I at least have dates, times, and maybe even what was said. Then I will show that to the store manager so that something can be done. Or possibly just go right over everyones heads on this. Either way, I’ve decided to keep it a seperate issue from what I reported today.

  • Crystal @ at 5:20 pm, April 26th, 2012

    Thank you all for you input. If you have any more advice I would be very greatful to hear it. This issue has not been resolved and I definately like the feeling that people somewhere agree with me that this is wrong and that I am doing the right thing. Thank you all for that. It gives me the confidence to actually say/do something.
    Please continue the imput as it is still very much so needed. Thank you all so much for all of your help.

  • Catherine @ at 11:08 pm, April 26th, 2012

    I have a lot of sympathy for you. Your situation sounds very upsetting. Reading your post, I wanted to reassure you that this is neither normal nor appropriate for a work place.

    You comment little on management, though you note that the older workers indoctrinate the younger ones. My view is that the tone of work environments is often set or at least tolerated by management. Whilst all individuals need to be responsible for their own words and actions it may be they feel is is appropriate as there someone more senior condoning their behaviour.

    I would suggest that you seek advice from one or all of the sources suggested by previous posters and that you then take action. I think in this kind of situation you will feel uncomfortable either way. At least if you feel as though you are trying to do something, you will feel better about yourself.

  • Messy Burgers « thefeministblogproject @ at 1:09 pm, April 27th, 2012

    [...] http://thefbomb.org/2012/04/how-do-i-deal-with-sexual-harassment/ [...]

  • bre k @ at 3:29 pm, April 27th, 2012

    You know what you should do :) the only thing you can do-speak up. keep writing and pleaing for your local newspapers to publish your article about your work sexual harassment stories. If you get fired for it, then you can sue lol. Either way, win win. KEEP GETTING PUBLISHED !!!! How do you think other amazing feminists got their word spread?? By yelling at them face to face? hell no. the power lies in the publsihing.

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 4:03 pm, April 27th, 2012

    Crystal, thank you so much for being strong and awesome the way you are. I respect you so much.

  • Gigi @ at 6:26 pm, April 27th, 2012

    Crystal, for the management to ask to speak only to the girls who were upset rather than those who actually did the upsetting is really screwed up. The two employees who caused the offence should be hauled in and given a good talking to. If, next time you report a seperate incident or this again, definitely suggest this to the manager. Those who are at fault should have the appropriate action taken against them.
    Other than that, I’m very proud of you. It’s very awe-inspiring to come across a strong intelligent woman who goes out of her way to call out sexism in her workplace; you are 100% doing the right thing! Keep reporting these incidents, show your intelligence and determination to stamp out this sexist behaviour at your workplace – we’re all supporting you.

  • Crystal @ at 12:45 pm, May 1st, 2012

    Thank you all so very much.
    At the moment I have been trying to record the times and dates of when they do or say sexist things.
    But oddly enough, the moment I started bringing a pen and bit of paper to work to write on, they ALL shut up.
    Maybe this wont last, but either way, I feel a bit stuck. I think I’ll just call HR or submit an online complaint about them anyway. It might not be happening while I’m around anymore, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

  • Gigi @ at 9:11 pm, May 2nd, 2012

    Great idea, you’re a very sensible woman. :) I would definitely suggest that you write an online complaint, and keep bringing in the notebook and pen! It seems like the best weapon, haha. Good luck to you.

  • Jen @ at 2:02 am, August 27th, 2012

    Not sure if this’ll be relevant months later, but what about electronic recording? If you just left any sort of phone or dictaphone (those things lawyers use) with a mic and long battery life in the store all the time including when you’re gone, then you’ve got stronger evidence than the pen & paper. Either you’ll have a chance to catch them or they did get some sort of talking to and you actions made them stop.

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