Babe.

Goddamit, I really didn’t want to write this entry.

I’m pissed at me, I’m pissed at her, I’m pissed at how much-needed social movements always seem to get derailed.

Let’s do this as a “Play in 9 Parts”, starting with some tedious, but unfortunately necessary, background:

Part 1: Radio

I’m a radio network announcer. I don’t have my own show, but rather appear on shows all over the NYC region – and sometimes country – in various capacities. Sometimes I’m the news guy, sometimes the traffic reporter, etc. In effect, I’m a professional sidekick.

Sullen misanthropes, introverts, and monosyllabic cretins tend not to take up radio announcing as a profession. This is a field populated by gregarious, effusive, often overly effusive, blunderbusses with good vocabulary skills. If your job requires you to talk for 8 hours a day, 5 or more days a week, it damn well better come naturally to you or you are in for a long, painful life. Or a short career.

I’ve been with the same company for exactly 25 years this month (not even a goddam card). Many of the announcers who were there when I started are also still here. Stable radio gigs are pretty rare, so when you’re lucky enough to land one you usually stay if you can.

Needless to say, after all this time few of us stand on ceremony then when it comes to addressing one another. For about a decade, “Hey dickhead, get any last night?” was the default morning greeting to anyone arriving for their shift, man or woman. Hardly anyone uses anyone else’s proper name. It’s either a term of affection (“honey”, “buddy”, etc.), a mock insult, or just “Yo”.

Part 2: Chicks

I think it’s pretty well established by now that I love women. Not to belabor the point, but I love women so much that I’ve even let several of them have sex with me. Not every guy can say that.

I also actually respect women. So much so that I will not entrust anyone, including myself, the critical task of doing my laundry other than my wife. And she’s a woman.

I also respect that many women take fierce pride in their physical attributes. And unlike men, they can apparently gather in large numbers without starting a war (unless there aren’t enough Port-a-Potty’s).

On top of that, I can be platonic friends with a woman – and not just the fat ones. I’m talking about women I’m even sexually attracted to. I know, I know. I’m expecting a call from the Pope any day now, too. “St. Dangerspouse“. I like it.

Part 3: Radio Chicks

In the mid-2000’s our privately held company was taken over by a large network. Overnight the beer in the company fridge disappeared, a dress code was instituted (no more tutus) and a memo was issued regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. It read in part, “There will be no off-colored jokes told in your place of employ“.

Immediately the women on staff revolted.

I have never worked with, or even known, a more foul mouthed, dirty minded group than the women I worked with back then. I swear to god, almost all my best filthy jokes were first told to me by some of those august ladies. I once got into a half hour long argument with one about whether YouPorn or RedTube was the better service.

So that memo caused a real uproar amongst the distaff side, and most indignantly ignored it. Still do.

Part 4: Ch-ch-ch-changes.

Over the last year or so our company has been undergoing an expansion. We’ve added a few new studios, installed new computers in the old ones (running WINDOWS FUCKING 8 for some reason),  built out the Producers Bullpen, and even purchased a new microwave for the kitchen(!).

Of course with more studios and a larger production facility comes the need for more personnel. So they hired some. Mostly young, mostly eager, and mostly with unreasonable expectations about becoming a star. Sorry to burst your bubble, kid, but….

Now I happen to like Millennials. (Of course, I like everybody. It’s one of the reasons I went into radio in the first place. I love talking to people.) I also think Millennials (and their admittedly harder to stomach cousins, the Hipsters) get a bad rap in the larger population, in the way that Gen-X’ers got a bad rap before them, Yuppies got it before them, Hippies got it before them, and on and on and on. Millennials are people. But like all people, they are products of their time. And time always changes.

One thing I love about Millennials is their ability to identify things their elders got wrong, and use all these new digital tools at their disposal to try to change them.

The one I’ll mention is probably the most famous, and also the one most pertinent to this story: the #MeToo movement.

Now when the #MeToo movement broke onto the scene I literally cheered. Despite my (as usual) inappropriate “humor” back there in Part 2, in reality I am a devout, unalloyed, unapologetic feminist who has long railed against gender based inequalities. I’ve written here before how I feel America’s inability to pass the Equal Rights Amendment is going to be one of those things that, like slavery and Georgie Dann, future generations are going to excoriate us for. The #MeToo movement addresses something even darker, and perhaps more immediately urgent to address than passage of the ERA.

Part 5: The Past.

Previously I’d written an entry about being accused of sexual harassment. I won’t link to it – it’s long and overwrought, much like this one – but in a nutshell if you haven’t read it: I was the traffic reporter on a show in Central Jersey, and while music was playing over the air and I was waiting to go on, the man and woman hosts would usually chat with me behind the scene (“in cue” as we say).

This one day we were talking in cue about adult beverages. The male host said he liked whiskies, particularly bourbon. I mentioned my ongoing love affair with wine. And the woman chimed in with, “I like beer, but because I’m pregnant I haven’t been able to have any in months. It’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to after I have the baby!

I then said, “The beer will have an added benefit. In addition to tasting good, I understand alcohol passes into breast milk. My mom always told me that when I was crying as a baby, she’d sometimes sip a beer then give me a feeding to help me fall asleep.”

When I got off the air I had an urgent email from my boss to call him.

The girl filed a sexual harassment claim against me as a result of our conversation. Why? “He referenced my breasts.”

I was put on paid leave while they did an investigation. There were lawyers, phone conferences with the independant investigator, and several sleepless nights. Finally the investigator pronounced I had done nothing wrong, and I know it shouldn’t matter but the investigator was a woman. I was cleared to go back to work.

But the incident will persist on my permanent record forever now. I also had to sign a form acknowledging I’d said “something that caused another person discomfort”.

However…what if the investigator had ruled against me? That would have been it for me, professionally. Do you think any radio station would be eager to snap up a middle aged perpetual support player who was let go after being found guilty of sexual harassment?

I still have nightmares about it. And don’t get me started on how NewWifey(tm) feels about that young lady and her precious breasts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that mad in my entire life. And she’s Irish.

And now….

Part 6:

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Two weeks ago I got off the air one day and had an urgent email from the head of HR for the entire network saying she needed to talk to me about a “work incident”. She was gonna call me at my home number later.

Oh.

God.

No.

Not again.

I wracked my brain. Was I talking about breasts again? I didn’t think so. But…wait a sec. I do talk about cooking on some of my stations. Did a female host object to “chicken breasts”? Sounds ridiculous, but I though “breast milk” was safe at the time also, and look what happened there. So who knows?

I ground my teeth almost down to the bone on the drive home.

*Riiiiiiiiiiiing*

“Hello?”

Hello, Mr. Spouse? This is Natalie, head of HR for the network. How are you?

“Frightened, and about to start a drinking habit. What’s up?”

She told me.

Without any embellishment, this was the “workplace incident”:

I addressed a woman I work with, a woman whom I’ve known for at least 20 years, as “babe”.

“Hey babe, how ya doin’?” was probably what I said, since that’s what I always say. Even to some of the guys.

But this time when I let fly with that greeting, another woman overheard me say it.

And SHE got offended.

That’s when the trouble started.

Rather than tell me she was offended, even rather than tell our general manager, which is the normal course, she leapfrogged right to the top of the command chain.

This is what the top of the command chain told me during that phone call, “In this age of #MeToo….”

I don’t think I need to tell you what the rest of the sentence was.

Of course, I made a feeble attempt at defending my hideous act. It went something like, “Who was the little bitch? I’ll kill her!”

Actually, it was more along the lines of “I’m awfully sorry. Please convey my apologies to whomever it was who was so aggrieved by my thoughtless action, and assure them that that word will never be uttered by me again.” I still have a mortgage to pay, you know.

(I do want it noted here that I did not in turn throw my female coworkers under the bus for calling me “Honey”, “Sugar”, “10-Inch”, or, yes, “Babe” on a daily basis. Yay, me.)

Fortunately Natalie assured me that this was just a warning, and would – this time – feature no repercussions. But it would be noted on my record, and any future instances if reported could result in my termination.

So now in my permanent file it notes I’ve been accused of sexual harassment, and verbally demeaning women. That’s great. In a lot of peoples’ minds, to be accused is to be de facto guilty. The word “acquitted” afterwards means nothing. I better not ever need another job….

You know what bothers me almost as much as being accused of something so heinous, over such an obviously innocuous act? It’s the fact that I thought of everyone at my work as my friend. We all get along GREAT. When I heard someone not only ratted me out, but ratted me out for something so innocent, I literally turned cold. It still hurts to think about it. (I don’t know who it was, btw. The HR head would only say it was a “young lady”.)

Part 7: The Aftermath.

In the very first sentence of this entry I said I didn’t want to write this entry. But the reasons that might be different that what you’re assuming.

I’ve always hated the guy who runs to a woman – his wife, girlfriend, family member, pet, whatever – to explain his side of the story after being called out for doing something chauvinistic. It’s like he’s looking for a female to validate his actions, to agree he’s being persecuted by an unreasonable woman. If he can find a woman to do that for him, he won’t have to lower his opinion of himself. He also won’t have to change his behavior.

This happens a lot. I see it. all. the. time.

And now I worry that by writing this in a public space, I might be that guy. Am I? Am I putting this out there because I want to read comments from people (women) assuring me I did nothing wrong? I don’t think so, but…

But more importantly, I worry about the #MeToo movement.

The #MeToo movement is needed, and needed badly. It is long past due that physical and emotional exploitation devastations women suffer at the hands of men who have power over them be brought to light. Whispering in the shadows because you’re afraid of repercussions has to end.

But of course, since this is something both needed and requiring change, there is backlash. This story from the Huffington Post gives an excellent overview of the sort of ammunition anti-feminists immediately brought to bear once the movement began. A salient excerpt:

This was the moment women had been predicting for months, ever since the national outcry against predatory men began in October. “All it will take is one particularly lame allegation … to turn the tide from deep umbrage on behalf of women to pity for the poor, bullied men,” warned Rebecca Traister in November.”

And that’s what I worry about. That some will hear my story, agree with me that I have now suffered two “lame allegations”, and use that to argue against all of #MeToo. “See? This whole movement is just a way for men-hating women to stick it to us!

Finally….deep breath…..

Women need to be able to discriminate.

Here’s the thing:

The woman who got upset that I merely mentioned breasts. The young lady who got upset when she heard me call another woman “babe”.

They were both genuinely upset. Whether or not I think their consternation was justified, I recognize that their consternation was real. And real consternation does need to be addressed.

My concern is how they chose to address their consternation, when viewed in a larger context. I’m sure both those women realized at the time that I was not a man in a position of power using that power to coerce them. They could have spoken to me directly, or barring that they could have gone anonymously to my immediate supervisor and asked for guidance on how to handle things. Instead, they both immediately pulled the trigger on hitching their claim to a movement expressly formed to address the problem of men in power coercing women.

They weren’t able to, or perhaps willing to, discriminate between “he’s being a jerk!” and “he told me I wouldn’t get overtime if I didn’t give him a blowjob!

And that’s how movements end.

If “#MeToo” starts being used for any and all grievances involving women, it will become so watered down as to become meaningless. People, even well intentioned people who really, sincerely wish for an end to the horrific, entrenched treatment of powerless women, will roll their eyes whenever that hashtag is paraded out.

This movement is too important, too long overdue, TOO IMPORTANT, to die out. It has to keep going. #MeToo seeks to eradicate horrors visited on too many for too long. Don’t risk ruining it for everyone every time some thoughtless guy called you “Honey” by claiming that very specific victimhood. You may end up throwing out the Babe with the bathwater.

Part 8: The Chilling Effect.

I am now afraid to talk to any of the women I work with. I like them equally, I trusted them equally. But one of them has potentially put my job in jeopardy, and since I don’t know who it was, and what else might set her off, I can’t risk talking to any of them any more. I’m keeping my studio door closed between mic breaks, I won’t go to the cafeteria to grab a sandwich with any of the women if we’re snowed in, I won’t offer a lozenge if I hear one coughing. And maybe women outside work now, too. I’m at least marginally in the public’s eye – ear, anyway. Ya never know when a Facebook post is gonna go viral.

Part 9: Conclusion.

Chicks!

Amiright, fellas?

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(Sorry about the length and serious tone. At least one will be rectified next episode. Stay tuned!)

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54 thoughts on “Babe.

  1. As one of the many people who support the movements (that oppose/fight/prosecute those who choose to bully/eradicate all forms of power from underlings and those weaker), I find the actions taken by the two persons to show a misunderstanding of the purpose behind the movements, and weakness in personal strength. The purpose of the movement mentioned is to empower those (who feel offended) to Say It At The Time It Happens. To be heard.

    What’s my interest? I was a foster carer for 32 kids. That’s a lot of kids. Boys and girls, but mostly teenagers (30) who’d been through dozens of previous foster homes. Broken kids. It was tough. On all of us. We struggled long and hard to ensure these kids felt empowered in their world, that they learned how to speak for themselves, to understand what was appropriate and what was not – and what they could and should do about it. that they could trust their own values, once they understood that the values applied to all.

    That, to me, is what these movements are about. The ability for a person aggrieved to feel engaged enough to speak when the incident occurs. It has no value when it’s hidden under the carpet, or given to someone else to deal with (and who sees/hears one side only).
    A little thing to top this cake (you did mention icing, yes?) – in the small state where I live, there are 26,000 kids (under 14 yo) on the ‘at risk’ register. This city has a population of about 1.3 million, the whole state about 1.7 million. That 26,000 was a number I read almost 20 years ago, and I’m sure it hasn’t improved (I don’t look anymore, but I still get involved in efforts).
    Where does the problem stem from?
    1 in 5 girls will suffer physical or sexual abuse, boys 1 in 9. That’s the reported numbers. Cops estimate only 10% are ever reported because the kids are too scared, or the abuse is so longstanding that it’s normalised. That’s the problem. The normalisation of inappropriate behaviour.
    These victims are the people we need to enable, empower, give a voice. The perpetrators need to fear the knowledge that something will happen to them, that a price will be paid, regardless of status or fame.

    The two events you mention are little things, and if it had been brought to your attention, at the time, what would you have done? I can guess. I’m sure it’s very similar to what I’d do in the same situation. I’d apologise, talk about it with her, do my best not to do it again. I might need her to explain how strongly she feels about it, I might make an effort to find out more about the person and why she feels so disempowered (there might be a depth in there no one knows about) … but a slight roughness around the edges in common banter between friends isn’t a good use of the work people have done to bring these issues to light in the world-wide movements.
    And that’s just my opinion.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Maybe you could be the first one to go into work and make a statement at the staff meeting, stand up and say, ‘I vow, from this moment on, to take account of how the words I speak unthinkingly have an effect on those around me. I vow to [you’re the wordsmith, you make the words].
        Show, through the actions you’re willing to take, that it’s a serious matter, and you are going to grow and change and adapt.
        Maybe ask the person who spoke to you on the phone …
        Maybe ask your partner …
        Maybe do something that’s a forward action, rather than a reaction. Change the norms of the workplace into something new and different, and maybe even exciting – who knows?

        Once again, only my opinions, and we all know about those little [can’t think of a good word at the moment].

        Liked by 1 person

  2. An excellent post! I was in my 20’s when the feminism movement began, and I’ve always felt that many took it too far — your two incidents are excellent examples of what I mean. If women can’t comment quietly to the person who lightly offended them, perhaps they need some additional training on interpersonal relationships! As you suggest, “me too” is for those incidents that are far more serious than an innocent comment about breast milk or a casual comment to one who understands the tone!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It seems to me that if women can lobby to breast feed in public that men should be able to mention breast milk in public as well. I see nothing offensive in either act. Yes, things can be carried too far. And then there are judges who can get away with attempted rape and our President with grabbing privates! Ah the advantages of politics and fame. It seems the highest in our midst are not held accountable as the rest of us are.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I absolutely agree that there is nothing offensive in either of your “transgressions.” I think feminists go way too far in being offended by everything — but the acceptance of attempted rape and grabbing privates are actions that are offensive and must be reported and stopped before they get out of hand.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you so much for commenting! I’m glad to know those who have been involved in the cause for years are still just as passionate as when they began. As well they – we all – should be! I do hope the very real societal changes that are needed in this area come to pass in our lifetime. We all – women AND men – will be the better for it.

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  3. I’ve suffered sexual harassment numerous times, starting in college when my poetry prof. praised my (freshman) poetry as a way to get into my pants (he hoped). It was a girl’s school and all the prof’s had reputations. There was Fatty Lafferty who had a new wife (former student) every three years. He had no charm, no looks, nothing going for him but a grade book as far as I could tell. Dr. Weeks, the sleaze who tried to kiss me? NOTHING going for him. ON and on and on and on and on and on and there was the tacit understanding that you didn’t say anything because no one would believe you. You just stayed away from them unless they could do something for you.

    Grad school? A guy named Hyman Datz (truth, Hyman) grabbed my tit and said, “Oh what a nice little kitty!” then slimed my face with his antediluvian saliva. I dealt with that by getting drunk at a party and acting the whole thing out in front of my classmates — unaware that he was in the room. Fuck him. Then there was the co-worker who grabbed my hand and tried to get me to put it into his trousers. I complained to my boss and SHE reacted with, “He needs help,” and sent him for counseling. Yeah. Women.

    I didn’t get tenure when I was in the front of the line because I’d refused to put out to the guy who was the head of the tenure committee… I had a student offer to “do anything” for an A. Boy he had an exaggerated perception of his attributes.

    You get the drift. There’s a LOT more and while my appearance has never made anyone sick, I was just your basic petite, red-headed, too-smart, be-spectacled woman who couldn’t even get lipstick on right. Cute in my way, but that is really immaterial. These men all thought I should be GRATEFUL that they hit on me. I think that’s part of sexual harassment. The guys don’t even consider that you wouldn’t be grateful. As a boyfriend of mine said of his own penis, “I try not to pay attention to it all the time. It says things like, ‘I’m hard. She wants me’.”

    In spite of all this, I have always known the difference between, “Hey, Babe,” and a conversation about nursing (that didn’t wander off into “Your breasts will be bigger” drool drool) and a remark about my “headlights.”

    BUT…the youth of today have been raised to be hyper-conscious of stuff that we older people take in context. I got criticized by a student for using the word “gay.” I was quoting someone else who’d said, “He’s so gay.” It was a teaching moment. Business communication, a chapter in audience awareness, things NOT to do. The student threatened to complain and said I needed to go through the “sensitivity tunnel” at their dorm so I could be sensitized to the needs of others. The kid was 19, and he knew everything and among the things he knew was that no one should ever be uncomfortable. He had not learned that we might be uncomfortable and it’s no one’s fault. His trip was that he was gay and was just coming to grips with the reality of it. We talked about it and I said, “You might, also, not want to be so quick to judge but take a minute to see where someone’s coming from. Unfortunately, that word’s slid into the general discourse, pejorative though it is. That’s why I was talking about it.” At that moment in his life, his skin was inside-out.

    My personal feeling about the #MeToo movement is that there’s reason behind it, and I know that from direct experience. I also think that letting people get by with mistreating others is bad, and that’s what it amount to. But the other side of it (and I’ll be flailed for this) there are plenty of people who willingly “sleep their way to the top.” It’s real. It happens. I’ve witnessed it. I also think some men and women are predatory by nature.

    In terms of social and political issues, for me the #MeToo movement is way down at the bottom of the pile. Way bigger, to me, is climate change. If we don’t have a planet, how are we going to exploit anyone? First things first…

    I hope you don’t have to deal with more of this. I think keeping your door closed is a good idea but then I’m a misanthropic introvert, babe.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Holy crap. I had no idea. But I also think the sheer amount of demeaning – and frankly scary – incidents you suffered is not unique to you. And that’s why it’s so important that we affect change. Thank you so much for sharing all that, Martha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think it’s unique to me, either. Most women of my generation have stories like this and those older than us? Even more, I think. This is where “Men are pigs” comes from. I think we generally took it in stride because it’s what we more-or-less expected. When it was BAD (in those archaic terms) was when it hurt our lives in some way — like not getting tenure.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. P.S. There was a guy who liked me back in the day and he always called me “Babe” and I always said, “I have a name.” He didn’t realize that I actually didn’t like being called Babe and every time he did, it hurt his chances that much more in spite of him having a nice VW bus, being a good skier and being really funny (all major benefits in my book). I don’t know. I guess it’s the double standard. Women — to my knowledge — have no equivalent terms for addressing men. I can’t think of any.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m a 62 yr old female in the teaching profession (high school) and have attended sexual harassment seminars/watched powerpoint presentations etc. on the subject. I’ve not experienced it myself so I may not be as sensitive as I should be about the #metoo movement. My reaction to both the 2 accusers was negative/crude (as in the ‘b’ word). Thank you for sharing your experiences in a measured and thorough fashion. I wish both your co-workers could read it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much for that, ma’am. I wish I could share it with them also, but I know the one wouldn’t be swayed, and the other…well I don’t even know who she is. But thank you again, your thoughts meant a lot to me. (Especially the “b word”, lol). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m a 48 year old gay female. I get it. I get the need for equality. I get the need for women to be able to speak up without fear of repercussions. But for god’s sake, put your big girl panties on and STOP BEING OFFENDED BY EVERYTHING. Stop. Just stop it. It’s gone WAY too far.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I echo A_Boleyn’s comment. I wish your co-workers could read it. I feel your pain, your frustration, and plainly it sucks. I would probably have the same reaction you are having – feeling cold and distant towards every single one of the females you work with. Well, maybe you can still be friends with old farts (I can call them old farts, I am 58 yo, so I am one too! ) – since the lunatic is a young girl 😉

    Really sorry this happened to you, and wish I had some clever advice. I don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As an old-school broadcaster and old-school broad, part of me wants to shake these women and wake them up. Another part of me wants to stand up and cheer.

    You see, I’ve seen both sides of that equation. I worked for a big company where women were subjected to actual sexual harassment and reporting it not only didn’t resolve the issue, it generated a lot of negative repercussions to the ones who reported it. It’s one of many reasons I was glad to bid adieu despite taking a paycheck cut. (Though I’ve since more than made up for it.)

    I’m sorry this happened to you, Danger. I truly am. Like you, I hope this kind of petty reporting doesn’t end up creating a backlash which genuinely harms the younger generation, because there really IS a horrendous issue with power balance between the genders. I’ve been fortunate to have escaped most of the misogynist pigs – most, but not all – but I know plenty of women whose livelihood still hinges on dealing with atrocious and ongoing harassment

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That IS atrocious. Women shouldn’t have to demean, debase, and even endanger themselves just to get sometimes the barest of living necessities. Our species is not comprised of two teams, each trying to beat the other for the win. We need to view each other as valued members of ONE team, and treat all accordingly. I really really don’t want to see the small gains that have now been made whither away due to a corruption of the movement’s basic tenet.

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  8. I like that you call me Babe. So thanks for that, Gorgeous. Toward the end of my working life, I got the talk for saying to my male boss that I was like a bloke because I could only do one thing at a time. Apparently I was being sexist. It is just something I have to live with – the remorse, the ridicule. But I just pulled up my big girl pants and moved on. But still it hurts enough that I wrote a post about it. So sympathies. I feel your pain. Maybe we old dinosaurs have to change with the time?

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi, I am female and I wont call anyone at work hunny or babe. Its demeaning but not necessarily sexual. I know the banter used to be normal but it sets women especially up for disrespect at work. It gives permission.. My teeth would grind when it was done to me as I worked in a very male profession in technology and it made me look dumb.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m not giving you a pass on this, Danger, for several reasons.

    Firstly, you have form in this area. I remember you making a very inappropriate sexual comment about a photo of a mutual online friend’s thirteen year old daughter. When she called you on it, you made some remark about only having to wait a couple of years. Nasty. Another time you described a woman at work as so ugly she’d have been grateful to be raped by a man as attractive as you. Those aren’t your exact words, but again, nasty.

    As Hannah Gadsby discusses here ; https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/hannah-gadsby-good-men-right-and-wrong_us_5c0936a5e4b0bf813ef4d606 all men think they are the good men, that what they do is ‘just’ banter or whatever you call it in the US, and those who complain are humourless, feminist killjoys. I have a necklace saying that – it’s such a common response there are badges and T shirts. Humourless Feminist Killjoy.

    And that is what you are saying, at bottom. You’re only having a laugh and if they don’t like it, they’re the ones who are wrong and now your life isn’t great, so poor you, you’re the victim here. There’s no sense of you thinking even maybe your actions require review. The atmosphere you describe at work, with all the nicknames and the did you get laid jokes would be my idea of hell. I have worked in places like that and I’ve said nothing because it’s like that is some kind of normality, but to a person who has been raped, more than once, never by strangers, only by men I’d thought were my friends, men not accepting that I was allowed to choose not to have sex with them, I want to be able to forget about men’s sexuality in a work environment, I certainly don’t want a man talking to me about breasts, or about himself being breastfed. Over here we’d call that environment Blokey and warn each other about it.

    Regarding the babe comment, it’s demeaning. Words are your profession, you must be able to see that babe is infantilising (baby) or sexual (she’s a babe) It may be acceptable to the woman you were talking to, who you’ve known for 20 years, it may not be. She may have been wanting to tell you to stop all that time. I like that the one going past and overhearing it took it further. If we want to achieve equality, we have to start with language – if you endlessly hear yourself described as chicks and babes, referred to sexually or in relation to domestic chores, it seems a long fucking uphill battle to equality, to being taken seriously.

    You say they could have approached you, spoken to you directly about it, but they didn’t feel they could and from the way you have written here, they were right. I wasn’t able to either. It’s only a joke, after all. We don’t get the tone of your voice as you said it, or the expression on your face, or whether this was the final fucking straw. Because if these are the ones who complained, in all probability there are others who have just put up with it. My son was telling me indignantly yesterday that his boss had told him that a few people find him intimidating, and I’ve been told that about myself too. None of us feel that we are, but it’s not our call.

    People are sorry this happened to YOU – you say that if you’re not going to be allowed to make comments about women’s breasts, or call them demeaning names, you’re going to stay in your room. You’re not in great company here, you know. The men who have written articles here in the UK taking that line, the “Well, what AM I allowed to say, then in this ridiculous situation?” are a right shower of arseholes. Giles Coren, Piers Morgan, Toby Young meh.

    I’ve read back through the other comments before posting this and would like to point out that I’m old, not a millennial. #metoo is not so much a movement – there are no rules – it’s just a hashtag women have used to describe all sorts of things, from rape and assault to living and working in this kind of atmosphere, in a world where men do still have virtually all the power. It doesn’t ask anything of men – it’s mostly a conversation between women but it’s not private, you can listen.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As a 1970s feminist you hit the proverbial nail on the head as far as what can/is going wrong with #metoo. Women will not see the change we need until the slate is clear of bullshit, coercion, and pop culture on all sides.
    I’m sorry you got hit with this but glad you shared. We need to do more looking each other in the eye and more real communication to keep the movement momentum where it belongs

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love this post, thank you for writing it. It’s sad when a social movement that’s supposed to be about letting everyone have more empowerment turns into a reason for people to be more antisocial and have to actually curb their natural friendliness and helpfulness. It’s enough to make a person weep. One of the other concerns I have is how the #metoo movement has been turned into a weapon to be used against people who are disliked, or a tool of power every bit as odious as the misbehavior that caused the need for the movement. I appreciate you and what you say here. I come from a time, not so long ago, when if you had a problem with someone you asked them if there was a misunderstanding, or you talked to them about it, instead of running to HR like a swatted toddler.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sexual assault survivor millennial here… I support the #MeToo movement (from afar; still too fresh) and think it’s great that conversations are being had, but for women to hide behind a hashtag in order to take control, not over themselves and their circumstances, but of someone else’s, is not okay.

    On another note, I too have recently become an office shut-in, but for a different reason. I posted on my facebook that I had a work delay a few weeks back (it was sleeting and very icy) that literally read: “… it’s basically wet…” I inserted a laughing emoji since I thought the word selection was funny. That morning when I got to work, my boss came to me and reprimanded me after one of my co-workers reported me saying that my post didn’t reflect well on our agency. Now I don’t trust any of my co-workers and have since blocked them from my facebook.

    In short: people suck.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Woof!

    I felt very conflicted reading this post.

    On one hand, would I EVER in a million years pull someone up on calling me ‘babe’? No. Honestly unless the b-word being used is bitch I don’t think anybody should care. ‘Babe’ can be annoying, but that’s all it is. Same as when people call me “shortie.” If I were to think about it maybe I’d rather they didn’t, but who honestly has time to waste valuable mental energy caring about it one way or the other?

    On the other hand, I have been in offices where men three times my age asked me to sit on their laps and read them reports, or “joke” about meeting me in the car park for sexual favours, or “banter” about how they’re going away with their wife for the weekend but they’ll be thinking of me while they have sex. I always deflected with a joke of my own, because they liked me, and I liked that they liked me, and I knew that shutting down those jokes would make me, as another commenter mentioned, a buzzkill. The frigid bitch who you can’t even have a bit of fun with. Talking to someone directly and saying “Hey, can you please not say that kind of stuff? It makes me a bit uncomfortable” (or, as in your case, “Hey, can you not call so-and-so ‘babe’? It’s whatever-the-hell-they-were-taking-offense-to”) isn’t as simple as it sounds, because you’re already on the back foot. In my case I was the only girl in the office. I was new. The men were all in their fifties and sixties and had obviously made these jokes without complaint for pretty much ever. Speaking up would have made everything tense and awkward, made them uncomfortable (the same way you feel uncomfortable now), and left them feeling like they couldn’t say anything to me because I was some sort of delicate sensitive snowdrop of a flower that would wilt in the face of sexual innuendo and lewd remarks.

    It honestly never ever crossed their minds that maybe this twenty-year old girl didn’t necessarily want a man with dentures chatting her up. As another commenter mentioned, they thought that they were somehow delighting me with their compliments; that I should be grateful for having them tell me when I appeared in their wet dreams.

    And of course I said nothing, and I laughed when I was expected to, and I waved them away with a grin when they were wildly out of line, and they LOVED me for it.

    And on the inside I felt threatened, and leered at, and gross, and brutally uncomfortable every day for months while I worked there, and I just… carried that discomfort so that they wouldn’t have to. Was it better for me to feel uncomfortable about this issue privately? Or better for me to say something, and instead have EVERYONE feel uncomfortable because I said something? I took the hit. I always do.

    My father and I recently watched a man in his sixties/seventies chatting up a girl (late teens, early twenties) who was sweeping the floor in an Arts&Craft shop. She was closing up, he was at the door, hands behind his back, leaning over the threshold practically drooling as he said things like “Aren’t you a fine thing?” “You’re very pretty!” “Aren’t they lucky to have you working here!” “Do you work here full-time?”

    I mentioned to my father how I thought it was unfair of him to do that, because he was doing it in her place of work where really she has no choice but to be polite and friendly back to him. Also because knowing where she works, she’ll probably now worry about him coming back every day to see her (as has happened to me in the past). Her body language was stiff and she was giving him polite but curt answers, but this man was completely oblivious to her discomfort. My father laughed and said “Ah that’s ridiculous, he probably made her day! Girls love a compliment!”

    Sure. Maybe from Jason Momoa? Not from some creepy sexagenarian with an erection stalking you in your place of work.

    There is a weird, fundamental issue with the way guys and girls see these interactions, and they’re mostly based around the fact that men never feel vulnerable the way girls do, I think. If a random girl pays a dude a compliment, he’s chuffed with himself. I don’t think he often worries about whether the girl will be waiting to ambush him when he gets off work, or whether or not the girl is a psycho who will lose the head at any hint of rejection and cause trouble for you within the company if he doesn’t play along. There’s a strange power imbalance that just screws up all the interactions so that the girls usually end up hiding their real feelings about things for fear of offending/disappointing/angering/enraging/upsetting the dude. And that’s a problem, because it means direct discussions can’t happen and honesty is shelved in favour of a pleasant working environment, which leaves one gender resentful and the other completely oblivious.

    I guess my point is that I don’t think it’s #metoo that’s killing frank and honest conversation between people; that was already happening. It’s only that before, nothing would have ever been said to anyone, everyone would have carried on. Someone in the office wold have been carrying around this little nugget of resentment every time you said ‘babe,’ but they wouldn’t have dared to voice that discomfort to anyone for fear of being laughed out of the room.

    So therein lies the conflict. Do I think it’s ridiculous to feel so uncomfortable about the word ‘babe’ that they lodged a complaint? Yes, but that’s my personal opinion. Do I think it’s a good thing that people – whether because of #metoo or whatever – feel like they can actually voice these discomforts in some sort of a way? Also yes. I wish this wasn’t the example (if you’d told a lady colleague that you were going to pick them up under your arm, carry them down to the car park and have your way with her until she passed out – also something that has happened to me – I’d be a lot more sympathetic), because it’s a dumb one, and like… there are bigger things to worry about for the love of God, but there have been many, many, MANY times in the past when I’ve wished there was a way I could stop some sort of a behaviour without directly confronting someone. If I could have anonymously told someone to make sure a dude wasn’t essentially hunting me around the office, you can bet I would have, I just never felt like that was an option.

    So… hurray for options and boo for brutally inane reason to actually use them.

    Obviously I’m not saying that “I’m going to fuck my wife and think about you while I do it” is anywhere near the same ballpark as “babe.” I’m not equating you to this particular pack of office horndogs. I’m just trying to explain why I can understand her leapfrogging past a frank and direct discussion with you. Can you honestly say that if this mystery person had come to you and said “Hey, can you not call people babe? It’s just sort of ________” you wouldn’t have left the conversation thinking that she was some sort of hysterically oversensitive prude?

    I’m not even going to get into the breast milk story because JESUS CHRIST WHAT. That lady just IS a hysterically oversensitive prude. Maybe it was pregnancy hormones?

    I get both sides of this. I think it sucks that you got pulled up for something 99% of people would consider entirely harmless. I think it sucks that people are afraid to have one-on-one conversations for fear of being seen as someone who “can’t take a joke.” I think it sucks that #metoo has morphed into something so unwieldy and out of control (some things just don’t deserve the hashtag).

    I think all you can do is try to be understanding about this situation – regardless of how fatuous it seems – and then just continue hating the breastmilk lady because that shit is fucked.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jesus, if you can craft an Icelandic epic of a comment as fast as you apparently just did, you can WRITE ANOTHER ENTRY IN YOUR OWN BLOG ALREADY. Just sayin’. I miss you.

      Regarding the content of said epic comment…woof! That was really something! Brilliantly crafted of course, and typically insightful. Thank you for taking pains to make all your points fully. I do appreciate it all.

      As far as my own comments on your comments, I only have time for one or two. I’m at work on a busy shift today, so unfortunately you may get short shrift here a bit. Sorry,

      1. “So… hurray for options and boo for brutally inane reason to actually use them.” Why couldn’t you have emailed me this three days ago? It would have saved me the angst of banging out the entire stupid entry, and saved readers the angst of having to wade through it. Well said.

      2. “Can you honestly say that if this mystery person had come to you and said “Hey, can you not call people babe? It’s just sort of ________” you wouldn’t have left the conversation thinking that she was some sort of hysterically oversensitive prude?”

      I *can* honestly say that, as it has happened before (not the exact reason for umbrage, but similar enough). Particularly in the years where we were a private company, without even an HR department TOO complain to, personal frictions were dealt with mano-a-mano (or womano). One thing about radio personalities: we all pretty much have strong personalities, and we’re used to letting them fly. That almost invariably leads to friction, but it also leads to a willingness to immediately use our verbal skills to amicably resolve things.

      HOWEVER, even barring that somewhat lame explanation, I can honestly say that I would not want to make a coworker feel uncomfortable at work. I’m not a cruel person. So while I may think the complaint unreasonable, I would not question the validity of her discomfiture.

      3. I understand what – I think – you were implying when you talked about power imbalances. I agree. But I will say – and I’ve thought about after you and several others have intimated the same thing – I honestly think that has not been an issue where I work. The women here are often the most dominant, and certainly (up til now) have had no problem directly confronting in no uncertain terms anyone who’s actions they took exception to.

      God. I wrote that reply in fits and starts between mic breaks. On re-reading it, it’s a mess. But I hope you get the gist.

      Seriously, thanks for the great comment. It gave me a lot to think about.

      Like

  15. I am a survivor of childhood abuse, rape, domestic violence, date rape, and workplace sexual harassment. I support the MeToo movement … but when we start to trivialise ***IN MY OPINION*** day-to-day interactions *between other people who are clearly OK with it* then we are losing focus. I may or may not be OK with a long-term coworker calling me “babe”, but I couldn’t care less if it clearly isn’t a concern between the speaker and the recipient. I have at times walked past a group of male coworkers – attorneys, to be specific – and addressed them cheerily as “Ladies!” without a single one of them bursting into tears and running for the HR office. Quite recently a former coworker texted me to say he misses being called “Bitch” because he understood there was only humour intended and no intent to disrespect. Ladies, we are stronger than this, let’s keep it in perspective – because let’s face it, *somebody* will always be offended by *something*.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for that, Anna. I read it with great interest. This sentence I found particularly resonant: “They’ve developed empathy in all the places that society built consequences for them”, although the entire article was brilliant. I’m at work now, but I’ll take that survey when I get off the air later.

      BTW, shortly after posting this entry I heard this segment on the BBC’s “The Inquiry”: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3cswqvc . You might enjoy it also.

      I see you’ve been going through some very, very difficult times lately of a different nature. Although I haven’t left comments, as any would seem awkward given the tenor of your entries and your possible newfound dislike of my personage, I want you to know my thoughts are with you and I wish you the best for the resolution of those problems. I can’t imagine having to now make decisions about finalizing a relationship in the midst of all the other stresses you’re juggling. I hope you find peace in 2019.

      Like

      1. Ah fuck off, we’re good. I haven’t listened to the thing yet as he’s got the telly on but I will. Cheers. Thanks for your good wishes, babe. Happy New Year and best wishes to wifey. On we go, mate, on we go x

        Like

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