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(en) Britain, The Anarchist Federation (AFED), RESISTANCE #157 - âHe's like that with everyone" - Sexual harassment at work.

Date Thu, 06 Nov 2014 12:33:20 +0200


An IFOP (Institut FranÃais d'Opinion Publique) poll released in March 2014 says that one woman in five has experienced sexual harassment at work in the course of her career. Clearly, this study underestimates the number of women harassed. Not a deliberate underestimation, but more because many women who undergo sexual harassment will not recognize it as such. ---- Practical case study - in the restaurant ---- Yesterday, in the restaurant where I work, one of the chefs came to see me, and, by way of greeting, said "Say, have we already slept together? Itâs possible that I donât remember. " Earlier this month, a customer came to the counter and looking straight into my eyes and without any warning said to me, "I love full-figured women ". After my third month of work, a group of customers made up of men in their thirties, all dressed in smart suits , left me a charming note on a napkin and a 10 Euro tip. The note which must have appeared sweet to them read, "For your beautiful breasts." This is my daily lot as a waitress, I am sure I am not alone.

So yesterday I cracked. Not having the "right" to tell customers to get lost (apparently this doesn't build customer loyalty), I decided to challenge the chef. I informed him that no, we have not slept together, and that, that will never happen, I asked him to change his tone when he speaks to me. He left annoyed. With that, my manager, who had been there at the time, took me aside and started to justify his behaviour:

"Donât get me wrong, it is like that with everyone. You know, it's kind of his way of saying hello. "

I then said two things. Firstly, I didnât take it wrong, I won't tolerate a supervisor sexually assaulting me ââverbally, which is exactly what happened. Secondly, no, this is definitely not a way of saying hello. Her reply left me speechless, "But you know, he's not your boss, you can tell him to get lost if you want."

The internalisation of sexism

At that moment I realised that to argue with my manager was useless. For her a woman must accept this type of sexual harassment if it comes from a boss, if it's linked to making profit, if it comes from a dominant person. I remembered her social class - from the bourgeoisie, and mine, from the working class.
We do not have the same feminism or the same interests. Her main interest is in making money out of the business through my working hard and not complaining, my interests lie in fighting against being exploited by her and other owners, and fighting against sexism. In this case of sexual harassment at work, the two are linked.

If my boss or my manager allows sexist behaviour towards me, it is not only because I am a woman, but also because I am a waged employee under their control. Like any boss, they know I need this job to live, that speaking out will carry the fear of losing my job, the fear of not being believed and fear of the shame that society will pin on me.

The economic aspect to sexual harassment at work is reflected in the fact that some men also experience this type of oppression at work. While they are a minority given the number of women harassed, even their existence demonstrates that it is a matter of economics and power in the workplace as well as sexism.

Return blow for blow

Answers do exist in the struggle against this linked economic and sexual exploitation. Sexual harassment at work is an offence. The law protects employees, public officials and trainees against it. Some unions in France such as the CGT, have established hotlines to help survivors to enforce their rights resulting from the law of August 6, 2012. The first step is to realize this type of behaviour is unacceptable. Donât make excuses for those who use their dominant status to abuse and exploit others. We are taught to accept sexual harassment as a necessary inconvenience during employment, and this has been internalised by a majority of employees, this must be fought at every turn.

by Bertille - Salvador Segui Group of the Federation Anarchiste of France
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