How To Nip Sexist Workplace Banter In The Bud

Workplace sexism sexual harassment

My name is Lindsay. But at my day job, I also respond to dear, honey, sweetheart and kiddo. Kiddo is the one that really pisses me off. In three years of working with a sales crew comprised entirely of men, I've gotten pretty use to pet names. In the beginning, I frequently reminded people that I preferred to be called by my actual name. In response, the sales crew told their manager that I was difficult. For some reason, the pet names were important to them.

After sitting down and discussing this with my boss, I had to make a decision. Would I quit my job over a couple condescending affectations or was this something I could deal with? Obviously, I chose to stay.

In the course of work, I learned that the men saw pet names as a way to make me feel like part of the group. They couldn't say, "Hey Asshole" so they said, "Hey Darlin." I understand that those things don't seem like equivalents, but I guess they are. More than anything, my male co-workers just wanted to make me one of the guys. That included lewd jokes, crude stories and plenty of unsolicited stories. I chose to deal with a group of men who often forget that we've moved past the days of Sterling Cooper. But I made a conscious decision that I would choose my battles. And even though I backed down from the pet name ordeal, there were certain things I would not tolerate. The Grindstone: Study: Women Tend To Take Their Jobs More Seriously Than Men

Women everywhere have to deal with sexist and misogynistic co-workers. In a perfect world, the creeps would be written up for sexual harassment and the ignorant would be put through training. In the real world, there are two much more prevalent outcomes. First, women don't want to deal with the stigma of being a whistle-blower so they choose not to say anything. Or, they work for companies like mine who only care if it's a major offense.

So when do we put our foot down? When do we stop pretending to be one the guys?

• When it gets personal. A guy telling a politically incorrect joke may make you uncomfortable, but it's normally not a personal affront. When an older male colleague announces in the middle of a meeting, "Just remember Lindsay, the older the tree, the harder the wood," then its time to file a complaint. Anything directed at a specific person is crossing the line.
• When it gets derogatory. Let's face it, there's a difference between being called 'doll' and being called 'slut', unless you work at The Gloss. Some men really are clueless and they really don't understand why pet names or crude humor is offensive. But raging that all women are worthless… they all know that's wrong and they're saying it to make females around them feel threatened and uncomfortable.
• When it gets physical. Odd compliments or lingering glares are one thing, physical contact is on an entirely different level. If a co-worker touches you in an inappropriate way, it's time to say, "This isn't OK" If they continue to do it, it's time to see your superiors.

I am not saying that women don't have a right to be treated respectfully in the workplace. I'm not suggesting that you should wait until it gets to this level before you speak with HR or your boss. Anytime a woman feels uncomfortable at her place of work, she has every right to make her issues known. But unfortunately, not every offense will result in immediate action by a company. Sometimes, women must decide at what level they can accept inappropriate behavior. This is where I drew my line.

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Written by Lindsay Cross for The Grindstone

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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.