Some service men came to the hotel I work at when I was on a closing shift at work. They called me to come out behind the coffee bar and go to where they had a ladder set up by the entrance of the cafe. They asked me to hold the ladder steady for them and the one on the ladder joked that he didn’t trust the other guys to hold it correctly. Mind you these are five burly men. I asked what they were doing up there and they said they were removing the last of the nails that had hung the holiday garlands. I said sure and held the ladder. The man came down the ladder and one of his coworkers asked me about the five layer brownie we served. I explained what made up the layers and told them the price. The man who was on the ladder came down and said “I need a girlfriend too-think you can help with that?’ I said “No, thanks.” He asked “Why not?” One of his coworkers said “She doesn’t like colored men.” Instead of delve into how I actually had a black boyfriend- I said “Maybe I don’t like men at all.” One of the men reached out to high five me and I again said “No, thanks.” One of them said”They had a nice girl back at the shop who’s red boned like me if you’re interested.” (Red boned meaning a lighter skinned African American) I again said “No, thanks.” At this point, I was past done talking to them and wished some customers or a manager would enter my completely dead cafe so I had an easy and safe out. The man who I denied a high five earlier asked my name and I pointed to my uniform issue name tag. he said to move it because they couldn’t read it so I adjusted it. “Oh, Sequoya.” That’s a beautiful name for a beautiful lady.” I smiled and said “Y’all good?” They said they were and wished me a beautiful day.
These men were kind and stayed laughing and smiling the entire time. However, they still asked invasive questions and made me feel uncomfortable. They obviously outnumbered me 6:1 and in a way cornered me because I was at my place of work. They were independent contractors who were assigned to my hotel just that day-so it would have been really hard for me to report them or complain about them.
Being a woman in public opens you up to a whole world of possible harassment. But there is a special risk associated with sexual harassment at work. As a woman, you are put in a position where customers can harass you and face virtually no consequences. You are also put in a position where your coworkers or other staff in the workplace can harass you and you may have a hard time reporting harassment or be put in a position where you feel you cannot report. Even if someone does report, they risk workplace retaliation and a hostile work environment.
This is something I have thought about doing for a long time. If women documented every time they were sexually harassed- will people start seeing that it is a problem? It is dangerous for me to leave my home.Part of my goals for the New Year included writing more and this is a project that is a longtime coming. For the entire year of 2016- I will write down and document as many instances of harassment as I can. I wrote these instances down on receipt paper at work and am now posting them to this blog.
Cheers and stay safe,