When you hear those two words, prepare to cringe. We’ve got Women in Secularism going on today, and while I’ve missed this one, I am embarrassed every time I see one of those asshole men intruding on the conference #hashtag with snide remarks. And now, on the Women In Astronomy site, I’m embarrassed by my manly colleagues in astronomy. Caitlin Casey had to work with this kind of idiocy.
Another male colleague felt comfortable enough to joke about how sexy I was in front of dozens of colleagues at departmental social events. His overt stares at my breasts (and at ALL women’s bodies in the department) combined with lewd comments were a common topic of coffee break chatter for years. “Oh, he’s always been that way,” folks would tell me, “so-and-so lodged a complaint about him with HR ten years ago and nothing was ever done.” So I accepted it, until he ratcheted it up a notch to unwelcome hugs and cat calling in the hallway. He’s the reason I stopped wearing dresses and heals to work, because the experience of wearing them transformed my 10am workplace into a dark, threatening alley I knew better than to walk down.
That was just one guy. There was another professor who pressured her into going on a date with him…it did not go well.
How’d I get myself in this bind? Suffice to say, I was afraid of telling him to back-off since, even though I didn’t work with him or for him, he had direct power over the success of my research program at the time through his administrative role. Direct. Power. He ended up testing the waters one last time, asking me on a real date after cornering me during a department social function, and I finally worked up the guts to get the message across: NO.
Then came the avalanche of hate. His opinion of me took a 180, he started bad-mouthing me and questioning my competence and ability around the department, and before long I began to feel real impact on my research program. Things were going downhill fast, all the while I had to keep playing a game of ‘Whac-a-Mole’ with the other creeps. My workplace became a toxic cesspool, but in a way that was invisible to most.
The site has featured a full week of harassment stories: there’s the harasser’s playbook, recommended procedures to handle harassment, legal rights & obligations, and a challenge to those with power to change their behavior. Read them all.