Bonnie Support Services

Bonnie Support Services

Saying ‘no’ to harassment

When I was in my mid-20s, I got a job as editor of a small newspaper. My boss was an overweight gay man with a wild temper. He always stood too close to me or leaned over me at my desk, so his stomach pushed against me.

He would call me into his office and swing his chair around to face me, legs spread, feet up on the desk, adjusting his crotch while he barked instructions. I never knew where to look. When I walked out I felt ashamed and enraged – at him and also at myself, for my weakness.

I kept thinking, ‘this guy is gay, so it’s not sexual harassment’. But I began to dread being in the same room as him. Sometimes I thought I would vomit from the anxiety. I loved my work but I started to hate him. He was fucking it up for me.

It wasn’t my first job in a newsroom. I knew all about the older blokes with all the power, the innuendo, the inappropriate jokes, the drinks after work.

I knew about deadline stress, too. But this guy took it to a new level. He called me a cunt more than once. Sometimes when he was shouting, his spit landed in my face. Once the paper was put to bed, I was ‘Buddy’ again.

He said I was too fucking sensitive. I started thinking that maybe he was right. After a year, I left the paper and I never worked in a newsroom again.

After a while I kind of forgot about it. It wasn’t until I sat down today and watched the six short films about workplace harassment, made last year by Israeli director Sigal Avin and American actor David Schwimmer, that it came back.

The films, which are based on real-life scenarios, and feature celebrities including Schwimmer, best known for his role as Ross in the TV series Friends, Zazie Beetz, Emmy Rossum, Harry Lennix, Grace Gummer and Joseph Sikora, have been cut back to 30 second public service announcements which are currently screening on US television.

The series of films is called That’s Harassment. You can watch them on the campaign’s Facebook page.

Schwimmer says men need to take action by acknowledging unacceptable behaviour – both their own and other men’s, and doing something about it. Naming it is the start.

While the ads are punchy, the four-minute originals really capture the power imbalance at the core of sexual harassment. It’s excruciating to watch these strong, capable, intelligent women submit. Because that’s what I did.

I tell my 11-year-old daughter to say, ‘Stop. That’s not OK,’ if someone is doing something she is not comfortable with. But, to be honest, that’s a bloody hard thing to do sometimes.

Me, too.

Written by guest blogger Kate

For more information on sexual harassment:

See Grace Gummer’s That’s Harassment clip here.

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