Subtle Sexual Harassment

enough-is-enoughBy Malle Kaas

So here’s what happened: I was doing FOH on a small three-day festival, covering the last day for a friend. Since none of the bands that day brought their own engineers, I mixed all the bands, and I thought things were going very well.

Halfway through the day, a guy walks up to me and introduces himself as the owner of the PA-company.  He asks me what I  think of the PA since he was testing out some new speakers. We talked a bit about the speakers, and everything was cool. Then he hands me his business card, telling me he likes my mix and the way I work, and that he would like to receive my resume.

Of course, I’m ecstatic! My gig is apparently is leading to more gigs, how cool is that!

When my stage was finished, I went over to the main stage, where some of my friends were playing, and the PA-owner is there as well. He comes up and starts talking to me. We have a polite discussion and then he asks me if he can buy me a drink,  I say “No thanks – I’m tired and want to go home soon”. He then, quite oddly, says, “can I ask you something personal?” I think it’s kind of weird since I don’t know this guy, but politely I answer his questions relating to: how old I am, if I have any kids, and if I have a boyfriend????

Soon after I want to leave, since I’m really tired after ten hours of mixing. Then he brings it up a notch. “Can I ask you something private?” he asks. I’m thinking… “you just asked me a bunch of personal questions that I already DID NOT feel comfortable about, so no you can’t.” However, polite (and tired) as I am, I say yes… he asks me if I want to go home with him, and ‘watch a movie’???!!! (I assume everybody knows what it means when a stranger asks you home to watch a movie at 1 am)

My answer was of course “no, I have been working all day and just want to go home and…………be me.”

The whole way home I felt angry because that whole You Are Doing A Great Job Here Is My Business Card kind of fell to the ground. Was I really doing a good job or was I just a pretty face? To me, there was no doubt most of the interest for me that night as an engineer had a lot to do with the fact that I’m a woman.

So yes, I really felt intimidated by the incident. Therefore, I had to ask this: ‘So what to do when this thing happens where someone acts inappropriately to you, yet not in a way you can call them out on it? How do you act when they then turn unprofessional? It seems to be particularly manipulative when they offer you work, but, in fact, they want something else?

All this is what I would call ‘hidden harassment’. But is it just me or…..?

Well, the question is: Was I being too sensitive? Why didn’t I just ignore the guy’s proposal and moved on without even giving it a thought? What do you think, whether you are a guy or a girl? Is there such a thing as hidden harassment, as I’m referring to here? Is it a problem we need to address?

At least one very positive thing came out of it, though, as I noticed one of the bands on the main stage that day had a female FOH engineer.  Nice!

The fact is it is often more interesting when there is a female technician around. Maybe one day the extra focus on our gender will slide away when we are more than 5%. (In Denmark where I’m from it’s even lower, around 1.1%

SoundGirls.Org Note –

Hidden Harassment is very real, called subtle or implicit sexual harassment and like explicit sexual harassment it is not okay.

The basic definition of sexual harassment::

Sexual harassment (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.

Women working in our field as consciously aware of how they are perceived, by their co-workers. Many take precautions in their appearance and dress, attempt to downplay their gender, and generally make sure they act professionally at all times. Presenting yourself in a professional manner should be something we all strive for. Being professional would include being aware and working to make sure that your workplace is free from all forms of sexual harassment.

Can you identify which of these are examples of sexual harassment?

  • Making sexual innuendoes; Telling sexual jokes or stories
  • Turning work discussions to sexual topics
  • Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history
  • Asking personal questions about social or sexual life
  • Making sexual comments about a person’s clothing, body, or looks
  • Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person’s sex life
  • Looking a person up and down (elevator eyes) or Staring at someone
  • Blocking a person’s path; restricting, hindering the other person’s movements
  • Following the person
  • Displaying sexually suggestive visuals, artifacts, items
  • Giving letters, gifts, and/or materials of a sexual nature
  • Invading a person’s body space; standing closer than appropriate or necessary for the work being done
    Massaging a person’s neck, shoulders, etc.; Brushing up against a person
  • Touching the person’s clothing, hair, or body; Tearing/pulling/yanking a person’s clothing
  • Hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking; Patting, goosing, caressing, or fondling
  • Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around or in the view of another person; Exposing oneself
  • Gestures/sounds – making sexual pleasure/desire/groaning sounds; gestures that non-verbally describe/draw sexual parts of the anatomy

In fact, these are all examples of “sexual harassment”. There are a range, and variety of behaviors that judges, arbitrators, juries, and employers have determined are sexual harassment when they are unwelcome and create a hostile work environment.

Most of these behaviors would initially only be discussed in the context of “subtle sexual harassment”, however a reasonable employer would determine that some of these behaviors, even if they are welcome, are not appropriate, and should not occur in the workplace.

The above examples are from an excerpt from the blog by Margye Solomon  Which of these are Examples of Sexual Harassment?

How to stop sexual harassment – Our industry thrives on freelance work and there often is not clear defined remedies or an HR department to report sexual harassment. Here are some suggestions offered by Martha Langelan, author of Back Off! How To Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers.

  • Do the unexpected: Name the behavior. Whatever he’s just done, say it, and be specific.
  • Hold the harasser accountable for his actions. Don’t make excuses for him; don’t pretend it didn’t really happen. Take charge of the encounter and let people know what he did. Privacy protects harassers, but visibility undermines them.
  • Make honest, direct statements. Speak the truth (no threats, no insults, no obscenities, no appeasing verbal fluff, and padding). Be serious, straightforward, and blunt.
  • Demand that the harassment stop.
  • Make it clear that all women have the right to be free from sexual harassment. Objecting to harassment is a matter of principle.
  • Stick to your own agenda. Don’t respond to the harasser’s excuses or diversionary tactics.
  • His behavior is the issue. Say what you have to say, and repeat it if he persists.
  • Reinforce your statements with strong, self-respecting body language: eye contact, head up, shoulders back, a strong, serious stance. Don’t smile. Timid, submissive body language will undermine your message.
  • Respond at the appropriate level. Use a combined verbal and physical response to physical harassment.
  • End the interaction on your own terms, with a strong closing statement: “You heard me. Stop harassing women.”

You may also file an internal complaint, through the appropriate avenues offered by the organization’s policy on sexual harassment if it has one.

For more information and FAQS on Sexual Harassment visit Feminist Majority

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