They are on my face – and yes, looking at people’s eyes or at least trying to make some semblance of looking at someone’s face is our culture’s way of showing you are listening – and not in the middle of my chest. That’s where my boobs live. Don’t look at my boobs for the entire time I’m trying to explain our library’s DVD policy to you. Don’t creepily look at my boobs at all. Plus, being a just over five feet tall person makes it really easy for me to notice when an over six feet tall person is looking at my boobs. Seriously, you’re going to break your neck from all the craning down to ogle.
Ah, sexual harassment! I don’t think that I have had a job where I have not been sexually harassed: I have had a lawyer (!) ask me in the office – while I’m wearing a knee-length skirt and knee-high boots, though it wouldn’t matter what I was wearing – if my legs go “all the way up”; I’ve had a coworker at a coffee shop text me the things he’d like to “do” to me if he could get me alone and when I told him that was really inappropriate and unwelcome follow me into the basement where we were alone to try to “explain” himself (my ex-boyfriend kindly offered to beat him up, and while it was a nice offer, I definitely wanted to do it myself); I’ve had patrons follow me around the stacks while I’m shelving asking doggedly about my relationship status; continuously trying to get my number or ask me out even after repeated refusals; or tell me about three times in a row how much he really, really likes my haircut, leering the whole time. And more that I probably can’t remember because it makes me so angry that I can rattle off a list of the times I’ve felt the sexual harassment range of emotions that goes from uncomfortable to creeped out to unsafe.
It’s frustrating to me, too, that it took me working in libraries to realize that I needed to tell coworkers and supervisors about this. Sexual harassment does this weird thing where it makes you – the one being harassed, not the one harassing, feel weird or shameful about it. You don’t really want to tell anyone at work for a number of reasons: fear of retribution; fear that no one will believe you; fear that you will be blamed for doing x which means you were asking for it; and the list goes on. It was actually a wonderful and caring bartender – the amazing Faith from the now sadly closed Harry’s 240 – who made me tell people at work about it. It’s not okay when it happens and bosses and supervisors need to know about it. You need to tell people for your own safety and so others can help you. Once I did tell people other librarians at my old job would call over to the Reference desk when a patron appeared to be bothering me to make sure I was ok and other measures. It was nice to know they had my back, and we were all able to watch out for each other.