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CwL Ep45: Lesson From Attending A Rally (story of sexual harassment)

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#March4justice – Lisa’s story from a workplace…

Something a little different on the podcast this week. After attending the March 4 Justice in Melbourne, Lisa felt called to share her story of inappropriate workplace behaviour from her boss. In sharing her story she is hoping that women hear how we have normalised and played down this kind of behaviour from men. And it’s time more of us talked about it. 

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Prefer to read? Click here for the transcript

Hey. So last week I attended the March For Justice at Treasury Gardens here in Melbourne. And I really felt it necessary to share my story of sexual harassment in the workplace as an example of why we shouldn’t really minimise these experiences and we probably need to talk about them more than we do. So listen along to what went live on Facebook and feel free to share any feelings that might come up with you with me. I’m happy to see you in the inbox, I’m sending lots of love and standing in solidarity. Enjoy the episode.

Hey, everyone. I just thought I would jump on really quickly because I’ve just been at the March for Justice here in Melbourne, which I’m sure you’re aware, they’re taking place all over Australia and it’s just women coming together to talk about, I mean, just how fed up most of us are, okay?

When I was there, I thought, and just a heads up, I will be swearing most likely in this. From a post a little while ago, I can see some people don’t like swearing so if that’s the case, I’m not for you, you can scroll on. And, I’m not really too sure if this would trigger- It’s not a terrible story compared to what other women have experienced, but if this triggers anything for you, I just wanted to let you know, I’ll just be talking about something that happened in the workplace to me many years ago, and I’m sharing this because when I was at the rally what really became obvious to me was the stories that I told myself about why, “This isn’t a big deal. No biggie. He was a lovely guy.”

This isn’t anything that damaged me physically or anything like that, but here’s what I realised is, the more of us that do that and make okay these little things, the more the culture of it all- Sexual harassment, in the workplace was my particular experience, can continue. So, we actually need to share our stories and I’m like, “You know what? I just feel like if I share with you how I normalised what I can see now was absolutely not normal or okay behaviour, it might help you see where you might’ve done the same and that it’s actually not okay.” And what all of these amazing women who’ve been, I mean, talking about and fighting on behalf of us for so long, are actually really angry about.

So, my particular experience was with a guy who, I mean, and this is a weird thing, right? Genuinely one of my greatest mentors. I had a lot of respect for him. I still do in many ways. And, and we had become really good friends. He was probably, I don’t know, 30 years older than me? And we had what I considered a really great working relationship, but also a really great friendship, and honestly taught me so much. I think I’ll always be grateful for all of the things that he brought into my life, but there was one time where I went and, and got- Oh, we were actually going to an awards night and I went and bought a new dress and all of us going, we’re getting dressed up. And he just said, over my shoulder, I was just at my computer, that I looked sexy. And I was like, “What? Just hang on a minute.”

And he just, he said it. And then, he said it again. I think I just said, “Pardon?” And he repeated it. And everything in that moment, my world spun around. This man who I really, really trusted and respected, massively stepped over the line. I was living with Nick. I think… Were we engaged at that stage? I’m not sure, but we’d been living together for ages. It was a long-term relationship. He knew that, that’s not even the actual point. He was just having a crack. He was very inappropriate, and here’s what ended up happening on the back of that.

I felt like I didn’t want to tell anybody because I didn’t want them to think that I shouldn’t work there. I didn’t want anyone to think of him badly. How many times? I mean, I’m just one person with one thing that happened to me in my workplace. How often is this happening, where you’re like, “He’s actually genuinely a good guy. He’s a good dad. He’s all of these things.”

Oh, hey, I just saw that your comments just came up. And, I was like, “I couldn’t possibly tell Nick, he’ll go nuts. He’ll think this is so bad. He’ll make me not want to go there.” And then, who am I to keep going to work if that happened, and it made me feel really uncomfortable? So then starts to self-talk right. “I was too nice to him. I must have given him an impression.” I mean, I look back now, I’m like, “How did you justify this? I must’ve given him the impression that I was interested somehow. Maybe me wearing that low-cut dress,” it was a bit, showed off cleavage, which my cleavage was amazing back before children, “Maybe that says too much. Maybe I brought it on.”

I mean, you guys, I don’t think of this as damaging me in many particular ways, but it did. I kept a secret from the man that I married about another guy cracking- My boss, 30 years my senior. I can remember when I eventually told him, it was churning me up inside, and I really want to stress how much love and empathy I have towards women who’ve experienced much, much worse. I really want to acknowledge that I’m just sharing this experience, I’m not trying to make it bigger than it is, or take up too much space on a day in which we should be focused on this issue.

But then, so here’s the thing that we do. Here’s me, doing it again. Just minimising something that happened. That was not okay. When I shared it, I absolutely crumbled. I knew I was going to be leaving that workplace. So, I kept going and then, but I felt funny about this for years and years, and totally normalised it. Totally made it something about me, never wanted to tell people for fear that they might think he’s a bad guy and he’s not a bad guy, but what he did was not okay. It was not okay.

And so I think as women, we should be more angry about this. We should have rage. This is happening all day, every day, it’s happening in our government right now. Who’s being held to account? When will this ever changed? The issue is so massive. I am a voice, I have a platform here, I want you to know I’ve experienced it. There was all sorts of ways, messed up ways in which I justified things to myself, made it my fault. Didn’t want to tell people, just for this little thing. So, imagine what other women have gone through. My mind boggles. And, what was amazing being at the rally was that there is this solidarity and it’s so messed up that it exists, but it does.

“I minimise this stuff all the time, too. It’s so deeply conditioned in us to just accept and move on.” Hey, Allie, I 100% agree, and I will be talking to my kids about the fact that I went there today and why I was there and what is and isn’t okay. They will grow up with such a different sense of this. They will.

There were people just there in their corporate stuff on their lunch breaks. I mean, when I told mum, she’s like, “Be careful.” I’m like, “This is just everyday people who are going, “Fuck this shit.”” And I feel bad that I’m late to the party on this. I’m late to the party on my understanding of patriarchy and all of the really insidious ways it affects our lives. I do think that this is a time where more and more of us need to accept responsibility for not understanding and do something about it. If we ever want things to change for our kids, I don’t know, we got to be a part of the conversation, which is why I just thought I would share this here to create conversation.

Hey, Vanessa, you’re teaching consent in classrooms. Yep, awesome. Which is such an important conversation. I mean, my son is 10 and we’ve already absolutely had that conversation with my girls as well. I mean, we have to be talking about this stuff more and more. I guess I wanted to share just in the sense that I never thought I was someone who had experienced this because I minimised that experience. I minimised it to the point where it was obviously my fault. My boobs were obviously just a bit too hot, he lost a bit of control in a moment, tried it on, and now I think it was so wrong.

Nick was so upset when I told him and he was upset that I didn’t share it with him immediately because, what does that actually say about this whole thing? That our best, closest, person we’d be like, “Oh, well, I mean, I couldn’t possibly make him look bad because of something he said that was massively inappropriate to me, that meant that my workplace then became an uncomfortable place to be.” Messed up. So, that’s why I just thought I’d come in and share.

Yes, you went to the one in Perth, looked amazing in Perth too. I mean, I’ve never even been to a rally or a protest and I’m like, “I think it’s time we get involved. I think it’s time we get involved.” And if all I can do is just show my solidarity by my body physically being somewhere and supporting women who were doing amazing work to try and change this conversation and actually have people pay attention, then maybe I can come home and also share my story in the hope that, I don’t know, it just adds to the voices of discontent. And, we just wake up to all of the different ways in which this is affecting, I mean, all of us really, isn’t it?

So, that’s it from me, it’s almost school pickup time, so I’m going to go do that. “Patriarchy is so fucking ingrained.” Totally agree, Kate. And when your eyes open to it, just like our eyes are opening to all sorts of things, just so many things. And, I feel like it’s just a time in which focus and attention is shifting onto the really big issues. And it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves.

“My story and mind chatter processing the event is so common,” yeah. No problems, Mel. I just wanted to send so much love to people. Liz has said, “I wonder how many women would have this example. Would be easier to find out how many haven’t I expect.” Yeah. “I used to say I had put myself in risky situations as a young woman. I realised just three years ago that the risky situations I thought I’d put myself in was being in a bar, pub drinking considerable amounts of alcohol and sexy clothing with men present.” Yeah, okay, goodness.

“It’s so gross, those subtle moments of sexual inappropriateness shape how we move forward in life, because we don’t realise they’re big enough to act on.” So, my little moment is shared, and I’m just standing in solidarity with the women who have experienced the same less, more, I mean, yeah. Change will happen when we pay attention, okay? See you.

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