SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2009 Personal Memory Ethnographies
What exactly are you implying?
At my work, a local shooting range, I almost always dress in business attire. My boss, as well as others, has told me that I am overdressed for my job but I think I project a very nice image for our company by looking professional.
This particular day, about six months ago, I decided to dress more casually because I was running late. I wore a black tank top with a grey vest over it with dark jeans and high-heels. My office is inside the Activity Center where different commercial shooting instructors have the option to teach classes. This day, a good friend of mine was teaching a class along with one of his friends, Ron, who was an acquaintance to me and a fellow instructor to our friend.
Ron and I got to talking about people being polite and I mentioned that one of our mutual friends, Randy, is constantly telling me I’m too polite because I greet everyone and always say please and thank you. After, Ron told me that he is a very polite person as well and is always trying to help people. He also said he wanted to tell me something but he did not want me to take it the “wrong way.” He proceeded to tell me that people misconstrue my politeness as me being “easy, sleazy, and ignorant” because of how I dress. Not knowing what to say and being incredibly hurt, I said nothing and just went back into my office. In my head I was imagining what must have been going through his mind:
I personally think she is just too polite to some people and I’m sure those people perceive that as her being easy. The people she is too polite to probably think that she is a doormat and they could get her into bed in a heartbeat. I felt like telling her that but instead told her about how people think I am too nice as well at work because I bring people sodas and coffee just to be friendly. After I told her about that I thought that maybe I should tell her how people perceive her. Not only does she dress like she would sleep with many different people but she is too nice and I am sure that is how people feel about her.
After, I returned to my office, I started to cry. I felt as if the only reason he told me that was because I am a woman. He was able to say those things and insinuate that I was a certain type of woman without having to verbalize the exact words. I decided I would call Randy, our mutual friend, who is also on the Executive Board where I work. He told me that calling me “easy, sleazy, and ignorant” was an awful thing to say and that it would be handled.
I remember wishing I could have just walked away from the situation that day. Unfortunately I was always taught to have a great amount of respect for people that are older than me. Although respect is very important, I wish that older people held the same respect for people that are younger than them. I try not to walk away from people who are talking to me even if they are saying upsetting things.
I overestimated my assumption that people listen to other people’s conversations because no one even noticed. I also thought that since some of the shooting students knew me fairly well, they would have noticed that I was visibly upset by the conversation. The few students that were in the room were just wandering around, which made me think that perhaps someone would have come over to see what we were talking about especially since I am such a social person at work. To this day, I don’t think any of the students that were in the room knew what happened.
Following the incident, Randy and I kept the issue between us because I felt as though I may have been overreacting or just too sensitive. After about two weeks I told my boss about it and he said that I should have told him immediately. Just ten short years ago, it became legal for female workers to sue for sexual discrimination in the workplace and that was one of my boss’ biggest concerns when I finally explained to him what happened. During the next board meeting Ron attended as well as my boss, the instructor from that day, John, and Randy. After the meeting, Randy and John approached Ron and told him that he was never to say something like that to me again and if he did, he would no longer be welcome at our range.
About 2 weeks later, I was outside shooting with Randy when we were approached by Ron. Randy walked away in order to give Ron and I a chance to talk. He apologized for what he said and that he was sorry I took it so personally however, the apology did not feel very sincere. While I do not know exactly why Ron had such strong opinions about me and the way that I dressed that day, I feel that I was in no way dressed inappropriately for my office and my boss agrees.
This incident is meaningful to me because this was the first time someone has ever commented out loud about the way I dress. I view this event as sexual harassment due to someone thinking I dress in a manner that is inappropriate. Since I am the only female working at the Sportsman’s Club, people are going to look at me differently. This incident made me feel as if I should dress casually so that I do not look too feminine and blend with my male coworkers. This incident probably occurred because of the combination of the way I dress and view myself as an adult woman and the way Ron, the instructor who is quite religious, views the way women my age should dress.
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