When a girl’s guy supports the #MeTooMovement

Knowing when ‘locker room talk' at work has gone too far

Photo credit: Shamia Casiano/Pexels

The #MeToo Movement is calling men (and women) out on their behavior — especially in the workplace. And I respect it. But if you’re a girl’s guy* who is used to men joking around in a vulgar manner, you can too easily become desensitized to inappropriate behavior. Of course naughty jokes at a bar don’t have quite the same sting as they do at your office desk. Still though, you should be able to mind your business and remove yourself from the situation in either location.

Listening to women in 2019 still defending R. Kelly and Brett Kavanaugh made me wonder did I ever sound as painfully delusional as they do. In my 20s, I certainly did. And sometimes it takes you listening to others before you realize just how much you need to reevaluate your own priorities.

  • The joke that was more sexual than funny: There was one editor who I went to because I did not appreciate a news report stating black women will let their hair be “dirty” so they can style it better. He gave me the OK to edit this post on our newswire platform. But somehow he decided it was cute to make a joke about how you shouldn’t pull black women’s hair during sex either. I gave him a thumbs up and quietly went back to editing.
  • The awkward job interview: Then there was the interviewer who told me I did not come dressed “like a secretary” and wanted me to come back in “dressy attire.” I wore a full-length pantsuit during the follow-up interview instead of khakis and a blouse. He told me he would give me the job if I would consider being his “concubine” and going on work trips with him. I told him “I’ll pass” and explained I’d rather just do clerical work in the office. The next day, he told me I would be working in a separate building with his sister instead. I never returned.
  • The “I’m just messing with you” manager: The final straw for me though was a Vice President who questioned me daily about why I always went to lunch with another writer but never him. He wanted to know who I was dating, seemed to be obsessed with taking and hiding things on my desk, and gave me almost daily reminders that my senior prom date was 22. (He was a friend of my brother’s and we had a PG-13 blast. I only brought it up because his own son was going to prom with someone who looked more mature than him. Why my boss had photographs of his son’s prom date in his own phone is anybody’s guess.) His vacation days were an absolute relief for me, especially after the time he leaned over in my ear and said, “I could just choke you right now. You never listen to me, even when I’m right.” I put on a fake smile, laughed and cracked a joke about my mom saying I’m hard-headed too.
Photo credit: Lum3n.com/Pexels

At the time, I thought these comments were harmless. But this is the kind of “locker room talk” at work that keeps letting people think everyone is overreacting to “jokes” or being “too sensitive.” While I can brush most of them off, I fully understand why other women would not.

The girl’s guy sense of humor will too often just shrug and go, “Well, that’s _________. You know how he is.” It’s about equivalent to that annoyingly quiet “black friend” who lets her/his white friend say “n**ga” as though it’s perfectly acceptable.

He didn’t mean any disrespect. It’s just a word. That’s just how he is.”

Before going to Human Resources or someone’s boss, I’d first rather face the issue one-on-one. For all I know, it could be a legitimate misunderstanding or a joke gone terribly wrong. Give the person a chance to apologize for non-physical instances.

Photo credit: Proxyclick Visitor Management System/Pexels

But what I insist on in my 30s that I too often shrugged off in my 20s (specifically with the painfully annoying Prom Date Reminder) was to call out inappropriate behavior immediately.

Don’t get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You never want to let someone who makes you uncomfortable think you’re OK with it. Do not laugh if you do not think a comment is funny. If you wait too long to admit you don’t like the direction of the conversation, he will wonder why his comments are suddenly a big deal when you laughed them off or ignored them before.

Do not be afraid to confront someone on any comment that rubs you wrong. If this person didn’t feel any remorse while making a vulgar or rude comment to you, why should you be made to be uncomfortable responding?

Keep written track of any questionable emails or comments made. While word of mouth works out great for promoting products, it does not do you a shred of good during a potential Human Resources case. You can too often get trapped into the “his word against mine” dilemma.

Try not to burn work bridges with allies. While it may be much easier to report a peer than upper management, get familiar with who can be trusted should you share confidential information. If it is a VP, make sure you are cordial to the President. If it’s a middle-level manager, don’t piss off the store manager. It is imperative that you try to be on your Ps and Qs to make sure irrelevant issues (or past conduct) do not stand in the way of a legitimate complaint.

Have a bottom line. Where there is one job you were qualified for, there will be another. Financial happiness, especially for those taking care of children or other family, is imperative. But your own physical and mental well-being matter just as much. If you feel like you are hitting a brick wall with the perpetrator, upper management and/or Human Resources, it’s time to leave. Don’t make yourself miserable trying to stay employed by people who neither respect you nor your bottom line. While it may feel like that person “wins” if you leave, your sanity and safety should always win.

* This post does not in any way, shape or form intend to defend men who are also dismissive of inappropriate comments. It is solely meant to take on women who have shockingly stood behind men who were clearly in the wrong. I do not understand why even one woman would vote for Trump, never mind 41 percent. I truly don’t understand the Brett Kavanaugh defenders. However, it took me entirely too long to realize R. Kelly and Bill Cosby just weren’t the people I thought they were. By defending them, I sounded just like people who defend Brett Kavanaugh and 45.

Would you like to receive Shamontiel’s Weekly Newsletter via MailChimp? Sign up today!

We Need to Talk

These heart-to-heart conversations challenge some unpopular views on family, relationships and activism.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

15-year vegetarian journalist/editor; Wag! dog walker; Rover dog sitter; Toastmasters member and 5x officer; WERQ dance enthusiast; Visit Shamontiel.com

We Need to Talk

These heart-to-heart conversations challenge some unpopular views on family, relationships and activism.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade