Misguided versus misogynistic

Yesterday’s post about a badly behaving co-worker, reminds me of another time a male co-worker behaved badly. In that second incident, a good man made a mistake. I did go to HR this time. I felt he needed to know that he had been terrifying.

Norwegian men can get so tall. The guy in this incident also towered over me, as well as being in a position of authority.

At a company picnic, with free booze, taking place after work at a rented boathouse in a secluded inlet, Tall Guy tried to get me alone. After a weird conversation where he asked me if I was lesbian (huh?), he convinced me to dance with him on the pier. I wasn't too bothered by him at this point, since we had cubicles across from each other, and got along at work. We were alone, then, far enough away from the lights from the boathouse to not be easily seen.

Then he started talking about something he needed to tell me. I was expecting another awkward Q&A about personal stuff and tried to get out of his arms (we'd been dancing) and go back to the rest of the party.

That's when he grabbed my forearms. I tried to break free, but he just held on tighter, constantly saying he wanted to tell me something.

I asked him to let go of me, but he either didn't hear me or didn't care. I was was starting to feel fear.

There was nothing else to do but to stop struggling and hope he would release his grip. He wasn't terribly coherent (we'd both been drinking), but he kept holding onto my arms, moving them as he tried to make his point. I was too focused on finding a way to break free to pay attention to what he was saying.

At some point, he seemed to finish, and let go of me. I dashed away immediately, back into the boathouse. He followed a few minutes later, but left me alone.

This was a Friday.

On the Monday, I talked to a contact at HR, a female psychologist who had been helping me with some personal stuff. I told her what had happened, and my reason for telling was that he needed to know that what he did was Absolutely Not Cool. She totally agreed.

She, him and I ended up in a meeting together. He was quite chagrined. I took his apology to be sincere. I could go back to trusting him.

Some men seem to be afraid of what #metoo will mean in interacting with women. That we won't know if the man is flirting, or joking, or whatever. Trust me, we know the difference. And we are able to also know when we're dealing with a misogynistic fellow or a misguided one. We can be quite patient with the latter. We have been too patient with the former.

Threat or warning?

I always joke about how I don't make threats; I warn. That's because I don't believe in idle threats. I think if you threaten somebody, you should also mean to carry the threat out. So I may as well warn. It's a bit weird to write the above, because I'm a relatively harmless person. But let me give you my own little contribution to #metoo and the time when I had to issue a threat-warning.

Folks think Norway does things so much better when it comes to sexual equality, but there have been and are jerks and abusers here, too. And a lively debate about it, complete with derailing and strawmen. The men I know are good men, men I can trust. I have not attracted the worst of them, and I consider myself extremely lucky.

Then there's the co-worker who one day put his hand solidly on my rump as I was passing by his cubicle. I cannot remember how I reacted. I have a temper and I may well have given him a death-glare. Or just kept moving. Not that he cared. His had a big, self-satisfied grin.

A couple of weeks later, he did it again. This time, I whirled around on him. I know I used my death-glare and matching tone of voice, too. To his self-satisfied grinning face I told him that if he ever did that again, I'd go straight to HR.

To my surprise, his smiling face collapsed in shock, then fear, and he backed away, back into his cubicle.

I was surprised, because I didn't know if HR could help, and I wasn't expecting 161 cm me to intimidate all of 188 cm of him (he was more than a head taller than me, for you non-metric folk).

But I would have done it. I would have gone to HR, and maybe my conviction was what sold it. I still felt safe at work, I still felt I would be heard. I would carry out my threat.

He never touched me again.

With the #metoo movement and the discussion about sexual harassment, I have often wondered why my co-worker backed down instantly. My theory is, he wasn't expecting me to get angry. Because when I read about how women react, they typically have my first reaction. The one where we aren't sure what happened, and we don't want to provoke a larger, stronger man further. We try to defuse rather than defend. But getting angry is a natural and justified reaction. And so we have #metoo.

To my fellow sisters out there: I wish you empowerment, I wish you faith in yourself, and I wish you a death-glare that will serve as an excellent warning.

 

Daily prompt: Warning