For all the times you just laughed and walked away.
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Several of my former bosses who were in their 40s-50s have said really inappropriate things to me that I just didn’t know how to react to. I wanted to keep my job and be professional, but inside I was screaming. One day I was talking to someone about my frustrations with not being able to handle these confrontations properly, and he suggested it was partly my fault. Wait, WHAT? MY fault?! How could it possibly be MY fault?
Well, he asked, have you ever straight up said that they were making you uncomfortable? Well… no. Have you ever told them that they were being inappropriate? Uh… no, I guess not. Then part of it is YOUR fault, he said, for the continued harassment. He went on to explain that even though it really sucks to be put in an awkward situation like that, the REACTION to that inappropriate gesture is completely on me. It’s up to me to react negatively, rather than just laughing and walking away, because men will NOT be discouraged by that. He said it was up to me to make sure it was clear that their advances were something I defined as harassment, and that it was not welcome.
So even though it’s icky and weird and makes you completely uncomfortable, I want you to know that you have the RIGHT to tell someone they are harassing you. Because what is sexual harassment rather than UNWELCOME advances? The welcome-ness of it is purely up to you. You hold that judgment. So don’t do yourself a disservice by shying away from it. Good luck. 🙂