Metamorphing Machine I rather be this walking metamorphosis
than having that old formed opinion about everything!

On sexual harassment

Or a few tidbits I have to share about this subject.

As I said before, even though being male, I was sexual harassed once. Maybe twice.

When I was 19, I was working at a bank.
One day, I went to another floor to make some hard copies, and there was this co-worker there. He was gay.
He started hitting on me, and I did not know how to act. (To this day I still do not know how to act when someone is hitting on me...)
At some point, when I turned my back to him, he grabbed my butt. As I did not know what to do, I did nothing.
I think it was anti-climatic to him. I did not turn to him with a lustful stare in my eyes nor did I screamed and punched him. I did nothing.
Fortunately, I think he felt embarrassed enough after doing that because he left me alone after that day.

The second occasion I'm not sure it qualifies as sexual harassment, but it is a good short story.
At the same workplace, there was this woman than seemed interested in me. She was older than me, but I had no interest in her.
Then one day, at home, after work hours, I got a call from someone claiming to be a bank manager.

He said that the bank agency in front of my workplace had been robbed, and my landline number appeared that somehow.
So, he was demanding I went down there to answer some questions to the police.
I panicked and explained the situation to my older sister, and luck had it that she knew a lawyer, so she called them to ask what to do.
To make a long story short, they said I should not go there, so I didn't.

If I'm not mistaken, that woman told me the next day that was her boyfriend who called me. He was not a manager and there was no robbery.
It turned out that he found my phone number among her belongings, got jealous, and pranked me.
(We're talking here of a time when there were no cellphones. And I can't remember how she got my number.)
I suspect that he waited on me in front of the bank agency as well. Had I had gone there, I would probably be beaten to death for no reason at all.

Fast-forward a few decades. Different workplace and different manager. Roderick Marmalade was talking to me and some co-workers.
He said another manager was let go because of sexual harassment. I thought nothing about it until he let slip these "gems of wisdom,"
"That manager was dumb. He was hitting on the girl using the company's messenger. So, she had everything recorded."
"If he was a lazy manager, I think it was OK to let him go. But he was a hard worker. He delivered his things."

It just escapes my comprehension of why he would think it would be OK to sexually harass someone as long as nothing gets recorded.
Or that would be OK to keep that manager because he was a "hard-working man."
It is even more unbelievable that a few years later he - Roderick Marmalade - brought his wife to work at the company.
Maybe because he felt she would be safe there as the company didn't share his beliefs about being caught red-handed and "hard-workship?"

Every once in a while, we company peons had to go through a long quiz about IP, security practices, company policy, and so on.
It had to do with the company as a whole needing to be compliant with something.
The first time I went through that quiz, I found it hilarious.
It had some questions that made sense being applied to its employees in its HQ but lack cultural context anywhere else, like in my country.
Think about a question starting with "There's a popular match of gaga ball being broadcast, so (...)"
WTF is a gaga ball?!?

Anyway, one day, without previous notice or - gawd forbid - training, they included a Sexual Harassment section at that quiz.
I thought to myself "How hard can it be? I know what sexual harassment is, right?"
It was hard.

One of the questions went along these lines "Suppose there's this married couple.
They take the company bus to go to work, as both work for the same company.
Along the way, they share some kisses.
There's another girl on the same bus too, and she feels uncomfortable with their kisses.
Is she entitled to report them?"

That's tough. They are married. They are sharing kisses. I suppose not the lay-me-on-the-ground-and-do-me-right-now kind of kisses, just innocent ones.
Are they in the wrong? Should that girl just look the other way? I did not know how to answer it.

Another question was a person hitting on another that was with another company, out of their working hours, and out of their working place.
I can't remember if the first one kept hitting on the second one or not, but they had a professional relationship, or at least their companies had.
What to do now? One was not the other's manager, so they were not abusing any kind of power. They were not even working. Should it be reported?

At that time, I've been in that company for a long while, so I had a set of "survival tactics." One of them was "Worst Is Better ©."
Anytime I'd be in doubt, I'd assume the worst, and that would probably prove to be the best option to me. Let me tell you, it saved my bacon a few times.
So, armed with that thinking, I concluded that, yes, they were horrible people and their mean acts were hurting that other person.
I passed the quiz with flying colors, missing just a couple of questions.

It made me understand that - at least as the company sees it - sexual harassment has nothing to do with what you do or what you mean.
It has to do with what the other makes of it.

So, for the sake of conjecturing, let's take movies for granted and accept that every Italian greets people by kissing their cheeks.
Picture someone from, I don't know, India, visiting the company's Italian branch. That person is greeted the Italian way.
According to the quiz, that fellow Indian has the right to feel unease about it and fill a claim against their greeter, despite any surrounding cultural context.
(And, no, I don't think it's OK to dismiss wrong-doing in the name of "cultural context" if we're talking about machismo or rape culture.)

But, are things really this way? I don't know. Was that imaginary couple on the wrong? I don't know either.
I just know that's what I needed to answer so I could go back to work.

Next week, I'll introduce you to another one of my managers.

Andrej Biasic
2021-11-03