Men’s inappropriate compliments and plain sexual harassment #1

In my last post I talked about being comfortable receiving compliments. Today, lets talk inappropriate compliments, or what I would like to call them: camouflaged, and sometimes not so camouflaged, harassment.

As a woman, it is never the question of IF you have experienced this but rather how often and where. Some might experience harassment from men on a daily basis, others maybe only once a week. Some experience this at work, maybe even from their boss, and some usually only experience harassment on the street, in the store or in a bar. But I have yet to meet a girl or woman who has NEVER experienced any form of harassment from the opposite sex.

Lets start with street harassment; a perfect example of this is Paris. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE Paris, and I would move back there in a heartbeat if I didn’t have so many other places I’d like to live. But Parisian street corner guys are the creepiest creeps I have ever encountered.

In Paris, if you happen to be a lady just strolling around minding your own business, you will experience guys who usually come in the group of 2-5 who will do this:

Catcall you as you pass them. They will usually use phrases like “ooo vous etes belle mademoiselle” ("ooo you are beautiful Miss") and try to get your attention. Grab or touch your butt (or your HAIR!? Especially if you are blond) as they pass you. This will happen to you minimum once a day. And if you go to the wrong street at the wrong time it could happen once every 10 seconds (Champs Elysees at night is one such street).

Once, I passed such a group of guys saying “ooo vous etes belle mademoiselle…something something” (it is advised to stop listening after that first phrase). I did my normal thing –IGNORE- and one of the guys grabbed my arm, pulled me to him and screamed “mais dis-moi merci qoui!?” ("say thank you")

My reaction? I was quite used to the behavior but still the pulling of my arm was a new stunt. I just looked at him and said “Merci” which made him let go of my arm and I went on to catch the metro.

What was his point? Why did he say I was pretty? Why did he pull my arm? Why did he get mad? I have no idea. I just learned that this is the way it is and I should always do one of two things – ignore or say thank you in a friendly manner. Because, it you get mad, they will get violent.

Now lets talk harassment at work. Ooo this one makes me so frustrated that my blood starts boiling. I am a young woman in the start of my career and I work in politics. Who else works in politics? Well, A LOT of old and power hungry men. Oh, what a delight!

I work with international politics so I am constantly in situations where my job is to create environments where negotiations will be possible. This includes not making anyone upset. Now, let me tell you about some real life scenarios. Once, I am talking to a man from Canada and we are to discuss the political issue we are working on (so I thought) and after I have said my long statement he said “no wedding ring? Such a young and beautiful woman as yourself should have guys chasing her”. Hmm, how do you respond to that in THAT situation? Well, I didn’t respond. I just stared at him, then at my hand, and then at my papers and then at him again. Then I said “so what is Canada’s position?”.

And THEN, he goes on to talk about what a great guy he is to date!? So, imagine the reaction of my colleagues when they wanted to know how it went and I told them that I don’t know anything about Canada’s position but that I know this guy wants to marry me.

Another time an American man petted my hair during a meeting. He PETTED MY HAIR as if I was a puppy, or a kitten?! It was so weird and unexpected that I just didn’t know what to do. I remember my colleague (a man) stood next to me and saw it as well and he didn’t know what to do. We just stood there as the man petted my hair and told me that he would love for me to sit at his table during dinner that night. What? I mean what? –deep breath-

 Yeah, disclaimer – I did not sit at his table that night. -

Lets now try to make sense of this. Is it because I am young and they thing I slept my way to where I am? Is it because they assume that all young women who work only do it until they can find a partner that is rich and successful so they can sit at home and…and ..eeh write DIY blogs? (I am sorry if this offended anyone, I like DIY blogs).

What experiences do you have from harassments and inappropriate comments or “compliments”? And how did you handle them?

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