As much as it pains me as a strong, independent, entrepreneurial, creative, Beyonce-loving woman to say, we bloody do lads.
So Lets Talk has a mission to make the hospitality industry a healthy and positive place to be and is 86ing the silence around tonnes of subjects. My call to arms today for you is to 86 the silence around everyday sexism at work.
We women have been out here for a while now. When #MeToo really picked up some steam in 2017, we all had a story along the sliding scale of sexual trauma in the workplace (legit, even my Mom had one). We stood up in solidarity and decided that no longer will we remain quiet when forced to feel unsafe.
Then last Summer, I May Destroy You crash landed in our living rooms and opened an even deeper dialogue. The violations we had learned to tolerate as simply a part of sex, were now on the big screen in all their ugly awkward glory. Suddenly, we were not the ‘silly girl’ we had tricked ourselves into believing, or the only one that these things had happened to. And as harsh as it was to see them there – it felt good to know that with it could come change. For my friends and I, there were so many incidents in the show that we could relate to but had never spoken about, not even too each other, in fear of being shamed or judged.
With all the above in mind, I gotta ask – how come I and every woman I know has experienced a sexual aggression/assault, and we all know at least one woman who has been raped. Yet none of you know any assaulters or rapists?
Simple answer – you do. And this where 86ing the silence comes in.
Like I said, we are out here, having conversations, supporting each other, using our hash tags etc. And you have been giving us the space to do so. We appreciate that, but now we need some action.
Speak as we might, unfortunately our real lived experiences are still dismissed (sometimes by the even ‘wokest’ of men) as being sensitive, bossy, or gaslighted as figments of our imagination. We all want our peer group approval, so if you see something lads, please start saying something. Your disapproval, your calling out this behaviour can be the big breakthrough we need.
A lot of the things that happened to me in the early stages of my hospitality career I credit with ‘toughening me up’, teaching me to handle myself in rooms where I was outnumbered, where being a woman was dangerous. As the adage goes; Men are scared women will laugh at them, woman are scared men will kill them. This was over 15 years ago. Now, the behaviour I have been toughened up to is no longer welcome in the industry across the gender spectrum, and the fact I was subjected to it horrifies my male counterparts.
You know what is wrong and what is right, I am not here to patronise you.
So let’s start by 86ing the silence around things like:
Your creepy mate – You know he acts weird around girls but he’s a City fan sooo…nothing. He’s never going to know if you don’t say something.
Leering disguised as a compliment – I love a compliment, and if you think my hair looks good, tell me. But it is not a compliment if it’s heckled, includes a stare, and it’s certainly not a compliment if I’m backed into a corner.
Personal space – just because she hugs you it doesn’t mean everyone is entitled to one. If you see her looking uncomfortable, she probably is.
Judgements on our clothing – You know by now that we have arms and legs and collarbones and sometimes our clothes show them. That does not mean we are asking for it. So if your buddy makes a comment implying as much, call him out. The only time we’re asking for it, is if we’re asking for it.
Dismissing our opinions as PMT – Without doubt our monthly cycles affect our moods. What affects them even more is having our opinions bypassed because of a biological process. Our likes and dislikes still exist regardless of whether or not we are bleeding.
We don’t need you to swoop in at the last moment all Batman like and save us from a baddy (although if you see that happening, please feel free to swoop). If you could help us out on some of these things first, we can nip dodgy behaviour in the bud, and hopefully reduce the number of times a Batman is needed.
I am asking you to use your powers for good.
To be an ally.
To be real about your behaviour and that of your colleagues.
That might be a tough thing to do. It might involve addressing certain behaviours you have, and that’s cool. It means you’re growing – get better not bitter.
Trust me it is a lot harder to live your life on the defensive, planning your shift avoiding certain team members out of fear.
And if you’re not sure on something, ask us.
Let’s replace the silence with clear conversation.
Hospitality deserves better, and we can do better.