Tonight, we have a guest blogger writing about sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. Her name is Lindsay. Thank you so much for writing. Check out her story below.
When I was first approached about sharing a story regarding sexual harassment in the restaurant industry, I didn’t hesitate. “I’m sure I can come up with at least one instance,” I responded. After all, I’ve been doing this for what feels like forever. At the age of 16, I got my very first job as a hostess, and now here I am – 11 years, a college degree, and a baby boy later – and serving is still my primary source of income. So can I come up with an instance of sexual harassment? Yeah, no sweat.
Then I sat down to write, and I froze.
“How do I choose?” I thought. “How do I pick just one?”
Because the truth is, sexual harassment is a daily part of a female server’s life. Only we’re not allowed to say that. Because when we say that, we become the victims all over again, though this time of ridicule. We’re “uptight.” We “can’t take a joke.” Or my personal favorite, we’re “such a bitch.” And though it may seem like a silly excuse for perpetuating this behavior, let’s face it – most of us will let it slide because we all want to be liked. We all want to come in and do our jobs without causing an uproar or alienating ourselves. I know I do, anyway. But sometimes you just want to scream ENOUGH.
And sometimes you should.
I’ve had co-workers bark at me like dogs in heat. I’ve had my butt grabbed and my boobs grazed. When I scoop ice out of the maker, I have to be conscious of which direction my co-workers are so that I don’t bend over with my behind facing them and open myself up to comments. I’ve been called sexy… fine… delicious… a MILF. And that’s all behavior just from my co-workers.
Sexual harrassment from my guests? I’ve had my fair share of that, too. Men have commented on the size of my breasts and the shape of my body.
..they’ve asked to take me home and been mad when I’ve (too politely)
declined. Once I was walking past a table and dropped a slip of paper in front of them. When I bent down to retrieve it, the man seated there muttered, “Well, why you’re down there…”. I looked up in disbelief, and it was only worsened by the fact that he had his two teenage sons with him. Seriously, sir? I thought. This is the example you’re going to set for your children? That it’s okay to speak to women this way? As a mother myself, I find that absolutely terrifying.
In some instances, I know no harm is intended. It’s a sad fact of society that sexual harassment has become normalized, so most people don’t think anything of it. As women, we’re supposed to feel flattered – as if there is no higher praise than being desirable to a man. But when you’re on the receiving end, it’s different. You feel a certain shame. You find yourself thinking, What is it about me that draws this sort of attention? What am I doing wrong?
But as far as I can tell, my only mistake has been to stay silent. So I’m taking steps to speak up, starting right now.