Meshel Laurie: Did I Enable These Sexist Pigs By Turning A Blind Eye?
Am I complicit in the workplace sexual harassment and bullying of women who came after me because I coped by saying nothing, by using it as fuel to work hard and get the hell out of there?
In making that choice, did I educate the men in that workplace that their behaviour was acceptable? Did I doom their future female workmates? Did I actually embolden those guys? Did they use me as an example, either aloud or just quietly to themselves of “cool” women who “know how to take a joke” when a woman finally took them to task?
When they were making her feel humiliated by their constant sexually explicit conversation, by the sounds of graphic porn emanating from their computers, just centimetres from her own, and the sounds they made as they gathered around watching it, did they tell her “Laurie didn’t mind”?
Did I make it worse for her?
As the #metoo movement moves beyond the organic social media roots that spawned an overdue emotional outpouring, and then an orgy of outings of hitherto untouchable offenders of sexual assault, harassment and bullying, we naturally look now to the future. Presumably, we can from here create actual and sustainable change, but of course it’s more complex than that.
In order to do so, it seems to me at some point we, by which I mean women, are going to have to turn our gaze inward. You see I tried complaining about my workplace situation in the beginning, and whom do you think were the architects of the brick wall I found myself up against?
I wanted to be a leader in my workplace, and to take a stand for myself and for every other woman working there. Yes it was awkward and nerve-wracking but my daily work situation was revolting and I hated going there. I felt completely diminished as a human being because the men I worked with spoke about women as though we all fit into two categories, those they wanted to f**k and those they hated. I was pretty sure I wasn’t in the first category, and I hated myself for even wondering about it, but they spoke like that ALL DAY LONG!
We were a small team, and I didn’t want to seem uptight, so I spoke to management, whom I assumed would be appalled, and deal with it without letting me take the fall. I assumed wrong. As the months progressed, I went further up the chain of command, constantly shocked by the lack of shock I was encountering.
Eventually, it was made very clear to me by every tier of management that as far as they were concerned it was my problem to deal with. Specifically, I was told, “Meshel, you’re never going to like everyone you work with,” and, “that’s why you guys are such a great team, because you’re all so different!”
"You're never going to like everyone you work with". (Image: Getty Images)
I have no doubt that it would be almost impossible for me to pin anything on my workplaces, even if I wanted to, which I don’t because I’d rather never have anything to do with them again.
I imagine they're all still going about their business, no doubt still bestowing each other with awards for their management skills and wonderful, respectful, safe workplaces, and their championing of diversity and integrity. I’m sure there’s some nifty #metoo wallpaper being hung in reception as we speak.
I mean look, they behaved appallingly but eventually you realise that their lives are gross and filled with fear and that you don’t need to darken your own mind with thoughts of revenge, because you can leave that to their children.
I do hope, though, that the women who were without a doubt the aforementioned omnipotent architects, occasionally have a true and honest thought in their minds about the ways in which they have made life worse for other women in the workplace.
I hope they will genuinely stop doing that shit in amongst the various corporate sisterhood photo shoots and keynote speeches about “throwing down the rope for other women”.
How about thinking a little longer before throwing a rope with a noose tied at the end.