Men’s Inappropriate Compliments And Plain Sexual Harassment #1

In my last piece, I discussed how to feel comfortable taking praises. Let’s speak about improper compliments today, or what I like to term disguised, and sometimes not-so-camouflaged, harassment.

As a woman, the issue is never IF you have experienced something, but rather HOW OFTEN and WHERE. Some may be harassed by guys on a regular basis, while others may only be harassed once a week. Some people are harassed at work, maybe even by their employer, while others are harassed on the street, in a shop, or at a bar. But I’ve yet to encounter a girl or woman who has never faced harassment from the opposing sex.

Let’s start with street harassment, which is prevalent in Paris. Don’t get me wrong: I adore Paris and would return in a heartbeat if I didn’t have so many other locations to call home. But the creepiest creeps I’ve ever met are on Parisian street corners.

In Paris, if you chance to be a girl simply wandering about minding your own thing, you will encounter males who will do the following:

As you pass them, they will catcall you. They will frequently attempt to catch your attention by saying things like “ooo vous etes belle mademoiselle” (“ooo you are lovely Miss”). Touch or grab your butt (or your HAIR!? Especially if you’re blonde) as they drive by. This will happen to you at least once every day. And going down the wrong street at the wrong moment may happen once every 10 seconds (Champs Elysees at night is one such street).

I once passed a bunch of men who were saying, “oh you etes belle mademoiselle…something something” (it is advised to stop listening after that first phrase). I performed my usual -IGNORE- thing, and one of the men grabbed my arm, drew me to him, and said “mais dis-moi merci qoui!?” (“Thank you very much”)

What was my reaction? I was accustomed to the conduct, but the tugging of my arm was a new trick for me. I just glanced at him and said “Merci,” and he let go of my arm as I walked to the subway.

What was he trying to say? Why did he say I was beautiful? What made him grab my arm? What made him so enraged? I’m not sure. I’ve simply learnt that this is how it is and that I should always either ignore or say thank you in a pleasant manner. Because if you become angry, they will get violent.

Let us now discuss workplace harassment. This one irritates me so much that my blood begins boiling. I am a young lady at the beginning of my career in politics. Who else is involved in politics? A LOT of elderly, power-hungry males, to be exact. Oh, what a treat!

I work in international politics, therefore I am always in circumstances where my goal is to create conditions conducive to negotiation. This involves not upsetting people. Let me now tell you about some real-life examples. I was chatting to a guy from Canada once, and we were supposed to discuss the political problem we were working on (or so I thought), but after I finished my lengthy speech, he replied, “no wedding ring? Guys should be seeking such a young and gorgeous lady like yourself.” Hmm, how would you react in THAT situation? So I didn’t react. I simply gazed at him, then at my hand, then at my papers, then back at him. “So, what is Canada’s position?” I asked.

THEN he goes on to say what a terrific person he is to date!? Imagine my colleagues’ surprise when they asked how it went and I told them I didn’t know anything about Canada’s stance but that I knew this man wanted to marry me.

During another meeting, an American guy touched my hair. He pet my hair like I was a dog or kitten?! It was so strange and unexpected that I had no idea what to do. I recall my coworker (a male) standing next to me seeing it and not knowing what to do. We simply stood there as the guy patted my hair and informed me that he would love for me to sit at his table that night for supper. What? What do you mean? -deep inhalation-

I should clarify that I did not sit at his table that night. –

Let’s attempt to make sense of this now. Is it because I’m young and they think I slept my way into this position? Is it because they believe that all young women who work do so simply to meet a wealthy and successful man with whom they can stay at home and…and…eeh create DIY blogs? (I apologize if this upset anybody; I like DIY blogs.)

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