Calling Out a Supervisor. Advice?

I just moved and am settling back in to the frantic pace and physical work of a restaurant job. For all the flaws my previous job through AmeriCorps had (and there were many), if nothing else I could trust to work in an environment where I did not have to fear casual misogyny.

Tonight one of our chefs made a joke about gang rape. A few of the other male members of the kitchen staff laughed. When I asked the chef why he repeated a joke that wasn’t funny and he said he repeated it because it’s funny.

I spoke with him again about half an hour later when he was not busy and I told him, “Even joking, can you please not make rape jokes? That made me very uncomfortable.” He said, “Heard”, responding in standard restaurant protocol.

I don’t think he understood why his joke was grossly inappropriate. And I need to take responsibility for the fact that I approached the situation the wrong way. I statements only go so far. By framing my point as “the joke made me uncomfortable” I put the issue as focused on me. Meaning: he can make this type of joke again so long as I’m not able to hear him. Meaning: it was my perception and my filter; someone else might not take offense.

Me speaking to the chef twice didn’t resolve the issue. The issue is company culture and whether I feel safe and respected as a female employee. I cannot trust someone who finds gang rape something to joke about. But in restaurant hierarchy, he’s basically my immediate boss. I’m way at the bottom as a busser/serving assistant. And I’ve been at this job for not even a week.

I’m planning to send an email out to a manager or an HR staff member tomorrow about the situation. My ultimate hope is that instead of a punitive measure enacted on the chef, we can have some type of diversity training for the entire staff and a greater conversation on how we behave in the back of the house (where guests cannot see).

Does anyone have any thoughts or advice on how best to approach my email to management? I do not know what is the most professional way to handle the situation. I do not want to call out the chef and get him in trouble. I do not want to sit down with him and management to have a conversation because I believe the issue is broader than his joke and my reaction.

Has anyone had any success in calling out a supervisor or superior? Please let me know. I want to do this as professionally as possible to have the greatest impact on our restaurant’s culture. Thank you for your help!

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Explaining Sexism to the Oblivious

I knew it was going to be a long conversation when a male co-worker, upon learning I graduated from a women’s college, asked me, “So you hate men?” I told him that it has nothing to do with hating men but with believing in equality and valuing myself and others no matter their gender or sexuality.

I’m busing tables in a restaurant. I’m not part of the waitstaff. I didn’t think I would need to deal with this much blatant and oblivious sexism immediately, especially not two days into the job. How I was that naive, I don’t think I’ll ever know.

everyday sexism

The man who asked me this question told me he never had to think about sexism before. He said, “I can’t really say much because I’m not a woman but in my mind men and women are equal.” If you did, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. “Women might even be smarter than men. Men suck.” That’s an appeasement tactic. You’re throwing me a bone thinking that by praising women as greater I’ll believe you’re one of the nice men. The gentlemen who think holding the door for a woman means you’re not a misogynist. Try again, sir. Try again. “I just think that women only think men treat them differently. I think most men believe women are equal.” Tell that to the wage gap. 

“No.” let me say that again: NO. I told him that everything about our culture praises traditionally masculine qualities and devalues traditionally feminine qualities.

“Do you have an example to prove your point?”

The English language is inherently misogynistic. There are more ways to describe women than men and most of these terms are sexual and insults. The female equivalent to male terms always go the way of insults. For instance, a master is in command, but a mistress is a sexual being. Boys will be boys, but don’t hit like a girl/run like a girl/throw like a girl.

I laid out one or two examples as we stood in the back of the kitchen peeling potatoes. It was a moment of pressure because I was defending all women and all feminists. My answer would be the answer. I hated his smug white face as he nodded occasionally, but clearly didn’t believe me. He did not see sexism in the world because he never had to deal with it, only reap the benefits.

Just the fact that he needed proof is evidence enough that he valued my opinion less than a man’s. I had to defend myself. I had to explain sexism, knowing he wasn’t interested in anything more than being polite. I’d rather he wasn’t polite. I don’t want feminism to be tolerated and on the margins. Tolerance is far from acceptance.

I told him, “Feminism is more than just equal rights or thinking you treat women equally. You have to act on it. Feminism is active and you have to want it. You have to want to tear down the structure of male privilege.”

You have to seek out equality, not just ask about everyday examples of sexism too numerous to count. You have to want it more than anything else in the world.

and that I (gasp!) wanted to be there

Hate is not a Perspective

I’m studying abroad in Istanbul! I’m in Istanbul right now and will be in Turkey until June and I tell you this to put this story into context.

Istanbul From Space with Place-Names

Our whole study abroad group of Americans went out into the city the other night for us to get accustomed to the city and know the transportation. We wind up at a club around 11:30 or so and I don’t drink and I rarely dance. The bass music was jarring, but not any worse than I was expecting,even as it rocked its way up through my bones.

But it wasn’t the volume of the music that left me seething. It wasn’t the flashing lights.

It was the misogyny of the music and the music videos. Blasting in my ears was date-rape song blurred lines, songs about dicks and  grabbing hold of your own sexy lady for a night of manly fun. The songs were American, but I didn’t know half of them. Still, I knew enough to hear the words and feel violently ill. The music videos were just as bad if not worse. It’s nothing new for music and music videos to sexualize women, so I know this isn’t groundbreaking news. But, in any other situation I would have had the opportunity to leave. However, I’m in Istanbul. I don’t know my way down the block let alone the public transit two hour commute back to campus. I don’t speak much Turkish. So I stand and I seethe and no one approaches me until finally other girls in our group ask if I want to leave.

As we hail a taxi, someone comments on how the club was too empty. I say it was full of hate and misogyny. One  of the girls laughs, not a mean spirited  laugh, but an awkward laugh because she doesn’t know what to say and she’s amazed I’m being honest. I’m crying now from so much pent up emotions and a Turkish student who accompanied us to the club says he never thought of it from that perspective before.

He was trying to help, but hate is not a perspective you can validate or invalidate. Hate is a fact. Yes, you can choose to notice it or not, but that doesn’t make it any less real or impactful. But it’s simple to see hate as just a way of looking at the world: half full or half empty. In other words, if you choose to see a hateful world that’s your problem and your judgment should be adjusted accordingly.

This is why it’s so difficult to speak candidly about oppression against any marginalized group! Far too often you’re invalidated and told that you’re just misinterpreting the situation. Shift your perspective and suddenly the awful racist comment is just a joke. Or the sexualization of women (and specifically women of color) in music videos is just clever marketing for their target male audience. Suddenly you are the overly sensitive one, ruining the rose-colored glasses of those around you. How dare you see the world for what it is and want to make change.

But though I felt awful crying in front of people I met just the day before, I felt validated that I had stood up against hatred and did not shy away from telling the truth. Hate is currently an ugly truth of the world and it cannot be combated until it is recognized as a real problem that needs immediate attention. If anything, those who deny hatred and bigotry need to shift their perspective.

 

Mountain Dew and other forms of Racism and Misogyny

I know it’s been on the news and around the internet a lot, but in case you haven’t heard, Mountain Dew had to pull an online commercial on account of it being racist and misogynistic. Below is a link to the commercial and news commentary about the ad.

I take multiple issues with the ad and also the news briefing afterwards.

The ad is both racist and misogynistic, but they work  hand in hand and cannot be spoken about separately. Everything about this commercial is grounded in stereotypes. All the criminals are black men because obviously, only black men commit crimes. It’s the same logic that all criminal black men are gangsters and abuse women. It’s the same logic that on one hand says we’ve moved into a post-racial world because of Obama and in the same breath compares black men to animals.

In a more subtle fashion, I’m interested that those newscasters failed to mention that while the women’s assailant could only be black, she herself was white. The notion of black men attacking white women has kept our modern age secretly grounded in Jim Crow because we refuse to become racially aware and progressive. The message of this commercial was not “buy Mountain Dew” but “black men are criminals and animals; white women are fragile and overly emotional; the white male law officer is in charge.”

The racism is not more or less important than the misogyny. They feed off of each other.  While the racism pits the good guys in white against the criminals in black, the misogyny pits men against women, and the battered woman is harassed on all sides. Yes, the goat is trying to intimidate her, but so is the white man behind her. She is placed in the role of absolute weakness: physically because of her injuries and emotionally because of her harassment and eventual breakdown.

By this analysis, the ad says it’s okay for men of both races to intimidate women, but when the black man does it he is demonized in a police line up, when the white man does it he has authority behind him. Racial and patriarchal hierarchies are kept in tact and are perpetuated by the ad.

There are not two different fights raging for equality. There is no racial equality camp and gender/sexual equality camp. If we are for equality, we are fighting for everyone to have the same human rights. It helps no one to separate racism and misogyny into two categories because they support each other and they divide us. We need to unite under a banner of human dignity for all because this separation is helping no one but those who wish to uphold the racial and patriarchal standard.

Target: Sell Merchandise Not Women

I was alerted by a friend the other night about a disturbing set of Target commercials  which aired during the Golden Globes. Target’s “Every day Collection” is anything but. While Target’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Jeff Jones, claims their new adds embody Target’s slogan of “Expect More; Pay Less” I disagree. I think a more accurate description of the advertisements would be: “Expect a Target ad; Watch a Sexy Woman Change a Diaper”

Take a look for yourselves:

And that’s just one ad out of 8.

Did I miss the part of the Everyday woman? It is not okay for a major corporation like Target to be spewing misogynistic garbage into the media. I don’t even know where to start. Perhaps I could begin with the fashion model who is as far away from the Everyday woman as  is humanly possible. She looks fake. And not just in the airbrushed fashion model way, but every move she makes screams that someone is telling her to make it. I know she is a hired actor, but every movement of her body is on display. There are multiple screen shots of her crotch and from the moment she powders her hands with baby powder to the moment she backs away from the newly diapered baby she is not her own person.

Instead of empowering women in their housewife activities (as some viewers claim these ads do) it is doing the opposite.  There is nothing in this ad that praises the everyday woman who chooses to be a housewife. It’s disgusting that this woman is the ideal. She is represented as the only version of this elusive creature called Woman. This model, dressed in all white (does any one else think Purity Myth?) is both a doting housewife and incredibly sexy  while doing it.  Thus, the ad appeals to both men and women. If nothing else, Target is smart: they know they want women to think “If I buy my household goods at Target maybe I’ll be that woman”. Target knows they want men to think “How come my wife isn’t like that? Maybe we should go to Target”. It is blatant misogyny.

These ads hold up an ideal for women that is impossible and make women hate themselves. In the same stroke they teach men that the women in their lives are not good enough. The real women they know aren’t these cowgirl angels  who exist in a white vacuum of household goods and crawling happy babies.

Target presents women as sexualized aliens, resembling women only in the barest of body form. Listen to the narration. It is a woman’s voice who seductively tells the viewer to “master it” and then whispers in a sultry voice that this is the “everyday collection by Target”. It’s not the woman changing diapers who speaks because God forbid she gets a voice instead of just her body. No, it is a voice off camera meant to remind viewers just how sexy women are and how it is up to others-the media, men, etc-to control their sexuality and represent women how they feel it is best.  It is misogyny. I repeat: it is misogyny.

I urge anyone who reads this, to look up the other commercials on youtube, leave your comments, and tell Target that their hatred of women will not stand when there are those of us who see it for what it is. Boycott Target until they take the ads off the air. Write Target letters.

Use your voice before someone tries to take it from you.

Invalidate me if I’m wrong not because of my sex

It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation about politics in my house. My brother is a Republican who believes feminism is ruining the world. Feminism is the cause of higher divorce rates and teenage pregnancies and abortions. Women are spending their time in higher education instead of looking for husbands. Men are being emasculated. Men are naturally better leaders and more logical than their female counterparts. It only spirals down from there.

My mother, on the other hand, is a Democrat. If she was old enough in the ’60s she would have been a hippie, but present  she’s a yoga teacher and a liberal activist who has no adequate words for her continuing frustration against Romney and the War Against Women. Unfortunately, her passion causes my brother to tell her she’s being over emotional.

This almost ran a collision course the other night when my mother brought up how she would leave the country if Mitt Romney was elected because of his and his party’s misogyny. As far as I know my mother’s claim to move to Canada is a hyperbole, but my brother flat out told her she did not know what she was talking about.

No explanation. Just, “You don’t know what you’re talking about and I don’t want to have this discussion right now.” It was as if he was being the bigger person by calming my mom down and walking away from an ensuing argument. I defended my mother, telling him we did know and we were knowledgeable, but he just continued to explain he did not want to get upset about politics over dinner.

I asked to say one thing and he almost didn’t let me. When I finally convinced him to let me speak I told him “Please do not invalidate our opinions.”

He said okay and the remainder of dinner was served with a heaping portion of awkward.

I write this and I’m afraid I’m vilifying my brother. I love him. He loves me. He loves my mom. But what he did was wrong. It did not make him the bigger person; it made him less.

He reads men’s rights blogs, goes online and argues against feminism (his definition) whenever he can, and this makes him feel politically involved and up to date on current events. He must know more than us. From the biased source material that he reads he, by default, must have more knowledge than the group of people whose rights are being discussed and who are directly affected by the issue. As women, we not only cannot know more, but we are automatically wrong.

I would not mind a chance to debate if he chose to invalidate me and then continue the discussion. I was not given this chance and so it is not about the merit of arguments I could have made or any counter points I might have had in regards to his argument. It is about my sex. As a woman I cannot be involved in politics. It is not even should not be involved because he did not give my mother or I the chance to argue and defend ourselves at all.

The chance to speak out, like our rights to decide how and when we give birth, is being taken from us. In our own home we could not speak out as he would not listen.

Feminism is needed more than ever; speak out for those who are silenced.