There is no solution against sexual harassment for the exception of male annihilation. It is that simple and easy. I do not have a solution for the appropriate engagement of men, how to avoid their advances, or how to hide what is already hidden. Whether it happens at work, school, or when you are getting your oil changed there will be men who will make it their mission to enjoy at least one of your orifices. If you are living and warm, that is all that matters.
The photo I’m sharing is from when an Ethiopian man thought it endearing to collect all my pictures from varying social media and make a collage. It looks like what…the kind of gift a murderer sends a victim before their abduction. He cut out everything but my face and cleavage. A body, titled “Amazing Creature”. (-Gag-) A bit psychotic…maybe fap material. I took it in stride. I did not know him, but we had mutual friends. I was a teenager and he was in his mid-20s or so. I took it in stride, so as not to embarrass him or bring further attention to myself.
When I worked at a network in NYC there were two men who insisted on habituating their affections. I’d exercise in the building’s gym and run into man A. He was white, moderately attractive, maybe in his 40s and often in the elevator when I either was running to a workout or rushing to work from one. He noticed both. He noticed the sweat on my neck. He made note of my smell. All this where he, TOO, worked.
I couldn’t escape him. For some Goddamn reason I’d see his useless face and have to pretend to enjoy his presence. “Oh haha, yes I am looking radiant and luscious.” We’d discuss my curly hair or how exotic I looked and how New York was the perfect place for someone like myself. I always wanted to fart just moments before we got to my floor to leave him with the kind of stench I had to endure. But who knows, that may have been a fetish that encouraged further harassment.
Man B was a black man, maybe in his late 20s or early 30s and in good shape. He worked at the network’s tech support team. My boss needed help with her work phone and I had to go a couple times for support to a cave of testosterone. The eyes that lay latent, waiting in that cave was almost paralyzing. Walking in felt like how leaving an air conditioned subway car feels the moment you step back onto the platform and are immediately met with a wave of hot and humid air. It was sticky, unwelcoming.
After a couple of trips, all was resolved and somehow B found his way passing my desk on a floor he had no reason to be on. The network was in one of New York’s tallest buildings. People tended to stay in their respective territories because of just how huge this place was. He stopped and asked if everything was okay. This is after he personally called, how he got my number I do not know, my work phone and wanted to confirm everything was okay. My team looked at me, and rightfully so. Not to note who he was but why he was. I ignored it.
I had to help my boss again with her phone and somehow ended up speaking to him after hoping calling a generic support line, that I’d end up with another representative. Lo and behold, it was B. He asked about my career past and said he used to watch my show. Now, I’m not going to bash one of my shows, but it was not anyone’s “60 Minutes”. It was hyper localized and specific to a demo he didn’t belong to so it was incredibly bizarre. I was alarmed.
He walked by again and I ignored the hell out of him because…this is work?! Isn’t this work? Is this not a place where we leave our psychosis behind and act like robots? This man ended up finding me years later online and following my social media. He may even be reading this now. (Hello, I don’t like you. Leave me alone.)
Fast forward a bit, and after years of working with my father and a staff that has usually been 100% women, I forgot about the type of male gaze that happens when you are not out in public. It was bliss. There would be the odd nasty patient who would remark a thing or two. Maybe a random delivery guy or postal worker. All benign and easy to never interact or speak to that person again.
That is, until just a couple of weeks ago when a FedEx worker decided to make it very clear I was a target. He was a man in his late 40s, early 50s (black). Short, skinny, and ugly. I work late. I always work late. I cannot wake up early and if I do I will stay late. At our old location my father used to sit in his running car for hours until I left. I fought him about it. I’ve traveled the world, lived in major cities; I didn’t need my daddy standing watch.
Well this Fedex man decided seeing me once was not enough. After one late night of delivering a package after hours (???) he came back again shortly after with another package and joked it was an opportunity to see me again. “Haha, okay thanks.” I took the hit like how all previous harassments have been before; like it was nothing. Nothing.
He came back the next day, late. I heard the door chime and I left my office to see what was what and it was him. Fortunately my father and another staff member were still working late. As soon as I saw him I flew. Yes, I did. Hid right behind a wall like a child. I asked my father to get it. As he greets the Fedex guy, he asks “where’s Kallie, she’s not scared of me is she?” Coincidentally, my father had a call as he asked the question, so he did not respond.
After some time my father leaves, and so it is my last remaining staff and myself. I go to the bathroom and hear that she opens the door and I hear my name. My heart sinks. After waiting a few minutes I ask her if he asked for me and she says yes. I take it in stride and go home.
Friday rolls around and my father and I have a meeting to prepare for a project. While we watch a seminar, I hear one of my staff open the door for a delivery guy. They ask for me by name and they say they will not release the package unless I sign for it. Of course it was that nasty FedEx guy. At that moment, I felt sick. I felt really sick. Here was a man who insisted on seeing me at a place that became my home. It wasn’t one of the tallest buildings in New York. It wasn’t at a busy Starbucks. It was my business. Mine, the one I built.
I was triggered. I felt too vulnerable to function, and neither could my father. He ended up late seeing a patient because he was waiting in the parking lot to see if the Fedex guy came back. I was triggered because I had been assaulted before and couldn’t handle the vulnerability.
I am coming off of a week of not going to work. I couldn’t do it. The man who assaulted me was a prosecutor in his early 30s (Ethiopian); educated and seemingly well adjusted. This happened when I was 19, a virgin, and very wide-eyed and naive. I described all the men’s races, ages, and positions because the reality is that regardless of race, ethnicity, education, place, time, economics, or risk; men do not respect women nor their right to being left alone.
I have no happy conclusion. There is no way to prevent or avoid it. Sexual harassment and assault will always be a possibility and I cannot provide any comfort aside from saying it has happened to me. I have experienced it beyond work spaces. I never said anything about the men at that big NYC building and I didn’t report the man who assaulted me. These are mistakes. Men do not deserve understanding in these circumstances. They should not get a pass.
I planned to report the FedEx guy, although feeling bad that he could lose his job. Can you imagine? As women we are socialized to stay quiet and unassuming; to not disturb the status quo.This is my greatest regret: never reporting any of them. Giving men the benefit of the doubt. “They can’t help it.” Even my father had told me that. “You are beautiful, they cannot help it.” No. It has nothing to do with beauty. I am a walking orifice. You are too, do not be flattered by men’s advances. As long as you are a warm, living thing; you are desired. But you are not without agency or undeserving of protection or justice.
Strip them. Report them. And if it isn’t at work, mace them.