What To Do When Someone Harasses You

I am a man. I have been sexually harassed in the workplace. I’m not even all that gorgeous.

I want to explain what I did, and what I think you should do when someone harasses you at work – that could be sexual harassment or other forms of bullying. I apologise for the length of this read, but I have a lot to get off my chest, and you can speed read or skip at will, can’t you?

First, let me set the scene: I have always worked for myself. I have never been anyone’s employee. I often use an agency for contract work. I am paid by the hour and paid weekly. Always have been. My older brother decided to work this same way.

This type of work has a very short notice period (just a 5-day week of core office hours, – 35 to 40 hours depending on the contract). Legally we get paid this amount whether or not we have to work it. Usually, firms know what’s coming up and we work the notice period. More often than not we get a few weeks’ notice. Sometimes, though, the work has simply dried up, or the client has lost a project and has to let you go. In which case, we would leave immediately, and get paid the week without turning up.

So the scene is set.

Let’s look at my brother’s thing first. He was on a job and weeks went by, payments were good, his work was praised, and everything was working nicely with no hint of a hitch. However, they ran out of work for my brother, and probably money too, so they took him aside and gave him the goodbye talk. He asked if they wanted him to work the rest of the week, and they said there was nothing for him to do, so he was free to go.

However, they refused to sign off on paying him the notice period. My brother contacted the agent to sort this out.

The agent called back to say that the client wasn’t going to pay. When the agent pointed out that they legally had to – unless it was a sacking due to something like misconduct – they suddenly declared that they had to sack my brother due to him sexually harassing a member of staff.

My brother was outraged! But what could be done? If he took it further, he’d have a sexual harassment claim on his record, and no agent would go near such a toxic copybook blot – and that goes for clients too.  My brother would just have to accept losing the money.

That’s pretty awful, isn’t it? Did he do the right thing? What do you think?

OK, so now, a personal tale or two.

I was younger, freer, and single. I was working late and alone in the design office when in came the big busty blonde from accounts. She slid up onto a desk and struck up some chat while I typed and worked on the PC. At some point, she started flirting. She was a little bit older than me, divorced and quite assertive. The level of innuendo was inappropriate for the length of time we’d known each other. I was uncomfortable. Then she noticed a small run on her tights.

Suddenly she was ripping them.

I couldn’t believe what was happening.

To this day, I don’t know just how I managed to get out of that situation unscathed. But I did. I was in fear of discovery, then concerned about someone seeing her in ripped tights as we left the office. She could say I attacked her. Jeez.

I was just lucky that she was not quite that mad. Although I did have to deal with her every day thereafter, and that was always uncomfortable and awkward.

I’ve told this story to guys who said I should have had sex with her on the office floor as she was clearly wanting that.

Do you think I should have? Did I do the wrong thing?

These guys try to make me feel less of a man somehow. I can’t persuade them that it’s not about my virility, but about professionalism, staying in work, having a clean record, and not being controlled by another person.

Their argument is enriched with their idea that “You might as well be guilty of something she might accuse you of – if you’re caught”.

As a man in today’s world, there are a lot of uncomfortable situations from simply walking down the street at night and seeing how a solo female reacts – to things like changing rooms where other dads change small girls when you’re changing your son.

Lately, the media has been all about famous men as sexual predators. It seems to usually be homosexual paedophilia, but sometimes it’s underage girls.

The “underage girls” aspect of this has been a problem for me as I have a lot of sisters and I have met their friends (and years later their daughters and their friends). I have also played in rock bands and visited my fair share of pubs, clubs and concert venues. I know what a preteen crush looks like. We have all seen girls screaming at the Beatles, the Bay City Rollers, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra – to name a few. Girls can lie about their age, and they can certainly look older with clothes and make-up. I am not condoning rape or sexual harassment, just being honest – especially from back in the day.

Back then men wanted to play in rock bands to get chicks. You know, if Freud is to be believed, everything men do is to get chicks (money and power is merely the method). On the other hand, perhaps power corrupts, meaning that powerful people corrupt into being sexual predators.

I don’t know which it is. Certainly, the world of work was invented by men for men, and although women have joined in, most of the companies and boards are still dominated by men. If men hold most of the power, then it stands to reason that power-corrupted sexual predators are mostly men. Some people think that men and women are equal even in this respect and that as more women take more powerful positions, we’ll hear about female sexual predators.

I reckon it may be the case for other forms of bullying, but I don’t think it’s the case when it comes to sexual harassment; as my own experience shows, women have the ability to call the shots. There is no balance or equality here; you just don’t get crowds of boys screaming at the Beatles. That woman ripped her clothes and it looked like I had attacked her. But had the situation be reversed, and I had ripped my clothes – it would still look like I had attacked her, and she’d defended herself!

I have heard of men being falsely accused of sexual harassment and even rape. And although exonerated, their record remains tainted. The accusation is enough to ruin a man’s life.

So lately the media has been filled with stories about Harvey Weinstein. It’s looking bad for him. It’s too easy to judge before anyone has been found guilty of anything in a courtroom. It’s also too common, look at the media just now.

It’s got to be more complicated. It always is. I tend to think that some of the stories are exaggerated, some complete lies (perhaps some personal pay-back), and who knows? He may have been corrupted to a severe extent and been a monster.

But here’s the thing that gets me with all these stories – how can these monsters get away with this stuff for so long. We’re talking years, in some cases, several decades. How is this possible?

In an online article,  “Classic(al) Sexual Harassment” (The HuffPost, 2017-10-10), Susanne Mentzer describes years of personal sexual harassment in the opera and classical music world. She’s finally “speaking out”. But she still names no names. And that is the actual problem.

The above argument suggests that the reason why some monster rapes some girl is because power corrupts. What I take from that is difficult to explain well, so bear with me, my thinking is that when a man goes too far, the victim is morally obliged to report it; if she doesn’t, then she’s complicit.

Each time he gets away with it, the more powerful he becomes, and the more corrupt. Each time he gets away with it, there’s another victim, another damaged human being. Each time he gets away with it, the corrupted system is supported, everyone is involved, all are complicit, all are tacitly approving, accepting and supporting the continuation of it all.

He becomes a monster. He wasn’t born a monster. Each silent victim makes him worse and each silent victim causes the next victim. The responsibility is group.

Yes, I understand why Susanne Mentzer won’t name names. She’s selfish. Just like my brother was. Why should they lose their jobs, reputation, income and so forth? They can keep quiet, play the game, support that system and not rock the boat. They refuse to accept responsibility for future victims or for making a talented man into a monster. As a result of joining in the game, they lose all rights to be called a victim.

I have told you what I did in a situation, or rather what I refused to do. But I have other situations and other tales. And yes, I have quit lucrative contracts because of abuse, bullying and bigotry. To my mind, it is my responsibility to stand up for myself and to make a positive difference. I don’t need to hire a hit man or to wreak revenge, but I do have to draw my own line and my life only makes sense if it has a solid moral foundation. It starts at home, if more people did likewise, the world would be a very different place.

Sure, I have suffered, but not for long; I always find another job. It always works out. It will be like that for you too, and it gets easier over time to do this, you gain confidence, you grow. Suffering for being out of work – to me – is better than suffering at work, taking money to keep schtum, 40 pieces of silver to allow someone to abuse me – and other people. No thanks.

I have a friend who was caught up in an online paedophile trawl, and while this chap is lovely, moral, kind, and innocent, his barrister recommended that it would be in his best interests to just plead guilty, and be placed on a sex offenders’ register, go to regular counselling sessions for his “problem”, and let it all go through smoothly.

I begged him to fight it. He didn’t; he was too shocked at what was happening to him. He pled guilty, lost family and friends, and even though it’s all over and cleared up over years, he remains labelled by some with good memories.

OK, in closing this down, I can see that I may come across here, to some, as insensitive to victims and supportive of paedophiles and sexual predators. That is certainly not what I wanted to get across. Rather, I am accusing victims of being irresponsible and immoral. I think that speaking out after many years, or only after the monster has died, or going to the press only after someone else has put their head on the block is shameful. Writing about it in an autobiography and selling that through press and interviews on TV is almost worse than the original event. It is even possible for a victim to claim that the “incident” caused them to develop a mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders and more. Then they are acclaimed for heroically overcoming it all, and this, in turn, sells their book and gets them publicity.

Victim publicity is now a thing. It’s a new bandwagon, and I am frankly disgusted that it is mainstream now and may affect children growing up to think this is normal or morally good.

The morality today is skewed. This is my tiny fight back on a blog that no-one reads. Except I hope my daughter does read it one day.

 

 

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Educational Restyle

Everything has changed in my son’s primary school now that there is a new headmaster since the headmistress retired.

Under her leadership, football in the playground was banned. There was no school team to play other teams. It engendered bad behaviour and competitiveness apparently.

The School Sports Day was always bizarre – no-one won anything. There was no medal ceremony. The children played in “countries”, but the ages, genders, ethnicities and just-about-everything-else was mixed up. Everyone was a winner.

Now we have a man at the helm.

We now have four new houses. The children run for house captain in an election. they even have to submit an application form and state their case. There are teacher changes too – heads of P1&2, of 3&4 and of P5&6.

Locals have spotted him bringing from the local shops a carton of milk for the staffroom – some have even seen him playing football with the children in the playground at lunchtime.

Children can earn points and prizes now, trading earned “Golden Time” for extensions of time on returning homework.

You get the idea; there are fundamental and comprehensive changes – more than I have hinted at here. Are things better? Who knows? Only time can tell.

In many ways, it seems to me, things are returning to an educational model closer to the one I experienced myself a great many years ago.

I wonder if this is a new thing – a countrywide initiative, or because the new head is a (dare I go there) man?

Home Alone

I always thought it was illegal for parents to leave their children alone, but it turns out to be a myth; you can.

Parents can legally leave their children in cars, or at home, alone.

Parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’.

That’s all there is to it. It’s up to the parents throughout the UK to make that call.

I suppose then, that if a parent judges the children to be mature enough, and if they are in a safe environment for a short while, then – in the unusual event of something bad happening (such as an intruder), it would be irrational to blame the parents.

Being a “helicopter parent” is something I try to fight against; children need space to develop and grow – they need to go out with their friends, to cross the street by themselves, and to be able to be trusted to survive being left alone for a short time.

I would hate to think that – should an accident happen – I would be blamed and possibly ruined.

Would it be better to mollycoddle and raise dependent, incapable adults?

My Selfie Stick Hack

I bought a selfie stick from the Pound Shop. It cost me a pound.

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It has an extendable handle and, at the top, a phone grip.

2017-06-10_141905You can remove the top grip from the extendable handle.

2017-06-10_142034This allows you to play – I have a bendy flexy camera tripod that I attached to the phone grip – and voila, I have a phone tripod!

Notice that the bottom of the small camera has a tripod screw – well that is standard, and the extending handle fits!

2017-06-10_142109I tried it on a proper SLR, and it fits, but it’s not really strong enough to trust with a pound shop extendable handle for a selfie-stick!

 

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Still, it was worth a try!

The children can now use the flexy tripod thing to attach their smartphones to their bicycles and film away – or they can just take selfies. I like that I can extend the small family camera as the quality is better than a phone, and I plan to wade out into the sea on the holidays, filming from above in HD.

What do you think? Any other suggestions?

That’s How Bad It Is

I spoke with a chap today who just started working for us on a complicated and convoluted project in trouble to the tune of several tens of millions. He was taking over from the chap who was thrown off the job for being “too contractual”.

I asked “How are you finding things? How is the job? Better or worse than you thought?”

He replied. “Well. it’s going like a horse on fire.”

I have to say, this made me choke on my lunch. This is my new phrase – a delicious blend of house on fire mixed with flogging a dead horse and bolting the door after the horse has bolted.

Is this chap a genius?

Terrorisation

We all recall where we were when x happened.

JFK, Lockerbie, 9-11,  7-7, whatever. It’s relentless, isn’t it?

But then – it’s not always about the bad; remember putting a man on the moon, or Nelson Mandela walking to freedom, the fall of the USSR, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Good stuff is also relentless.

And sometimes our jaws drop in wonder at the good as much as at the bad.

That’s life.

Good and bad.

The facts of life are not terribly difficult to understand – sh*t happens sometimes, but so does great stuff. Our greatest enemy is nature – we constantly fight it to keep dry, to keep warm, to keep fed.

Our greatest enemy is nature – we constantly fight it to keep dry, to keep warm, to keep fed. But it fights back and takes a massive toll in floods, landslides, sinkholes, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, and more besides.

Then there is the man-made stuff; bad stuff is not always “mother nature” or “the gods”; people can also wreak havoc: gunmen in schools, rapists, pillagers, suicide bombers, politicians, mentally unstable people and the angry and intolerant.

What happens is this – a natural disaster occurs and everyone goes on the media and social media to send thoughts and prayers. A fund may be set up. We come together, we rebuild. Life goes on.

Then when a bomb goes off, everyone goes on the media and social media to send thoughts and prayers. A fund may be set up. We come together, we stand defiant, we rebuild and life goes on.

The subtle difference between a natural event and a man-made event is that we feel we could somehow have prevented the man-made one happening.

But is that true?

Look, I have small children. I know they could get a virus, they could get injured, the could be attacked. We all know the possibilities, the risks. But I also know that they could have wonder, fun, and experience joy and happiness too and that I need to let them have their own life and stop being so over-protective. It’s the contrast between the lows and highs that adds the most drama.

What can y’do?

I totally understand people demanding that “something should be done” when bad things happen. I get the calls for change, for more checks and balances, for tighter security, for arming police – for a complete change in our way of life.

But I do not want that. Instead, I feel that it is not what happens as much as how one deals with what happens. How quickly things get back on course – back to “normal”. Of course, if something happened to my child, I would feel what any parent would – but I would not demand change. I would insist on the opposite.

Yes, I have come to terms with terrorism. I see it as a risk as much as any natural event.  I won’t take it personally. I accept the pain, the shame, the anguish, I feel for all survivors everywhere. I just think we all have to accept that sh*t happens and we cannot prevent it. It could be an earthquake, or it could be a terrorist. It doesn’t really matter which at the end of the day. It ought not to stop anyone living a life and making the best of it.

There is little point in calling for an eye for an eye or to fight fire with fire or to gnash teeth and wring hands. We have to push through the loss, the grief, the senselessness of life. That is all – nothing could have stopped it, no measures are air-tight, and who would wish to live in such an air-tight claustrophobic nanny state world (apart from terrorists, that is)?

Getting on with it is not an act of defiance or some show against terrorism, it is simply a fact of life. A knee-jerk reaction is never a good option. Why does anything have to change because of a weird event? Every base cannot be covered.

My call is to allow people to get on with dealing with life as best they can without undue and unhelpful interference or influence. Life’s hard enough.

Studio Equipment Arrived

After a bit of review-reading and netsearching, I decided to buy studio gear as a starter bundle.

For under £190, I got the Second Generation, just out, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB 2.0 audio interface, a studio-quality CM25 condenser microphone with stand adaptor, XLR cable and a pair of HP60 monitoring headphones.

scarlett

I picked the two inputs because I am not a band. I can jam with my wife, or I can do guitar and vocal, or double mic a combo. It’s perfect for my needs.

It came really quickly, and to be honest, I am not ready yet as Reaper still isn’t operational.

The Scarlett comes with free software – a free version of Pro Tools that doesn’t interface with the professional edition nor that makes mp3s. It does have plug-ins – and that’s not usually included with the free edition.

According to the reviews and forums, it’s a palava even downloading it all, registering and getting it operational.

I tested the headphones on my smartphone. They work great.

The Scarlett lights up when plugged into the USB of the laptop. However, I plugged in headphones and then the mic -twiddled the knobs. Not a peep.  I tried plugging a guitar in – same: nothing.

If I can get things working, I can begin my hobby and it would only cost me the bundle plus the licence for Reaper – all-in-all, about £200 – which is not bad at all.

However, at this stage I have some kit and some software, and nothing is working! I have spend a lot of time and effort getting nowhere fast!

So it’s back to the forums and user guide for a while.

The Runaway Wheelchair Story

Having to drive is a chore for me, especially recently – because my main client has offices in another city, so I am clocking up 130 km (80 mi) every day.

I have been spoiled by having clients in the recent past that have been close enough to walk or use public transport.

There are few garages around, so I depend on supermarket filling stations to get petrol, and because I need to stretch my legs, I often nip in to have a stroll about the aisles.

In ASDA, they have created a mezzanine level for electronics and clothes. You have to use a “travelator” thing – it’s like a normal escalator, just stretched out longer so you can take a shopping trolley up with you – the metal floor goes flat and somehow manages to lock the wheels of the trolley.

Strolling in through the automatic doors, I was confronted by a family of refugees blocking access to the “up travelator” – the children and husband/father seemed OK with the thing – but the mother figure was too scared to step onto the moving walkway. What a scene!

I managed to dodge around and got up to the mezzanine, but it was on the return trip that the real excitement happened.

Having had my stroll about the place, I was heading for the “down travelator”, when an old woman nipped in front of me. She was pushing a standard NHS wheelchair in which was sitting an even older lady. Onto the travelator they went, and I followed.

Then the fun started.

The wheelchair started down the slope – and the pusher was too old and infirm to be able to stop it! There was a boy further down the thing, and he saw what was about to happen – and screamed out!

It looked like the wheelchair was going to race down the ramp, hit him and accelerate off through the automatic doors into the car park…

This is when I made my move.

In a couple of bounds, I managed to grab the wheelchair handle on the left side, and struck out my foot to brake the left wheel. With the pulling of the other woman on the right, we managed to stop the wheelchair. I pulled hard and kicked to turn the chair to a bit of an angle into the side in case we couldn’t hold it still.

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“Thank You!” blurted the red-faced pusher as we slowly descended in high tension – holding on tight.

“I thought it was like the trolleys,” she continued. “I thought it would hold the chair!”

We reached the bottom, and parted company. I had hurt my knee, wrist and ankle, and hobbled out to the carpark, wondering what would could have happened, and how easy it was for wheelchairs to get onto these things.

It was only as I was driving away that I wondered how they had got up to the mezzanine in the first place.

 

The Christmas Story

I asked my daughter (10) and son (8) what Christmas was all about, and they got it all wrong.

At first, they struggled, waffling on about Santa, trees and gifts, but then they introduced religions.

“My friend Abdullah is not Christian, so they don’t have a tree, but they still have Christmas presents” offered my son.

“Chanukah or Hannukah is the Jewish Christmas” suggested my daughter. “So different religions just have different names for Christmas.”

My wife decided to chip in at this point: “Christmas is Christian, so what is it about then?”

I knew what she was driving at – she wanted them to tell the story of the Nativity, but it wasn’t working; and as they struggled, she began to get frustrated, so I thought I’d wrap it up – after all, I’m the Dad. I get to be the smart-alick.

I said to her, “Christmas is confusing for children because there is a lot of white noise obscuring the signal – the Christmas Tree has nothing to do with the Nativity, Santa is another one. If Christians don’t understand how it all fits together, how can children?”

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Nevertheless, she turned back to the children, “Jesus was born in a manger in a stable. There were three wise men who gave the baby gifts…”

Of course, the children were immediately reminded, and they picked it up and soon everyone was on the same page. Great. Except it wasn’t. Not for me anyway.

“That’s not what Christmas is all about at all!” I declared.

They stopped and looked at me.

“Christmas, the meaning of Christmas, the spirit of Christmas, is summed up in one book above all others.”  I had their attention.

My wife raised an eyebrow, “Go on then – what book is this?”

“Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ – otherwise known as ‘Scrooge’!”

She looked at me in disbelief. My son and daughter gleefully announced that they knew this story.

“Exactly. The story is not religious, but there is a superstitious device in the ghosts. It starts with Marley’s ghost, can you name the other ones?”

“The ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present and The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.” They chimed in unison.

“Very good. So before all the ghosts what was Scrooge like?”

“Oh, he was horrible, nasty and a bully” suggested my boy

“Yes, he was a selfish miser and only thought about money all the time.” said my daughter.

“That’s right, he was all of that and worse. But, at the end of the story, what was Scrooge like then?” I asked.

“Oh he was much nicer, Dad. He was kind and happy!” said the lad.

“He gave presents and time off and was generous and people stopped being scared of him” said my girl.

“Exactly!” I chimed, “You’ve got it! – That’s the point of Christmas, that sums it up perfectly. It’s all about generosity, kindness, love, compassion, companionship, sharing, giving gifts, feasting on delicious food using the best china, it’s not meant to be business as usual, it’s SPECIAL.”

“So it’s not about celebrating the birth of baby Jesus?” my daughter asked.

“Not really. I mean, to some people, yes it celebrates that, but other people of other religions don’t think like that. In fact some Christians get so het up that people seem to be missing what-they-see-as the real meaning of Christmas, that THEY miss the spirit of Christmas embodied in the story of Scrooge’s change.”

I think Christmas is about change, we’re all going to die eventually, so we ought to make the best of life while we can, even if it is only for one special day that we wear a paper crown and feast like a royal. Some years it will be fun, other years, not as much. We all have to deal with our own ghost of Christmas past, we can affect the present one and the future ones, so that’s the real meaning of Christmas for me, irrespective of beliefs or lack of them.

A look at a Christmas past may bring regrets if you don’t accept Christmas; it’s very difficult to avoid it every year, so you may as well take control. The film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” has a similar supernatural device (the angel, Clarence) to show a man what an impact he has had on his community when he himself thinks his past is meaningless and worthless, and considers suicide. Of course, everything is different (and much worse) without his contribution, but the bit that gets me, is when the spirit of Christmas brings the tears – when everyone rallies round in a wealth of generosity and love.

The Christmas message is not about religion, but about humanity and community. The inn keeper had no room for Mary and Joseph, but didn’t turn them away – they got a stable to spend the night. They weren’t expecting to have a baby in there, and they were not expecting a visit from oriental kings bearing gifts from afar. The Nativity is filled with humanity, kindness and generosity. The message is everywhere if you care to look – for example, John Lewis television commercials – the famous one of the ceasefire between the Brits and the Germans on Christmas Day, but also this year’s “Man on the Moon” – we ought to bear in mind those who are alone at Christmas, or forgotten about. So why not use Christmas to reach out, to bring cheer? Why not congratulate yourself for getting through another year?

So feast like a king, and welcome the Christmas Spirit into your heart you old Scrooge!

Am I right?