I have an article for today that is nearly finished, but something just happened that got under my skin, so I want to talk about it instead. You see me at my best, now here I am pissed off.
Ok. I am not young, I’m 51, so I have a pretty good handle on how to deal with nonsense of all kinds, how to slap it down hard if necessary, and how to, as my dad would say, “consider the source.” My days of worrying about unwanted advances are behind me, I thought.
I’m unemployed so I’m signed up with the usual suspects, Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. These are professional job boards. There’s a social aspect to them as well, but people are there to get connections and find work, get better opportunities, that sort of thing. So when I get a connection request on LinkedIn, I always take it, you never know what might lead to a job.
So shortly after I accepted one, I got a message.
“Hi.” Oddly uninformative but ok.
I replied, “Hello, how are you?”
“Are you at work?” Odd.
“I’m not working right now, I’m home writing.” I answered reflexively, even though I was feeling uneasy, because I thought it would be rude not to. Clearly, I have more work to do.
“What do you write?”
Now I did listen to that inner voice. He did not introduce himself, “are you at work” was abrupt, I just had an uneasy feeling. In context his next comment was a logical question, “what do you write,” but it made me give my laptop the side-eye. Put together, this all seemed off.
“Can I ask how I know you?”
“You don’t, I asked to connect. I’m xxxx. I’m just looking to socialize plus you are beautiful.”
Pardon my French but, oh fuck no.
I replied that this is putting up alarms for me, LinkedIn is not a dating site, I am not interested, and removed the connection. That’s all well and good; I was firm, had my boundary and enforced it. But the very next thing I did is turn to Chris and say, “Maybe I should change my profile picture. Is it sending the wrong message? I wanted to look friendly for employers to see that side…”
“There is not a damn thing wrong with that picture. Are you going to change it to something less attractive because of one man?”
I cannot believe it even crossed my mind. I’m so disgusted I was about to give him power over me. Which is what it would have been, power over how I choose to present myself. I love my profile picture, it was taken in the garden of a beautiful Victorian in the Haight. I look happy, my unpredictable hair was cooperating, I think it looks nice.
But this one man made me second guess it, made me wonder if I brought this on myself for smiling in a picture. Do you know what I would say to a woman who told me that? “Are you kidding me? Don’t give him that power! You have total agency over your body, you don’t owe anyone anything!” But I did not say that to myself. I worried for a few minutes, I considered changing my photo to something stiffer, in a blazer, an uber-professional no-teeth smile. You know, a picture that doesn’t look like me at all.
So many flashbacks. “Hey baby, gimme a smile. Fine then don’t bitch.” “I’m just trying to be nice, you don’t have to be so uptight.” “If you didn’t want the attention why’d you dress like that?”
I did not expect to still have to deal with this idiocy at my age. I did not expect to have to deal with this idiocy on a professional job board. And I did not expect this idiocy to still knock me for a loop. I’m not as self-possessed as I thought. That’s a bad realization.
Shortly after this, I got another connect request, another man trying to flirt. Now I will not accept any connections without mutual friends and a note from their mother. This is sad, because who knows, that one random person may have found my profile and said, “Say, let’s hire her and give her legal currency.”
Ladies, I want to be clear. I am not talking about all men. Please recall that the one who pointed out that there was nothing wrong with my photo and that I should not take it down was my husband. I have no men like these in my life, not one.
Gentlemen, if you don’t pull this kind of crap, I’m not talking about you. If you respect women and the concept of boundaries, then I am not talking about you.
If you are reading this saying “I don’t get it. What’s the problem?” then I am, most definitely, talking about you.
This is really more of a rant I suppose, but it just happened, it’s fresh in my mind, and I think it is worth visiting. We have to put up with this bullshit all of our lives, we have to learn to wear armor and how to respond or not, how to walk down the street and not look like a victim. We have to learn how to respect our bodies, and not respond the way women are trained to. We have to learn that it is not our fault, that we are not responsible for the thoughts and actions of another, and that we have every right to firmly say no, and if that is not accepted, to be more forceful and absolutely clear, no means no.
It never occurred to me I would have to deal with this on a job board. It simply never entered my mind. I thought that adults would behave like adults, but I was incorrect, and now this is just one more place where I have to keep my guard up.
One last thing, ladies, if a man is making you uncomfortable, if you are in person and he says something that hits you wrong, trust your voice and get away. You do not owe him anything.
Trust your voice, use your voice, get up, get out.
You are worth everything, and you have the right to say…oh fuck no.
Note: I used the cisgender words “Ladies” and “Gentlemen” for the sake of a narrative, I mean no offense to my LGBT or non-binary readers. It’s the next day, my head is clearer, and I realized that could also hit a button. I see you.