Harassment is something that women have dealt with for as long as there have been women…so forever. Men making crude remarks, being subjected to crass behavior down to actual physical assault. It’s a horrible thing. And lesbian women are not immune to it either. Except there is a side of it that a lot of folks don’t know or understand.
The number of lesbian women in the workforce who are sexually harassed by other women is pretty staggering. Seemingly straight, heterosexual woman who will make lesbian women feel uncomfortable or unsafe is such a hidden thing. Because no one suspects them of even leaning that way or being interested in another woman.
But it happens. And as with any case of sexual harassment it can make life difficult for the harassed. Especially when these actions come from a superior.
For masculine of center lesbians like myself, it’s not hard for most people to assume that we are lesbian. The way we dress, our mannerisms…pretty typical of what most people assume a MOC lesbian to be. So it is much easier to be that target.
Recently a friend of mine who is also MOC told me what was going on with her at work and how stressed she was until she finally took action. Her female supervisor was making advances toward her and being very inappropriate. Her co-workers had started to help her basically hide from this women when she came around which lead to her being told that she was not in her work area enough when said supervisor came around looking for her. She was fearful that she would be reprimanded and possibly lose her job because she was attempting to stay away from this woman and her advances.
A horrible situation to be in for any woman.
The other harassment that MOC women tend to find themselves the victim of is from men who are “threatened” by them. Someone can be simply doing their job and because they excel at it their male counterpart starts to feel some sort of way. Now this happens to women across the board, but for MOC women the path that it may take differs greatly. There aren’t men in the boardroom calling us “Sweetie” or “Honey” trying to take something from us. These men truly feeling their manhood threatened.
I know someone who is currently dealing with a situation like this. The way the harassment is going is through degradation so to speak. Even the smallest mistake is being pointed out to superiors. Mistakes like a typo, being reported to a manager. Returning from lunch a minute late, reported. Even to the point of issues that have nothing to do with this individual being reported so that it looks like they may have had a part in it. Tiring and childish antics in the workplace because some man can’t take a woman who isn’t wearing a skirt and makeup is doing just as good, if not better, than him.
What do we do?
Well in both situations the problem was taken to management. It wasn’t easy because it exposes a very personal aspect of your life. One that should not be a factor in the work place. When you are lesbian, sexual harassment is just a bit more. Being a woman who is harassed is “normal”, being a lesbian woman being harassed opens up a whole new can of worms for everyone. People will battle for the aggressor because “she isn’t like that” or “well she isn’t gay so you must be wrong”. Not only do you have to prove the harassment took place but that it did in fact come from this straight woman who everyone thinks is not like that.
With male dominance harassment the individual who reported it was forced to start keeping documentation of EVERYTHING they did. From when they left for lunch, when they updated a document and any anomalies they encountered in systems so that nothing could be blamed on them. Making their already busy and detail oriented job that much more difficult.
Harassment of any kind is horrible. For those of us who are lesbian MOC it enters in to a realm of bizarreness unheard of by some.