Thursday, May 01, 2008

I am stinking mad

I was over in another lab picking up samples, which involved searching through three large disorganized freezers. I went through all three twice before I found everything I needed.

That's not why I'm mad.

The guy who works in that lab is a pig. I always thought he was a tolerable pig, the freezers are all named after porn stars, but he left me alone, only teased the girls who went along with his sexist jokes, and was pleasantly big-brotherly to a young woman he supervises. I'll call her X. As I was rooting through the freezers, conversation fell to fuel prices, how much we each pay to fill up our cars, and what mileage they get. X drives a German car, and gets TERRIBLE mileage, worse than any of us expected to hear from that car, we all paused to marvel at how much she must be spending on gas. Then the pig chuckles to himself and says to another guy in the room "Heh, X is getting raped". Pig #2 chuckles back and says "is that a prediction...?"

I don't know if X heard. She was on the other side of the room, and it's a noisy room. I heard.

Did I call them on it? Did I tell them to apologize to X and myself, and to imagine how they'd feel if they heard some guys joking about their sister, mother or partner being raped?

No. I bit my tongue and kept looking for my samples. I fought down a panic attack. I wanted to cry, I wanted to cry, to scream, to give him just an inkling of the level of pain caused by an offhand remark on that subject, but I could not let him see he'd actually affected me. I ran through scenarios in my head: could I complain to their boss? My boss? Would it change anything? I don't know. It's one isolated incident, it would mean creating a big stink when I don't even have to work around the pig. X does, she's exposed to misogynist girls-gone-wild crap all the time in that room, and evidently, the occasional jest about her potential violation.

These guys should be made to watch documentaries about survivors of sexual abuse. They need to realize that, with this behaviour, they are part of the machine that chews women up and spits them out all over the world. It makes me sick that for all my feminist viewpoints, when it came down to it, I bit my tongue and got on with my work. I'm honestly not sure if I'm picking my battles with this, or just chickening out on my principals.


Stace said...

Sometimes you have to back down... when you weigh it up, there's the possiblity it really wasn't intended to cause offense and was just a joke... it may have been a "macho" thing that he only said because there was another guy there... reporting it could possibly kick up a bigger stink than the incident itself. I'm certainly not saying it's right, or trying to make excuses for this guy, but sometimes it just isn't worth making a big deal of something. I would suggest that if something similarly offensive occurs again, report both incidents then.

Isabelle said...

I agree with Stace. It may be that he felt the inappropriateness of what he said himself. I wouldn't make a thing of it unless it happens again. Maybe write it down somewhere so that you can quote date and time if it ever comes to it; then try to forget it.