Women in the Work Force: Quit or Throw a Shit Fit?

March 9, 2009 § 2 Comments

Today, I found myself reading a puzzling article about women in the work force. The author, Laurie Ruettimann, claims that the best way for women to make a statement about sexual harassment in the work force is to quit if they’ve been subjected to inappropriate behaviors. Raising a fuss, she says, will only expose the abused woman to damaging and insulting inquiries from HR:

Your HR representative is tasked with moving quickly to protect the organization’s image, and the system for investigating the claim of harassment is callous. The goal of a harassment investigation is to establish blame and shift liability away from your employer. The burden of proof falls on your shoulders. Rather than asking how you want the situation to be resolved, Human Resources is primarily concerned with determining if you are lying or telling the truth. Even though you are a victim and your HR rep may sympathize, your feelings will only be addressed to the extent that it protects the company.

Yeah, you’re right, victim blaming does really suck, and it must be really, really hard to face that kind of bullshit when you’re just trying to do the right thing and get a creepy person out of your life. But just because HR can be big and scary does not mean that you should just give up on the situation if you feel in your heart that it’s worth the fight. 

Ruettimann claims that quitting the job is the most courageous and active move a woman can make, which I have a hard time believing. It seems like it would reinforce the terrible trend of women not reporting abuse, but perhaps more importantly, it’s not a viable option for a woman who is struggling to support herself or a family. People need to hold tight to their jobs in this economy, and I think it’s important for abused women to know that they don’t have to move jobs OR put up with abuse in the workplace. Pushing for that middle ground — a sensitive, productive HR inquiry –is the most active thing we can do. 

I also have an issue with how Ruettimann characterizes perps. “If your employer hires…someone who thinks it’s okay to treat you like a second-class citizen, that means your company is already broken,” she says. I think it’s problematic to assume that all perps are clearly creepy people. Brilliant, Harvard grads can be abusive co-workers. Men, women, and transpeople can be perps. Black, white, Hispanic, and Asian people can participate in inappropriate behaviors. And unless someone has a criminal record from previous instances of reported abuse, the employer simply won’t know that they have an asshole on staff. That is, until someone reports their abusive behaviors. Perps don’t walk around with their privates hanging out (well, mostly). It would be great if it were that easy to recognize a creeper, but that’s not the way things work, especially in the corporate workforce. 

My two cents on abuse in the workforce: throw a fucking shit fit. If your company doesn’t pull out all the stops to make you feel safe on company time, THAT’s when you quit. When it’s clear that you’re working for, not just with, fucking pigs. But I also recognize that abuse can change your whole mindset. I don’t wish to criticize women who have left their unsafe workplaces, I just want to point out that there is a feasible course of action that, in my opinion, would really expel abusive behavior from the workplace. 

But what do you think?

§ 2 Responses to Women in the Work Force: Quit or Throw a Shit Fit?

  • wavingcat says:

    I agree with you, but… My experience of this was (and continues to be) extremely traumatic. And although I got a huge payout, it doesn’t make up for what happened or the fact that harassment continued after I reported the initial incident. In hindsight I don’t think my mental health was worth the fight.

    If I had just left, yes, I would be bitter and probably think that I’d let myself down by letting him get away with it.

    Instead I’m now bitter, can’t bring myself to trust male collegues (particularly men in suits), have suffered a breakdown, still have chronic insomnia, spent the money wildly (bad judgment as a result of the breakdown) and have none left and HE still has his job.

    I have a job, and I enjoy it mostly. But it’s not the high powered government policy job I used to have, I couldn’t cope with that. It’s in a small office being PA for a friend. I’m struggling with it because I’m the only female and I’m expected to do all the girl jobs, but I’m too intimidated to deal with it so the boys keep getting away with it.

    I don’t think I’m better off for having fought and won. I earn less, I not mentally healthy and I have a crap job.

    I wish I’d walked away much earlier.

  • gingerlady says:

    wavingcat, thank you so much for sharing your unique perspective. first off, let me just say that i am so sorry that you have to deal with harassment and and intimidation.
    i totally respect your struggle, and for your sake, i wish you had quit earlier too! this is ultimately an entirely personal issue, and if you think that leaving earlier would have prevented your neuroses, then i am all for that strategy.
    i guess what i just wanted to dispel with this post is the idea that there is ONE way to conduct yourself in that kind of situation. all people are different, and all people are at different points in their life in terms of financial security. these reasons, and many more, can make switching jobs in the face of harassment a good idea OR a bad idea.
    thanks again for sharing your story on women’s glib. i wish you the best of look at your new job and in whatever else you choose to pursue!

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