Almost every woman at some point in their lives has felt sexually harassed. Whether it's being cat called in the street or being inappropriately touched in a nightclub, it seems women cannot escape it. It has got to the point that every time I leave the house, I expect sexual comments to be made about me, but it doesn't mean I'm ok with it. But these types of comments can be made anywhere, even when I'm trying to do my job.
Working in the catering industry is a very demanding job, I come across all different kinds of people every day. Most of them are pleasant enough, but on occasion there's that idiot who thinks it's a good idea to try and hit on me whilst I'm working.
You know the type, he has that look in his eye as you approach him where you just know that he is going to say something to you, and you know it's going to make you feel uncomfortable. It might not be anything much, it might even be something as simple as "Hey, beautiful." Which they think is a compliment, but to me it definitely isn't. What makes it even worse it that they look at me like I'm a piece of meat. But I am so much more than that.
I started working at my job when I was 16-years-old. In my first year, I experienced no end of comments such as "you're a pretty little thing, aren't you?", "damn, how old are you? I would like to make you breakfast in the morning." And "what time do you finish? I'd like to take you out."
Some were made by men at least 10 years older than me.
My entire body would freeze and those uncomfortable shivers would run down my spine. I was an introverted and quiet 16 year old who had never experienced these types of comments to this extent before, especially in a place where I expected to feel safe. But all I felt was violated and targeted and I had no idea how to respond other than turning red in the face.
But I pushed through it; I ignored the comments and carried on doing my job. And now, three years later, I have been asked out on numerous dates and been asked multiple times to slip my number to older guys, all whilst I was working. Every time they receive the same answer: an eye roll and a stern "no." and every time, 'no' isn't enough. They would always ask "Why?" and assume I must be in a relationship to not accept a date while I'm at work because there had to be a reason behind my rejection.
The reason is that I don't work here to be asked out by guys. I come here to earn money and I shouldn't have to listen to this type of harassment. I am not opposed to a compliment said with a friendly smile, but I hate the way you bite your lip and look me up and down as you say it. Trust me, in my head I've already punched you at least five times.
There was this one incident where a man in his thirties looked at me in surprise as I gave him his food and he said "You're way too pretty to be working here."
I looked at him in shock, completely speechless. All I could do was laugh awkwardly and carry on with my job. But the comment stayed with me throughout the day. I know this man meant it as a compliment, but I couldn't help but feel slightly insulted.
What did my looks have to do with my work? Since when did someone's appearance determine what type of job they should do? Where did the assumption come from that people who work in the catering industry are not attractive?
Like most of the staff at my work, I'm trying to pay my way through my education. I'm not here for you to judge me based on my appearance, and I shouldn't be made to feel like an object when I'm just trying to earn some money.
You do not own me just because I'm serving you.
In an ideal world, stuff like this wouldn't be happening. I know that might be too much to ask, no one can control what people say. Just respect the staff of the places you visit. Stop harassing them if they are clearly not interested, and for the love of God leave the 16-year-olds alone, making them uncomfortable is far from a joke. Respect the staff.
That isn't too much to ask.