“Sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t really a thing if it’s a customer, not a colleague”

I’m going to keep this short (and decidedly not sweet), as the images speak for themselves. And I’ve been dithering and worrying about whether to even make this post at all, and have landed on yes. I should. Yes, it’s important and necessary to document an experience like this in order to protect myself. And yes, it’s important to highlight a mentality of entitlement that far too many have if somebody is merely ‘friendly’ towards them.

To give a little context:

I’m the manager and a teacher in a private language school, teaching adults, in Koh Samui, I am friends with many of my students, and on friendly terms with others. My teaching style is one of mutual respect, and of creating a fun, social atmosphere in the classroom.

During a recent social, a student of the school made some pretty inappropriate comments. Nothing big. A couple of “babys”. And some uncomfortable, too-long eye contact. Nothing I couldn’t shrug off with a laugh and a “please don’t call me that again, I’m serious!” Obviously, it fell on deaf ears…

UGH

Worryingly, my friendly persona at work, is giving signs. My eye contact. A sign. My body language. A sign. Me telling him to back off, a sign. Really? It’s my job to be approachable, to be a listener and advice-giver. I’m a teacher. But, that is all irrelevant as I’m a pretty friendly personality anyway, job or no.

And, amongst the niceties and support, through this uncomfortable experience I have heard “you’re not strong enough, this is why this happens to you!” to “there’s often a fine line between playing hard to get and not being interested”, and “it’s probably just a language barrier or a culture thing”… oh and my very favourite: “there’s nothing we can really do about it because he’s a customer and not your colleague”.

I don’t feel vulnerable anymore. Actually, I feel pretty strong. In control of myself. And supported. But there was one point in this whole experience, where I lay awake at night, and felt sick, and vulnerable. His degradation of ‘little girl’ got to me so much, I was exhausted at work the next day from lack of sleep.

I’m so lucky to be in charge of my workplace, have my colleagues around me, that I feel safe even if he does come to class. I’m happy that I’m able to continue with my week without thinking about it so much. But, this entitlement to the female body is ultimately fatal to many women around the world: stabbed for saying no to a prom date, shot because they dared not to notice somebody.

No, we do not ‘deserve what happens to us’, nor should we feel like saying yes, feel like being polite just because we’re scared of getting hurt. I’m 22, I’ve been through this a thousand times, and I’m still fake smiling because I’ve been socially conditioned to think that saying no is rude. Today, I’m over it.

baby

Is this too victimizing? Sorry Max, you just gave me all the ‘signs’ you wanted this to be plastered all over the internet.

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3 Comments

  1. Sadly, this is something I’ve witnessed (and experienced) so often when I was still living/working in South East Asia. Boundaries and respect are almost non existent. I hope that your situation has improved, even if only with this specific individual. All the best.

  2. This guy makes me sick! I can’t express the horror I fell when I think about how woman are viewed as less than people. I’m sorry you had to deal with this my darling! Keep strong you amazing woman you.

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