team adria

So I’m sitting in a classroom with a bunch of other jaded, disheartened job seekers, con artists, time killers, etc., attending a job training program/babysitting program for those of us who are collecting a public assistance check from the government.

I’m not supposed to be here. I only wanted food stamps. I knew the rigamarole that came with getting a full public assistance package, and I thought I could travel lighter and quicker by only applying for food stamps. Except I met a lazy worker at the office who was looking for any excuse not to process my application, and she found one: you live in a shelter, therefore, you are required to get the whole shebang.

And I knew it was a lie when she told me that. But I pictured how much time it was going to take me to figure out the bureaucracy such that I could get what I wanted and I figured that doing what she said was going to cost me less time in the long run. Besides, I thought, I’d be off the assistance fairly soon. This was New York. I had skills and in a pinch, I’d go work at McDonald’s if I had to.

Of course I was wrong about how much time I was going to lose. If you were collecting “benefits”, you had to attend a job training program Monday through Friday, from 9am to around 3pm. There were a number of agencies providing the city job training programs for their citizens on the dole.

When I say job training program, do you get a picture of adults dressed in suits, practicing interviewing skills at clean desks, or sitting at computers polishing their resumes? Let’s take those distortion glasses off and put some reality lenses in. Picture what an inner city high school class looks and sounds like. Now, degrade those conditions a bit. Now imagine those kids in a sexual education class. Yeah, I think you’ve got it now.

Only, this isn’t a sexual education class because, ostensibly, we’re job hunting. This is a class on sexual harassment. Of course, this being that type of job training program, the conversation takes a turn when one of the women starts talking about performing in an adult movie, giving details about her performance. Or maybe she was only giving details about her not-so-intimate life which sounded like the plot of an adult movie.

The instructors mentioned the inappropriateness of the conversation a few times, then they gave up. It was that kind of place. (On an unrelated note, I ran into that woman at the shelter I was staying in. Turns out she had started that conversation hoping that one of the guys would offer her a place to stay. None of them had. Most of those guys were probably in shelters or staying with relatives, and in no position to offer much of anything.)

But I digress.

Before all hell broke loose when the conversation turned into a potential lawsuit, there had actually been some discussion about sexual harassment was and what it wasn’t. I remember that one of the guys — let’s call him Al — was highly agitated about super-sensitive women who were so uptight that they wouldn’t even respond when a man just said “hello”. ”A guy is just being friendly and a woman can’t even say hello?” was the gist of his argument.

We went round and round on this because Al really seemed unable to get that women weren’t under any obligation to give any guy the time of day, much less return a greeting; that most women can tell the difference between a friendly “hello” or “good morning” and a greeting attached to other motives … You know, I’m remembering the discussion and it feels stupid to even type out these reasons when everybody knows the hello game.

He abandoned his argument completely when the hypothetical situation was put to him of a homosexual man saying “good morning” to him. He abandoned his argument, turning five shades darker and apoplectically proclaiming he would never say good morning to a gay man, even if the guy was only being friendly.

Men can be so super-sensitive about the smallest things.

So Adria Richards outs two men behaving badly by taking their picture and posting it to Twitter when the men engaged in sexual jokes in the row behind her at a tech conference. One of the men was fired. There was an incredible backlash against Adria and her employer SendGrid, and SendGrid fired Adria. And the talking continues.

I’m on Adria’s side. Because it’s fairly obvious to me that men get it. What men would never put up with themselves, they seem only too happy to dump on others, always insisting that the receiver is the one with the problem if the receiver isn’t enjoying or tolerating being dumped on.

Guys aren’t confused, they know what’s appropriate and they prefer being inappropriate. And they want minimal consequences for acting inappropriately. Getting fired isn’t on the minimal consequences list. Having your picture posted on the internet isn’t on the minimal consequences list. And if what many people consider a light sexual pun can get you fired, what about those people practicing behaviors which passed that level a long time ago? What kind of consequences can they expect? What a scary thought for the guy who likes to give friendly pats on the derriere.

There was another conversation that occurred in that sexual harassment class (before the potential lawsuit conversation). We were given some scenarios and asked our opinion of whether or not sexual harassment was taking place. I don’t remember the exact details of this particular scenario, but it went something along the lines of: the workers of a company regularly gather in the morning to discuss work and talk freely, and the conversation includes plenty of off-color remarks. A new guy is hired who happens to be gay. Being a worker, he is expected to participate in the meetings. If the off-color conversation includes references to homosexuality, is that sexual harassment?

One of the guys in the class — come to think of it, it was Al — was adamant that the off-color conversation was not sexual harassment because the practice had been in place way before the new guy got there. I get the feeling that Al saw it as: we did it this way before the new guy came, therefore, it’s a tradition that the new guy has to put up with. And maybe that’s just how a lot guys see it: hey, we were jerks before you got here, so we don’t have to change, you do.

If that’s true, that could explain why a lot of husbands defer to wives when it comes to decorating. They’re playing by the same rules of I don’t get a vote here. Maybe I get a man cave and/or a garage, but that’s it.

And women easily even go into another person’s house and don’t mind a bit making suggestions about moving things around. For women, it’s less about what was in place before they got there, and more about how to make it work better for everyone. (And, no, the singing fish above the couch isn’t there for everyone, it’s for you, and that’s why you keep losing that argument.)

Personally, I think I can take a dongle joke. That said, if I have a choice between having to listen to dongle jokes from men like Al in addition to good guy friends or just not hearing them at all, I’m going to vote that I just don’t hear them at all. There are too many Al’s out there.

14. April 2013 by sojourner hardeman
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