This technique of dealing with sexual harassment at work is something every woman needs to know about.
Although we know that we shouldn’t have to deal with inappropriate, lewd comments at work (or anywhere for that matter), it unfortunately doesn’t stop it happening. So, while we will continue to protest and educate against this behaviour, it’s also helpful to learn from each other on how to deal with situations like this when they arise.
Whether it’s a male colleague calling you a patronising, sexualised pet name in the office or straight up harassment, these scenarios are intimidating and difficult to deal with, causing many of us to freeze or laugh it off. But Twitter user and author Heather Thompson Day has shared a smart way of not only dealing with situations like this, but forcing the perpetrator to comprehend what they’ve said.
In a tweet that has since gone viral, Thompson Day recalled how when she was 19 she began working at a radio station. She describes how her 45-year-old “boss said I should be a phone sex operator and laughed.”
She continues: “I said ‘I don’t get it’
“’He said ‘it’s a joke.’ I said ‘explain it to me.’
She said that was how she “learned that once sexual harassers have to explain why their inappropriate jokes are funny, they stop laughing”.
Thompson Day replied to her thread to explain that it was her dad who equipped her with the technique, which forces the person who has made the ‘joke’ to really think about what they’re saying and hopefully embarrass them at the same time.
She wrote: “My dad just told me ‘never laugh. They will mistake your nervous laughter as compliance. Instead, pretend you don’t get it, and watch them explain to you why you should be laughing.’ I’ve used this advice my whole life since.”
The story and the brilliant advice has struck a chord with hundreds of women on Twitter who have been sharing their own stories, proving the prevalence of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.
One Twitter user said: “When I was 19 my boss constantly made gross comments to me. In front of his wife sometimes too. She wouldn’t say anything but she looked uncomfortable too. Like one day I wore a ribbon in my hair and he said ‘I bet you were a sexy cheerleader in High School weren’t you?’ He was 40.”
Another tweeted: “I have a friend who was fired for not ‘being a team player’ after complaining about a male co-worker who was joking about rape. She didn’t/couldn’t take it further because her mom was the only other female employee and she didn’t want to cause her trouble or get her fired.”
Some women who are already au fait with the technique used by Thompson Day shared the instances in which they’ve used it, too.
“A CLIENT told me I have a stripper name. Sarah. I didn’t laugh and looked intentionally puzzled,” said one Twitter user.
But we particularly liked this tweet, which provides another incredibly effective tactic for showing men how unacceptable inappropriate behaviour is: “Excellent. I was around 19 when a boss said something over the top and I replied with ‘I’m going to put that in my log’ and he said ‘what log?’ And I said ‘my harassment log. I write it all down’. And then it all just sort of stopped and I found out he didn’t sleep for 3 days.”
Although it is often, very understandably, instinctive to us to brush over something that makes us feel uncomfortable, these techniques shine a light on why this behaviour is absolutely not OK. By asking someone to explain why sexual harassment is funny you are showing them that there is nothing comical in what they’ve said, and hopefully will discourage them from doing it again. Plus, reversing the uncomfortable-ness of the situation and watching it play out on their face is sure to be satisfying.