Friday, August 11, 2006


I work in an all male environment - a construction company.

I snapped at work yesterday because:

There is an Asian architect working on this specific project with us, except he sucks at everything having to do with architecture. His plans are always wrong, measurements are off, title blocks are misspelled, they're always arriving late... you name it. And on top of all that, he's even more frustrating to work with because you can never understand what he's trying to say - he has a thick Asian accent and he talks super fast. Yeah, we're NEVER going to get a project completion stamp on this one at this rate. This project was slated a 6 month remodel. We're going on month 15. I don't know how we're ever going to stick to this schedule if these fucking architects keep sending us wrong plans. I'm tired of this fucking project.

Anyhow, my office is always making fun of this guy. We aren't rude or evil or anything. We just start poking fun at how lame he is because we're so frustrated with this project. This architect has made a few really random, weird, but awkwardly funny comments to me before. The first was about me giving him a back-rub or some shit. So the guys haven't been able to forget about that one. He's already weird without that comment, and now this is just egging them on more. But a few weeks ago, the architect made another comment about me giving him a kiss or something. I think he just mixed up his words and it came out sounding that way, but that's not what he meant. The guys in the office know it was a communication gap kind of slip-up, but still, they sure do love to bring that one up, too.

One coworker in particular, "Bob," gets unbelievably irritated with this architect. Bob has to work with him the most on plans, dimensions, room allowances, etc., and he's the one guy who pokes the most fun by imitating this architect's comments to me. And yesterday, Bob started to do this right in front of the architect, as he was talking to him. After the design team left the office to continue their meeting elsewhere, a few of the guys started to laugh about what Bob just did, knowing it wasn't cool... but it was still funny.

I was laughing, too. It was a funny situation. You had to be there. But then I got really irritated when they wouldn't stop with the sexual innuendos between this architect and me. And there were a few guys in the office at the time that we've hired to do different parts of this remodel, guys that aren't with the company I work for. So when everyone started to feed off of each other at my expense, I snapped at Bob.

I wasn't yelling or livid or anything like that. I was just getting very short and irritated, and Bob could tell. "Take it easy, there. Jeez. You don't have to get all bent..."

And that pissed me off because Bob said something about me being too sensitive the other day. I didn't care because he doesn't know why I react the way I do. In reality, according to how little he knows about me, I am sensitive. But what really started to bother me about him is how he uses "rape" so casually. For example, if talking about sports: "Man, the Heat raped the Lakers last night!" I don't like that he uses the word like that. I hate hearing that word. Especially when it's tossed around so casually. It's not a casual word. There's nothing casual about it. It's dangerous.

My response: "I don't care what you say, just don't say it in front of everyone. Just don't say that shit right in front of him because then he's going to think it's okay to keep saying things like that. And I don't want that. And all of you guys laughing makes it look like it's okay. And it's not. There's a reason certain shit bugs me." I guess this was the last straw for me at work in general.

I couldn't believe how pissed I was. I wanted to seriously just walk off that job and never return. This is my daily struggle. I work with dudes all day long, and NONE of them can ever understand how hard it can get sometimes - being a rape survivor working on a construction job site. Especially if I have a sleepless night with nightmares... the last thing I want to do is be surrounded by 70-80 dudes coming at me because they all need something. I hate Life on those days. It feels like I'm working with/for the enemy.

Luckily, right after I told Bob to (basically) shut the fuck up, our printer called with my order. No one could deliver so I needed to drive downtown to pick up. Thank God.

I was very troubled while driving to and from the printer. Bob and I are pretty cool. He's like a big brother. In fact, all of the guys are like my big brothers. So I felt really troubled that I know these guys so well and they don't know the one thing about me they need to know. And they need to know about my rape for two reasons: (1) They need to be more appropriate and sensitive in certain situations. There's a time and place for everything. This is the bottom line (in my opinion): I'm the only woman on that job site. I should be respected, considering I run that fucking office for these fuckers. They should not egg each other on with sexual innuendos involving me and other guys working on this job - especially in front of the designers and architects. I'm sorry, but that's just not cool, especially since I already feel like a piece of meat on this job site. And (2) I think I can teach these guys something. I don't know what it is quite yet. But a little knowledge never hurt anyone.

So I picked up my print job and reluctantly drove back to work. I was hoping it wasn't going to be awkward. I was already thinking about calling in sick today. It was fine. There was a little break of time when everyone left the office except for Bob and I. I broke it down for him:

"Okay. Listen. The reason certain shit bugs me is because I was raped." And then I explained how on the days when I'm sometimes really out of it, when they tease me about being hungover or cranky, it's because I've had a really hard night with nightmares of it happening over and over again. "Then, to come into work where I'm surrounded by nothing but men all day long... it's real hard sometimes. It takes a lot for me to get bent out of shape, and I love joking around. But i just don't like that stuff being said in front of everyone."

"Wow," Bob said. "You sure picked a hell of a job."

"Yeah, I know. It's sometimes real crazy for me that I work here. I'm lucky that everyone's so great, but sometimes stuff like that just isn't cool." Bob apologized and said he'll be better. He asked me when I was raped.

"I had my suspicions about it."

"What do you mean?"

"Just from you talking about all this fundraiser and non-profit stuff you're doing. It's not a big deal to the guys... They're not going to care or anything. I mean, I'm sure it's a big deal to you, but it's okay to let the other guys know if you want."

"I know. I have no doubt that everyone has their 'suspicions' about it happening, but I just don't want to say anything yet. I know they're not going to care, especially since I'm sure you guys already kind of knew anyway, but I just don't think I need to really say anything about it."

"You're not ready to come out of the closet yet, huh?"

"I don't know if it's even that. I just don't feel like it. I will eventually, I don't know..."

"Okay. I mean, of course I'm not going to say anything, but okay."

And that was it. I was kind of bugged the rest of the afternoon by all of this. I was weirded out that I told my coworker I was raped. But I reached my limit with his jokes. I had to say something. I've been wanting to let these guys know that there are certain things that do make me uncomfortable. Not in a bad way. Not in a personal way. It's just how certain things make me feel now. I'm not mad at them or believe they're mean or anything... I'm still getting to know all the ways my rape changed my life. Communicating with men is a huge struggle for me... I can't believe I told Bob to shut the fuck up, but in a very polite, cool and no-drama kind of way.

I guess I am moving forward by finally learning how to face my fears... a few years ago, I would've just quit this job and forgotten about it.

Maybe the worst is really over. Maybe I just had to experience all of the bad stuff from the time I was born until now. And from here on out, all I have left is really good stuff. It has to be that way because it has to even out in the end... you have to go through the bad to get to the good.


Blogger survivor said...

I am SO proud of you for telling "Bob" and setting boundaries for yourself. That took so much courage and strength, I'm in awe!!

I hope that was a really helpful healing experience for you. ((((hugs))))

8/21/2006 5:22 AM  
Blogger Marj aka Thriver said...

Yeah, I've been hearing about people using the word "rape" casually for all sorts of things these days. It's just gross. I'm so proud of you, too. Very assertive! Good job! If anyone tells me I'm "too sensitive" about stuff like that I just say, "Yes I AM sensitive about it. Maybe we wouldn't have one in three girls being sexually assaulted by the time they turn 18 in this country if more people were more sensitive about it."

8/23/2006 4:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Copyright 2006 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing and photocopying, recording or by any other information storage or retrievel system, without permission in writing from the publisher.