No, not the Ricky Gervais series, although that was genius, my office where I work two days a week. It’s nice to have some company for those two days while having my own space at home the other two days.
Our office of (mainly) three people is a pretty nice place to work. We listen to Radio 2 and we like to moan about stuff they report or the topics that Jeremy Vine discusses at lunchtimes. One of my bosses, N, calls a spade a spade and if he disagrees with something he will make it very clear. I don’t always agree with what he says, but he is entitled to his opinions and I know where I stand with him. He is straightforward and he doesn’t try to hide that he is a tiny bit sexist and just, well, not completely PC. It’s nice though, because they don’t care if I am a bit grumpy – they don’t even notice most of the time and they certainly don’t assume that I am in a mood with them. (When I worked in a predominantly female office in a building society it was impossible to have an off day without offending someone or someone assuming you had the hump with them about something.) They don’t expect me to make the drinks, in fact I get more offers of coffee when I am in the office than when K is working from home with me. I feel valued (most of the time) and am made to feel that I do a good job.
I have been very lucky with bosses over the years. They have all been men, with the exception of two, and they have all wanted me to progress, to do well, always made me feel appreciated and a worthy member of the team. The two women I have worked for were very different. I distinctly remember one saying to me, after I was asked my opinion by another member of staff, “It’s early days, don’t try to run before you can walk”. And another who did her utmost to keep me in my place – sending me on pointless errands that ended up with me being humiliated in front of another member of staff; asking me to make calls that she didn’t want to make; insisting on being in any meeting I was invited to (even if she wasn’t involved in the project).
With the exception of one, I have always found men to be the easiest people to work with. When I worked for a large coffee company back in the 90’s I far preferred being sent to sort out a technical issue in the all male warehouse than the all female telesales department. The guys in the warehouse were goodnatured, friendly and above all straight-talking. Walking into the telesales department was a different matter altogether. I never knew what sort of reception I would find and would always leave feeling like they were going to talk about me the minute I left the room (this was justified, it wasn’t paranoia). As for the one exception, he was a sexist pig. He used to call me to his office to sort out a technical issue, knowing I would probably have to clamber around under his desk to check cables, etc. whilst he sat as close as possible, watching me. This was back in the days when women were expected to wear skirts to work and despite the nature of my job I had to adhere to it, even though trousers would have been far more practical. I suspect if I was doing that job now I would have grounds for accusing him of sexual harassment. But he is the only man I have come across in my 27 working years that behaved that way. He was the exception to the rule. (I did warn my younger colleague to take care around him and I always made it clear to him that I knew what he was – a dirty old man, which he would deny, instead insisting that he was “just a red blooded male”. Yuck.)
The allegations we are hearing daily in the press make me think of him. He tried to pretend he wasn’t a perv. He tried to make out he was something he wasn’t and they are the dangerous ones. The ones who purport to be a certain type of person while the words that they say and the things that they do call them out as a liar at every step. The ones who think they are above any sort of laws, who have no respect for women or sense of decency. I am sure lots of women will have come across a man like the one I knew all those years ago. Hopefully, most of us will have only endured this low level sexual harassment but I know there are plenty who will have endured far worse.
I don’t think men should EVER be allowed to get away with any sexually predatory behaviour and sexism should have been locked up back in the days of Benny Hill. As a mother of a son I hope I have instilled in him that girls are to be respected as much as any boy (not more, just as much) and as a mother of a daughter I hope I have instilled in her that she can do anything she wants, that she doesn’t have to take any crap from anyone and that she is as good as any boy, but she shouldn’t walk over anyone in the process.
But, not all men are sexist predators, just as not all women are feminists who look out for their female colleagues.
I like my office. Smelly, belchy men and all.