This is something that is all over social media. The #Metoo movement brought to light a lot of sexual misconduct that has been going on around the world for a very long time.
“Powered by women, TIME’S UP addresses the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential. ”
Times Up is working to help ordinary people who do not have a platform like celebrities. They are working to create safe environments for women.
The service industry has made me more aware of what Times Up and the #Metoo movement are all about. I have worked at a few different restaurants, but I have always worked in a fairly small area, so I also asked another server friend of mine about her experiences in the service industry.
I am put into numerous uncomfortable situations and I see other women I have worked with put into them as well. As a server, you must be incredibly nice to your customer and get them whatever they need. Sometimes this means that I get trapped in incredibly lengthy conversations that I would not partake in otherwise. Conversation with strangers is what I love the most about serving, but occasionally the fact that you must be nice no matter what, gives people the mindset that they can do/say whatever they want.
Here are a few personal experiences and experiences my friend shared with me. While these may not be blatant sexual harassment like we expect, they have brought a great deal of discomfort to myself and others. I want people to look deeper into their actions, because even a small thing can be a lot bigger than we realize.
During the summer I was serving an elderly couple that had come in for lunch. The man was hard of hearing, so I had to speak louder and lean in towards him. As soon as I leaned in, he put his hand on the back of my arm and held onto it. I did not think much of it at first, but it did make me uncomfortable, so I tried to back away but speak even louder. He had a grasp on my arm and was not about to let me back up. During every interaction he would compliment my smile and tell me I was beautiful. While a compliment is always nice, I did not want someone talking about my appearance while touching me every second he got. I avoided the table as much as I could after my initial greet, but as a server you have to go back to your table at least 3 or 4 times. After the meal was finished and their bill was paid, I tried to leave the table and he thanked me for the service and put his hand on my butt. I was incredibly angry and taken aback.
A few weeks ago there was a table of two men, in their 30’s, eating at my friends restaurant. As a young server walked by, they stopped her to ask if she’d take a picture of them. While this wasn’t her table, we try not to say no to simple request’s like this in the service industry. After taking the picture, they insisted that she take a selfie with them. Put in an uncomfortable position, she did. Afterwards, the men insisted that she give them her number. She said no, but the men asked for her last name, so they could follow her on social media, and she then gave that to them. The thing to keep in mind here is that as a customer at a restaurant, you have power over the servers. We are required to do what we can to make you have a great dining experience. This server may not have minded the interaction with these men, but it is important to understand that there is not much we can do. If the men had done this same thing to a woman who was just dining at the restaurant, they would be at a much more equal level of power.
Many restaurants have a back area where all of the servers and kitchen staff work at. A lot of times the servers are able to interact with everyone in the kitchen. At a restaurant that my friend used to work at, some of the men that worked in the kitchen would go up to servers, hosts, etc. and start giving them back rubs without asking if it was okay or giving any warning.
I used to work at a restaurant where everyone was pretty close, because we typically did not have many people on at once. This meant that we all felt fairly comfortable with each other. One of the high school girls that worked there was cleaning the men’s bathroom after our rush, so she had stuck a trash can into the door (this was what everyone did to show that someone was in the restroom cleaning). As she was cleaning, one of the men that worked in the kitchen went in and immediately pulled out his penis and started peeing at a urinal while she was standing right there. She had told him to get out, but he was just laughing. I think this misconduct is very clear.
I’ve also experienced guest’s asking me if I have a boyfriend, complimenting me in uncomfortable ways, and clearly checking me out/ making inappropriate remarks as I walk by. I’ve seen this happy to many other girls as well. There are even men that’ll pry for personal information. All of this is an abuse of power with the position that we (basically anyone in any type of customer service) are in.
There are many other stories that I could share from my own experience in the workplace, in school, in daily life; but I’ll stop there for now. I’m not sure of what, but hopefully you get something out of this. Maybe even a chance to understand what your actions may mean to others.