The pressure is in my temples, in the back of my eyes. My ears are clogged, the right ear more so than the left. The copy machine is chucking out paper and the telephone is ringing the adjunct faculty room. My nose tingling, I sneeze. Smooshing the back of my left hand against my nose, I flick open the flap of my Mario messenger bag with my right hand and pull out the last kleenex from it's Cinnamoroll holder and mop the mess off my face. I find another unused spot on the tissue, and blow the rest out of my nose.
"Oh, don't cry. Life can't be that horrible."
I look up into the grinning face of a Faculty Member who had just Bestowed His Great Wisdom upon my unsuspecting ears and squint my eyes. He laughs. Behind the protective shroud of my damp kleenex I mumble "I'm not crying. I just have a cold."
Dumb anecdote. And why am I wasting my time dramatizing it? Because it's not the first time in the past two days working-with-a-cold that a male faculty member has come up to me when I've been blowing my nose to ask me if I've been crying. Or he's benevolently telling me not to cry.
Weirder for weird, I work in a bizarro world where in the past I've had to file a complaint of sexual harassment against a male faculty member. Not to say that he was the only person making rude comments to me in the office--he was just the worst. Now a year later, a coworker of mine is going through the same thing with the same faculty member. Except she's not stopping with the formal letter of complaint like I did, she's going to go the top, she's going to wade through the whole mess of papers, investigations and interviews. She is demanding results. I admire her: I wasn't able to go through the whole process because I didn't feel strong enough. I was paranoid that I was being to sensitive, that I couldn't "take a joke." Even though I felt horrible, I also felt as though I had provoked him. I didn't feel as though it was in my right to be one of "those" women, an Anita Hill. It's a pain in the ass to file a complaint of sexual harassment, and its even worse to have to work with the person while the investigation goes on. More salt on the wound that after you go as far as you can, nothing changes, and you still are the recipient of his poor jokes--not to mention dealing with other male faculty members he think they're so damn cute.
I'm sick of it. I'm sick that my supervisor has to regularly email memos out to the faculty to remind them to respect the staff. I'm sick that the faculty members in turn complain to said staff about the memos, all because they fail to realize what they're saying or doing. I'm sick that my co-worker had to go through the same thing that I did because I didn't far enough with my complaint. I am also sick of the fact that when my male co-worker blows his nose, no one ever assumes that he's been crying.
How to make a difference knowing that this can and probably will happen with other jobs? Do I say nothing, "Shut Up, Dumbass?," "You're sexist"? The thing is, how do you get through someone's thick skull that they're being inappropriate when we live in a society that is sexist, where it's okay to demean women and get away with it?