I always joke about how I don’t make threats; I warn. That’s because I don’t believe in idle threats. I think if you threaten somebody, you should also mean to carry the threat out. So I may as well warn.
It’s a bit weird to write the above, because I’m a relatively harmless person. But let me give you my own little contribution to #metoo and the time when I had to issue a threat-warning.
Folks think Norway does things so much better when it comes to sexual equality, but there have been and are jerks and abusers here, too. And a lively debate about it, complete with derailing and strawmen. The men I know are good men, men I can trust. I have not attracted the worst of them, and I consider myself extremely lucky.
Then there’s the co-worker who one day put his hand solidly on my rump as I was passing by his cubicle. I cannot remember how I reacted. I have a temper and I may well have given him a death-glare. Or just kept moving. Not that he cared. His had a big, self-satisfied grin.
A couple of weeks later, he did it again. This time, I whirled around on him. I know I used my death-glare and matching tone of voice, too. To his self-satisfied grinning face I told him that if he ever did that again, I’d go straight to HR.
To my surprise, his smiling face collapsed in shock, then fear, and he backed away, back into his cubicle.
I was surprised, because I didn’t know if HR could help, and I wasn’t expecting 161 cm me to intimidate all of 188 cm of him (he was more than a head taller than me, for you non-metric folk).
But I would have done it. I would have gone to HR, and maybe my conviction was what sold it. I still felt safe at work, I still felt I would be heard. I would carry out my threat.
He never touched me again.
With the #metoo movement and the discussion about sexual harassment, I have often wondered why my co-worker backed down instantly. My theory is, he wasn’t expecting me to get angry. Because when I read about how women react, they typically have my first reaction. The one where we aren’t sure what happened, and we don’t want to provoke a larger, stronger man further. We try to defuse rather than defend. But getting angry is a natural and justified reaction. And so we have #metoo.
To my fellow sisters out there: I wish you empowerment, I wish you faith in yourself, and I wish you a death-glare that will serve as an excellent warning.