I’ve been thinking how as a columnist I could speak to the conversation that has been on the minds of women, and men, regarding harassment in the workplace, specifically in the culinary industry.
I realize that being a man, that I can only empathize with women that have been subject to inappropriate descriptive language about their bodies, experiencing unwanted touching or invasion of personal space, by men with whom they work with. But at the same time, I’m embarrassed and ashamed at men that feel they have some right or privilege as men to talk about, or make comments to a woman any way they want to because ‘that’s what guys do’.
Where does this narrative start? I mean aren’t we all adults and have had some experience with respecting people in the workplace? What about growing up, didn’t our parents provide some form of direction or guidance about how we should speak to a person of the opposite sex? Maybe all of those past experiences were just that… in the past. You would hope that as we build families, or establish relationships that those would-be words of wisdom would offer a moral sense of decency when working alongside culinary professionals.
Sadly however, it seems that the direction of our moral compass has been affected to the extent that women are being harassed while they attempt to involve themselves in a field, or career that they love. Some women feel they have to compromise and stay in an uncomfortable environment, suffering internally, just so they are able to advance or become successful as a culinary expert/chef. Others, break under the emotional stress and harassment they face, leaving what they once thought would be a dream job only to find that it had nightmarish results.
I recently listened to a TED talk guest speaker, Justin Baldoni, who challenged men to identify and ponder on the characteristics that they feel defines them as men; like strength, courage, toughness. It wasn’t just to focus on themselves. More importantly encouraging men to demonstrate those same characteristics when they witness women being harassed or being taken advantage of. Are you willing to be brave and speak up when others around you are being inappropriate? When a woman expresses that they are have been harassed or assaulted, will you have the strength and fortitude to support them in their anguish, and let them feel confident that you believe them.
Become the person that prevents these stories from continuing. Search deep within and consider if this were someone you loved that experience these scenarios. Let’s all work to improve our interactions between each other and demonstrate that we all value a safe workplace environment where inequality and harassment do not reside.