The worst part about the Harvey Weinstein story is that it really is a non-story, when you think about it.
Some older, powerful creep uses said powers to try to get laid, all the while threatening women with the destruction of their careers. Have we not heard this before about a million times?
It kills me that we have heard this same story, over and over again, and people are still somehow shocked. It infuriates me that women have been telling similar stories, regardless of the line of work, regardless of their age… so many women have stories and no matter how often these stories are told, people still have the nerve to act like this is “new”, like they didn’t know, or worse, like maybe the woman was asking for it.
So here it is. It’s time to pile on. I have a (sort of) Harvey story about sexual harassment in a professional environment, and I’ve told very few people about it.
I am 23 years old. I am trying to break into radio as a jock. At this point in my career, I have worked mainly as a behind the scenes producer in tv and radio, and now, I want to be on air.
Program directors have this thing they like to do, where they take you on as unpaid labour to sort of test the waters with you. You might cover off some midnights or weekend shifts, or do some voicetracking (recorded radio programming that is made to sound like a live broadcast).
This is the boat I am in. I’m young, I am not currently working in the field I have spent years trying to get into, and I’m just looking for a start.
I took on some unpaid work at a station but did need to do some training. The plan was to have me do some voicetracking, and if that went well, I would get some live shifts. Would this turn into a paid opportunity? Who knows.
So far in my career, I have never worked as a radio operator, so I have to learn those ropes if I ever hope to get on the air live. The program director wanted me sit in with a well established male announcer for a few shifts to get some pointers.
I meet this guy, and he’s your standard, middle aged male radio jock. Great voice, very personable. He tells me he’s glad I’m sitting in with him and asks me a bit about my background in the business and seems genuinely interested. I’m not totally new to the industry when I meet this guy. I’ve been working in broadcasting for around two years, and have worked with a lot of middle aged radio guys and all were completely professional. I didn’t feel like I needed to have my guard up, and I had no reason to think this guy would be any different than any other man I’ve worked with.
The show is live, so there’s no time to waste. Between songs and commercials, he tells me a bit about how he preps for his show. He explains how to backsell songs. He tells me the importance of really immersing yourself into the kind of music you are working with, because, whether you like the tunes or not, the music is why people are really listening.
I’m at ease. Things are going ok.
Anywho… we are no more than 30 minutes into this shift and he casually mentions that he has a pretty big penis “for a white guy”.
Out of nowhere. I am now listening to this man talk about his penis.
He goes on to tell me about his girlfriend, who lives in a different city, and about how he needs to have sex on a regular basis, which is tough when you’re in a long distance relationship. As if to prove a point, he then calls this girlfriend on speaker phone during an extended music break.
Fun fact: he does not say anything to his girlfriend about his penis.
I now have to suffer through three more hours with someone who just wants to talk about his dick. I don’t want to talk about anything at this point and I just want to leave.
But here is the thing; I am a young girl and I have this dream of working in radio and I am basically unemployed. I am desperate for a job, and I am desperate for an opportunity to prove myself.
So I stayed the whole shift and listened to this guy tell anecdotes about his penis, and his sex life. I laughed where it felt appropriate. I tried to just keep asking radio questions, to keep the focus on the business because I feel like this guy might just whip it out at any point (he didn’t).
By way of clarification, this host was not a part of programming. He was not in any level of management. So yeah, he really would have no real say in how my future would transpire with this company.
But this man would obviously have an impact on my chances. He would tell the program director whether or not he liked me, whether or not I had any potential. He may not have been in management but he now had power over me.
So I put up with it, and I never told anyone. It was the most uncomfortable radio shift I have ever had and I wasn’t even working.
Looking back, I still completely understand my decision to not say anything. I don’t look back and think it was a naive decision. I didn’t want to compromise my chances of getting on air, and at this point, this was my ONLY chance. But I do wish I had said something to someone about how brutal that shift was. I never did.
I wonder how many impressionable women he was put in charge of mentoring after me. Did he get four hour shifts with them? Four days? Four weeks? Did he talk to them about his penis? Could I have stopped that? Did anything like what happened to me with him happen to anyone else?
I never had to work with that man after that day. As luck would have it, I was offered a job in another city shortly after and I stopped doing any work at that station. I don’t know what ever happened to that jock and I never saw him again.
I never did go on to work for that company so I never had the chance to talk to anyone there about it, and in any case, it has been 12 years and I am not interested in naming names.
I am telling this story because there are so many other women that have had these kinds of experiences and it makes me so angry and sad. It makes me sad that someone will read this story and wonder about how my behaviour may have encouraged this man. Why didn’t I just leave? Why didn’t I tell anyone? Why did I laugh?
How come it never occurs for people to ask why this idiot would talk to a 23 year old girl about his dick IN A PROFESSIONAL SETTING for four hours?
Regardless of what happened and why I never told anyone… I am telling the story now. I am doing this because it is my hope that other women might tell their stories. Or even better, maybe more women will speak out in real time as these things are happening to them.
Importantly, I am telling this story, as I mentioned above, as a means of piling on. We hear so many stories and we, as a collective, probably need to hear about a million more if that is what it takes to drive a change in the way women are treated by men in the workplace. I hope people start to understand that there is nothing anyone can do or say that would make them deserve sexual harassment ANYWHERE. Not at work, not on the street, not in school.
If you have experienced this kind of treatment at work, I am sorry you went through that. I hope you can talk to someone about it. I hope you’ve broken away from it. I hope you’re ok and I hope you know it’s not and has never been your fault.