The Worst Dinner Ever : A Sexual Harassment Story

Last night I went to a typical Beverly Hills dinner with my mom; 8-10 people and a reservation at a BHills Hot Spot. I’ve been to these before and I am usually the youngest one in attendance, and with that, I’m usually the most liberal minded besides my mother.

The dinner started off with the normal ego boosting questions and comparisons like, “Where do you summer?” to which I replied, “Isn’t it always summer in California?”

I can deal with that type of talk. My family is quite humble and thankful, but we are always around people who feel that they have a right what they have and are entitled to it, and are not in any way lucky… which obviously is crazy. We are all incredibly lucky and hard working, but to take that for granted is a huge mistake. Anyway, this dinner gets way worse.

The two men to my left start talking about grocery shopping…

“Where do you grocery shop?” They asked my mom and me.

“I’m not sure, I guess depends where I am that day and what I’m looking for.” my mom said.

“Well where do you buy eggs?” The men.

“Ummm, wherever?” we said.

“Well, Where do you squeeze your melons?” the men, did I mention, sitting next to their wives of 20+ years.

I couldn’t believe that this was said at the table; blatantly and expecting praise or affirmation. We just met these men, we came to eat not to be sexually harassed or made the butt of a joke.

“Where do you fucking shop?” said my mom, really over it at this point.

“Men don’t grocery shop, my wife does all that…” said the smaller man.

“Are you from the past?” I said, loving my IT Crowd reference.

“When have you ever seen man grocery shop?” they said.

“Maybe in the 1940’s and 50’s or before that was the case but, now? I’m sure even in the 50’s some men shopped.” I said.

Then it hit me, “Oh I get it, you’re sexist!” This was met with no rebuttal.

The men seemed amused. I’m pretty sure they couldn’t define sexism, feminism or classism.

At this point my mom and I stopped talking to that whole side of the table. But the men weren’t done. They started whispering to each other and blatantly looking at my breast and making crude gestures. I overheard things like “I wonder what foreplay she likes, hahaha…”

Side Note: The wives of these men were silent and smiling the whole time, only chiming in to say things like “Oh he’s so funny.” Obviously pre approved statements. The only other time they opened their mouths was so their husbands could make-out with them at the table.

Pretty much speechless and tired of being the target for the mens’ wondering eyes, my mom and I left.

I realized last night more than ever, I never want to be objectified like that again I came home shaking and feeling unsafe. How could no one besides my mom and I see that there was a problem! How can you still speak that way in public to women and not have any repercussions? How could no one defend us, or stand up for us? Thankfully we had each other.

More importantly I never want to be the type of wife or life partner that is too afraid to say something. These women, dripping in diamonds, sitting silently, sipping wine, fully done up head to toe, talking about gossip and hair tools, praising their husbands bad behavior, living life from another era… They were stuck in a time when women couldn’t speak to their husbands or partners plainly. I have met these women outside of this dinner, away from their husbands and they are outgoing, smart and strong women. But suddenly, in front of their husbands, meek and quiet.

If thats the life you want, I’m totally supporting you. But personally, I never want to be in a situation where I am the supporting role to my partners lead, in the movie of our lives. I grew up in a household where my mothers opinion was held in equal or sometimes higher regard than my fathers. I grew up with strong women, hard working, educated, outspoken and powerful. My parents were co-leads.

I think Tina Fey recently said it best, she said, now days, POWER for women, “means knowing you will be heard. Not necessarily obeyed, but heard.”

This obviously isn’t the end goal. The goal is to be heard, considered, taken seriously and when in the right obeyed. For women I feel that power has to start with saying “NO!”

NO to things you don’t want to do, NO to things you don’t agree with!

“whether it’s the butter scene in Last Tango in Paris or telling Roger Ailes to put his hamburger meat back in the freezer.” said Fey.

This is a power I have always felt that I had. The power to say “NO,” to stand up for myself and be heard, maybe not obeyed, but heard. I’m sure (or rather hope) I wasn’t the only person to ever call out those men at dinner, but I’m sure they didn’t expect it from someone so young. We are the future of power. Its our responsibility to enable other women to speak up as well. I hope by seeing me speak my mind and draw attention to the obvious sexual harassment and sexism at dinner, that these women feel they can also speak to their partners of 20+ years honestly, whether it’s at home or in public.

“Feeling like you can say no without negative repercussions is an important kind of power that we can help give each other,” said Tina Fey. “I have that power, and I promise to help other women have it too.”

 

Read more about Tina Fey’s speech in NY MAG.