To the people who say, “Why don’t women just say no?” or “Just report it” or even “Workplace sexual harassment doesn’t exist anymore”, I have a few words for you.
I am a full time Uber driver. Being a female driver definitely puts me in the minority. Even though this is my space, my car, my property — I am still violated at times.
I do what I can to protect myself.
I keep an icepick within reach of me at all times. I bring my golden retriever service dog with me at all times. I have my GPS co-ordinates sent to a family member while I drive. I am always prepared to hit the 911 emergency button Uber provides me.
But all the precautions I have still don’t protect me from various forms of abuse in my workplace.
My shoulder has been forcefully grabbed on two different occasions. I jump, quite startled, and say clearly “Please don’t touch me” but it still doesn’t register for a man who automatically thinks he is free to touch me without consent.
I get hit on all the time in my own car. Sexually harassing and degrading comments are thrown my way as if I wasn’t even a human being. Two men in the backseat will talk about me to each other as if I wasn’t sitting one foot in front of them.
It’s not flattering. It’s disgusting. It makes me feels used and objectified. I don’t respond. I don’t engage. I keep my eyes forward and a cold, angry look washes over my face. I never smile or flirt back or nervously giggle, but the comments continue.
“Why don’t women say no?” you ask. We do. But our “no” is not respected.
This, my friends, is sexual harassment in the workforce.
So what are my options?
Uber is set up so the drivers are required to rate the passengers, though passengers rating drivers is optional. If my rating were to drop too low, I would be deactivated as a driver and loose my livelihood. You would think I could just rate my passengers honestly, but unfortunately, if I rate my passenger anything lower than the maximum of 5 stars, Uber alerts my passenger that they received a low rating due to their behavior. This means, in turn, my passenger can give me a low rating in retaliation, even if I remained professional and gave an excellent quality ride, and that low rating threatens my livelihood.
Why do women not speak up?
Because if a woman speaks up, she might loose her job. If she speaks up, she could potentially be harassed even more. If she speaks up, she may be known a troublemaker.
She knows she probably won’t be believed. She knows she probably won’t have any support. She knows she’s most likely powerless to stop it. But despite all that, if she does have the guts to speak up, it probably won’t make a difference and instead it may end up costing her dearly.
Please remember this next you think, “Just say no.” or “Just report it.”
The answer is not that simple.