What’s come to be known as the #MeToo movement gained momentum through a series of celebrity takedowns, starting with Harvey Weinstein, then ricocheted throughout the media and entertainment worlds.
Late last fall, CJR set out to explore the problem beyond the household names, turning the spotlight on the everyday experiences of (mostly) women in journalism. We asked our readers to tell us their harassment stories.
More than 300 people responded—men, women, queer and straight people, from every corner of the country and abroad. Forty-one percent of respondents said they had been subject to harassment in their newsrooms or as freelancers, but only one third had reported those incidents. Many of the respondents were young and new to their jobs, and many of the events described were contemporary. (We also asked nearly 150 companies to detail for us how they handle sexual harassment in their newsroom; exactly zero of them had responded by the time we published our findings.)
The results of our limited survey reflect the aching banality of harassment in journalism—that too-familiar notion of feeling uncomfortable at work, the expectation that the office will be a boys’ club, the fact that this happens daily and in every job, throughout entire careers. They also show how people can adapt to the situations in which they find themselves, whether outright harassment; assault; or the gray area of unwanted comments, romantic advances, flirting, bullying, and other types of work-related obstructionism. Determined to do their jobs, the subjects of harassment lower expectations, make concessions, work around it, and—most often—work through it.
We want to provide a space for all respondents to tell their own stories. Here, we are publishing the written statements of every respondent who has granted us permission to do so. We’ve removed identifying language and edited statements accordingly, with approval from the authors.
This is what they told us.
“I’ve had a coworker make inappropriate comments in a joking way…that made me uncomfortable.”
“I had a generally misogynistic boss who would just yell comments out the window of the office that were demeaning and inappropriate.”
“I was once told by a manager that I would most likely get a job because I was nice to look at. Not much later, I heard the same manager comment that an intern had great legs. The station had a real old-boys’ culture, though nothing physical ever happened to me.
A couple years later, I was working on a joint venture. During a training event at our headquarters, a well-known journalist and editor introduced me to a group of executives as his ‘new, hot young wife.’ A couple moments later, another reporter walked by, and he introduced her as a ‘talented’ young reporter and asked if they’d heard her great work. It did not feel great.”
“A content editor known as an office creep hits on young female new starters, and is responsible for some training so has easy access. The editor made inappropriate comments at an office summer party about my new haircut. He proceeded to tell me how he’d noticed me walking around the office and who was that new pretty girl. He then commented on my sexy librarian glasses and said that I could walk into any bar and have any man wrapped around my finger with those glasses. To which I responded, ‘Sure whatever my boyfriend likes them too’ (to get him off my back).”
“A male coworker never looks me in the eyes when we speak, but stares at my chest. A former boss called me ‘hot.'”
“I worked there for six years, and it was a complete old boy’s club. Whenever I or any of the other young, attractive women would have a new dress, our boss would tell us to stand up and spin around so he could see the dress. He also gave us tips on how he liked our hair to be cut and styled (we were NOT on air) and would comment on who needed to hit the gym, who ‘looked like shit’ when they didn’t wear makeup, etc. None of it was as blatant as someone grabbing our breasts or physically touching us in any way, but there were daily—hourly—undercurrents of harassment, all of which seemed not worth ‘rocking the boat’ to report, at least in our 25-year-old, eager-to-please brains. One instance that sticks out: I got a new lip gloss, and my boss commented on how shiny my lips were. I didn’t say anything to acknowledge him, and he said, ‘Oh, I see, you’re a lip snob since you have lips people pay for.’ He quickly clarified that he didn’t mean to imply I was working as a prostitute, rather that my lips looked like they were injected. I also had a boss say, ‘You’re so gorgeous. I’m going to leave my first wife for you.’ Comments like this were fed to us on a daily basis, all under the guise of ‘compliments.’”
“Verbal, while I was pregnant.”
“Being compared to my male boss’s wife.”
“Bullying behavior and sexist comments from male editor.”
“I have not experienced sexual harassment, but sexism is a major problem.”
“I’ve been made uncomfortable via comments relating to the perceived sexuality of my ethnicity several times in multiple newsrooms.”
“While working as a staff reporter, I experienced harassment from my editor. He regularly made graphic sexual jokes. He also assigned me to report stories that he classified as more “female” in subject matter. He regularly talked about sex in graphic ways in the newsroom. I was the only female reporter at this publication; the other woman working there was the receptionist/office manager. I witnessed the editor regularly commenting to her about her appearance and telling her graphic sexual jokes.”
“A previous boss would make sexual comments to people multiple times a day—he would make fun of our religions, our clothes, anything. I once was publicly chastised for a relationship with a coworker where we’d been transparent, the person (a former boss) just didn’t like the relationship.”
“A few comments on my clothing have veered towards uncomfortable at times (comments about being ‘metro’), but the situations were defused when my discomfort was made known and no lasting harm was done. Never had any sort of insistent verbal harassment or physical encounter.”
“Repeated comments on my appearance, marital status, how I look or would look in certain types of clothes. I am answering ‘no’ on the ‘did your report the incident’ question below, but I did specifically on each occasion tell the person that what they said was highly inappropriate.”
“When I was an intern, a senior male colleague called me at home and offered me training for what would have been my first on-air role if I would have dinner with him at a romantic restaurant. I declined. My next day in the office he told me he had learned there was no budget for the training. The truth, which he did not say, was that he had no authority to offer it or decide who was trained. I later learned he had asked people for my phone number and they had declined to give it.”
“In the past, I’ve had staffers offer to mentor me, but they used that as an excuse to meet me outside the newsroom and turn our professional meeting into a date. Several journalists had offered for me to be a reporting partner on stories that required traveling. But they often had hidden motives and used this as an excuse to spend time with me outside the newsroom. They hinted at sharing a hotel room. Over the years I have missed opportunities to work because I felt too uncomfortable and did not trust the person I was working with.”
“This was back when I was an assistant producer. An editor who I regarded as my mentor got me to go to his house under the pretext of showing me around before I cat-sat for him and his wife. He cooked us dinner, served me multiple glasses of wine. I was uncomfortable but didn’t want to offend him, and besides, it was news. I regularly went out to bars with colleagues, went to house parties of theirs… I trusted him and tried not to let it bug me. Suffice to say, at the end of the night, he told me he ‘had a crush on me’ and kissed me hard. I withdrew, pointed out he was married, locked myself in his bathroom, and frantically texted a friend to come get me. I told him I had to meet my friend and bolted. After that, we rarely spoke. He was angry and embarrassed and stopped speaking up for me at meetings. Fast-forward six months, and I was let go by my supervisor. I have no idea if it was connected to the incident with my editor—but considering he was my primary boss, and the one with whom I had the most contact with, I find it hard to believe his negative reaction had nothing to do with it.
“Since then, I’ve had other colleagues make passes at me, or try to kiss me at the end of the night, but none felt as shocking or had such a damaging effect on my career. Eventually, I started telling myself this was just how it was. If I was going to be friends with my male colleagues, I had to accept that they might one night get drunk and make a pass at me. The best I could do was politely put them off and hope they took it well.”
“Harassment by editors I had previously worked for at industry events, or had my emails about being sexually assaulted while on assignment ignored by other editors.”
“My boss showed me nude photos in his hotel room while on a business trip.”
“At my old job, I frequently attended conventions, where I was infrequently subjected to harassment. Most notably, once as I was on my way to an interview, an attendee spilled a drink all over me, at which point a vendor told me, ‘You look like you’re milking.’ I was so upset that if I hadn’t been super early for the interview, I would have been late because I was in the bathroom having a panic attack. I didn’t report the incident because it wasn’t anything to do with my newsroom, but the culture is rife with this kind of behavior and these kinds of incidents, and every female reporter who has had to work in a convention space has experienced them. (Another notable incident: once in a crowded elevator I was in, two young male attendees started loudly commenting on the appearance of a girl who’d just left the elevator, and when I spoke up to tell them to stop, they responded, ‘We don’t need Tumblr social justice’ and kept making the comments. No one else in the elevator spoke out after this even though we were all uncomfortable.)”
“My current workplace is harassment-free. However, I’ve experienced it (mildly) in past newsrooms and know others who had much worse experience. And sexual harassment by sources or those I’m reporting on has been a constant throughout my entire career, including as recently as a month ago.”
“When I worked full time for the company I now freelance for, there was sexual harassment from a couple employees who are still currently employed. I have also been harassed by professionals I’ve interviewed for stories (after the story was done).”
“More from other freelancers working from the same company than from people actually on staff. Also blatant harassment toward me by subjects but the staffer I was working with did nothing.”
“I have been told by people I’ve managed to ‘go away woman,’ have been told that I won’t be deployed on certain stories ‘because I’m a woman’ and have twice had male coworkers try to access my hotel room while on trips”
“The editor I worked for sexually harassed me starting around my first day of work. He would text me at night saying things like ‘I wish I was young when you came around so I could chase you around the newsroom’ and other inappropriate things. It went on like that for weeks. When I shut him down, he became really hostile toward me. He acted that way for nearly a year until he left the company on his own accord. I found out as it was happening that he had done the same thing to other young women before me.”
“As an intern, my editor flirted with me pretty much daily over SnapChat, where I’d have no record of it, and on the last day of my internship, he asked to kiss me, and said it was OK because he wasn’t my editor anymore. I was scared to tell him to stop or that it was inappropriate because I was only in college and I needed a good reference and recommendation letter to get a job. At the time, I convinced myself that it was normal, and it was fine that my editor was flirting with me, and because I didn’t know how to respond, I flirted back, and I feel horrible about that because I may have egged him on, but I didn’t know what else to do.”
“A coworker took a photo of me participating in an athletic activity and posted it in a forum where our colleagues could see it. I was deeply embarrassed and stopped participating in the activity.”
“An older employee, a man, pressed his lips against my neck when we were alone. It was a weird and small infraction, and I didn’t know what to do about it, so brushed it off and kept my distance from him going forward. He still works here. This is the only experience I’ve had like this at this [job], but have had numerous experiences at others (i.e. being touched in inappropriate ways and receiving unwanted late-night phone calls from intoxicated superiors.)”
“A colleague put his hand inside my shirt in front of some of the rest of our staff. We were at a social event.”
“At two newspapers where I worked in my career, editors told me they wanted to have a sexual relationship with me (using different terminology, of course). One was my direct editor; the other was an influential editor in another department who outranked me. Both were married. I declined in both cases, but the damage was done. How can you possibly have a normal professional relationship—or expect to advance in your career—after an incident like that? In both cases, they avoided me and alternated between being embarrassed and angry.
“At another newspaper, a male employee in the IT department was stalking and harassing me by leaving threatening, anonymous voicemail messages and weird letters and envelopes on my desk—full of items like nails and broken glass. Fortunately my direct supervisor took this seriously and so did the head of security, who investigated and found the perpetrator. The employee was verbally reprimanded but not fired or suspended because, I was told by a higher-ranking editor, ‘He just has a crush on you’ and wasn’t dangerous. I never felt comfortable in that newsroom again…
“I never felt comfortable in that newsroom again, not only because of this creepy guy but also because of the managers who didn’t take it seriously.
“At yet another newsroom, the women in the office kept a private list of male coworkers who couldn’t keep their hands to themselves, preyed on interns, and once created their ‘ideal reporter’ using photos of body parts of various females in the office. We shared the list with new female employees and interns. There was really no mechanism for reporting such behavior to management (who were all men, and some of them were on the list).”
“Lewd gestures and intimidation.”
“I have been sexually harassed by a senior journalist working for a different publication.”
“Unwanted touching, inappropriate comments”
“I was asked to fix for a journalist last month. I had to decline due to the last-minute request, but since I am personal friends with the journalist and respected his work, I agreed to have dinner with him and offered to help with sharing source contacts he may need. Throughout dinner, he kept asking me personal questions about my dating and sex life. Initially, I brushed it off as him catching up as a friend, but it became extremely uncomfortable when he started asking me questions which I found too explicit. I diverted the conversation several times and told myself that he’s a married man with children, and it should be clear he shouldn’t and wouldn’t cross the line. Toward the end of the dinner, I went to the washroom. When I came out, he immediately grabbed me and started kissing me. I moved my head away and repeated twice, ‘No, this is not going to happen’ before he stopped and stepped away from me. He merely shrugged and pretended nothing happened after. It was incredibly sickening as I could feel he wasn’t wearing any underpants when he pressed himself against me. I reacted calmly and excused myself after, citing the need to be home before midnight. But the experience was traumatizing. I broke down in my car later, and my hands were trembling as I struggled to drive home that night.”
“I was sexually harassed by a colleague outside the newsroom after another colleague’s birthday party, which had taken place in a bar. After the bar, a group of men and women from the newsroom went to a restaurant to eat, and when I left to say goodbye for the evening, I gave everyone a hug—which one male reporter took as an opportunity to grope my rear.”
“When I tried to move away, he grabbed me and pulled me back with a lot of force.”
“A male editor on numerous occasions used his body to establish dominance. That included moving the chair in which I was sitting—without even a warning—and situating his chair an inch or two away from mine to oversee work.”
“When I was working as a student at a major metropolitan daily newspaper, I experienced intense verbal sexual harassment from the men who worked at the paper’s printing presses, which I reported. I also was verbally harassed by a senior political reporter, which I did not report.”
“Persistent bullying in one case, reported to HR, to my managers, to the editor in chief, was told the man in question was ‘difficult,’ to grow a ‘thicker skin,’ and eventually told to drop my complaint or I would lose my position; at another paper, experienced sexual harassment and abuse from a colleague and was told to drop it as he is ‘a force of nature’ and ‘a dickhead.’”
“I was groped by a senior non-newsroom executive when I was eight months pregnant. The more serious incident, because there appeared to be a quid pro quo, occurred during a job interview at a daily newspaper on the East Coast when I was 22. I declined to participate in sexual banter and discussion of penis size with the male HR director. I told him I objected to his questions and found them unprofessional. He told me to lighten up and then added: ‘We’ve got nothing for you.’ To my astonishment, he later got promoted. He is now dead.”
“In my past job, I was being harassed by my colleagues. I filed a written complain but it was of no use.”
“My boss has made several remarks to me about my appearance that I did not find appropriate. She’s referred to me as a ‘good-looking guy,’ asked me probing questions about my personal life—not nearly to the standards of many of the public accusations in other organizations, but still probing and not work-related, and has made numerous comments about my appearance, both positive and negative, in passing.
“This same boss also had me delete a Facebook message we received accusing her boss of sexual misconduct. I brought up the message to my boss, which we received during my first few months on the job. Being newer, I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I was disturbed by her immediately wanting to go to her boss with it and not HR. And she made me delete the message.”
“A visiting corporate manager grabbed me by the shoulders from behind while I was seated without apparent consequence, even after I followed the employee handbook on reporting complaints. Contrary to corporate promises, in fact, the consequence has been to me via severe, ongoing sexist harassment from my daily manager. The corporation also disregards the physical and emotional harm the attack and the attacker’s repeat presence in our newsroom cause me—contrary to the anti-harassment policy in the handbook and reiterated by the CEO after the #MeToo movement exploded.”
“The newsroom I have a permanent affiliation with is mostly women and I identify as a woman so I feel that I’m safe by chance. Though it’s important to note, maybe not for this survey, that I experienced significant discrimination and bigotry because of my race throughout my time there that has been effortlessly swept under the rug by superiors. I think this speaks to the company’s inability to handle harassment and discrimination of any kind.”
“An immediate editor hit on me several times a week for a year. I had to work twice as hard to capture the attention of senior editors to get promoted out from under this guy. He continued to hit on me until I was married, and actually had the audacity to get angry when I rebuffed him flatly the last time. I will never forget the fear, and the tightrope I walked. In these days, there was no HR department or venue in which to report. We just kept quiet and suffered.”
“While I worked as a producer for a regional station, HR, the news director, and the general manager intentionally overlooked sexual harassment in the newsroom. The 11 pm producer regularly sent me and other female coworkers sexually explicit direct messages and emails. He would come in my office and block the door frame, staring at me and licking his lips. He followed me home on multiple occasions and once parked his car outside my bedroom so his headlights beamed through my window while he masturbated. I finally took it to HR who recommended that I not file a complaint because his ratings were high, so I was more replaceable than he was. I filed it anyway. As a result, I was written up for personal use of computer equipment. Because he followed me home, my boss and the GM said this constituted an out-of-office relationship and that I had encouraged the producer’s behavior. They then told me that if I contacted a lawyer or if they found out that I had contacted a lawyer, that I would be fired. My boss then started yelling at me on a daily basis and raising goals, then passed me over for promotion. At my annual review, despite glowing praise on all prior occasions and my meeting these new, harder goals, I received the lowest scores possible and was denied a raise. So I told them to kiss my ass and walked out of what was an exceptionally promising career in television news. I was in my early 20s—too young to know I should have gotten an attorney and sued the pants off that station. If I had to do it all over, I would have documented the harassment and contacted an attorney the minute the station put the blame on me.”
“Verbal unwanted and offensive comments allowed to persist as part of normal newsroom culture in front of everyone. Inappropriate and graphic descriptions of women’s body parts by male editors. No female editors. Male editors call and text during off-work hours about non-work issues and imply you must respond or be fired.”
“My boss asked me to sleep with him, and I was working toward taking over his position as he left our paper, so I felt like I had to or I wouldn’t get the job.”
“Two women staffers had complained of harassment / discrimination, and they were turned into a newsroom joke. They were mocked all the time for it. This purportedly occurred before I arrived. The male editors told me about this problem immediately, positioning themselves as victims of character assassination. I will say, the two women were underperformers and overcomplainers in the extreme. It was hard to know what to believe. I directly experienced gender discrimination. I went to the local EEOC office where I was told that their experience was that if I complained, my career at the paper would be over.”
“I had a boss harass me and tell me he would jeopardize my career. I told a female director and, she spoke to the editor at the time and after that the boss did not bother me again. Another veteran deputy editor would show up to parties hosted by interns where he made unwanted advances towards female students. In a separate incident, he masturbated in front of his young female neighbors. He was eventually arrested for this incident and was placed on administrative leave, although he kept showing up to the newsroom to pick up his wife who was a copyeditor. And then a different copyeditor harassed me, giving me jewelry, and used company resources to find my unlisted telephone number and call me at home to ‘talk’ long after I left the job. He contacted me again years later, sharing that he had been in a ‘bad place’ and going through a divorce at the time, asking if we could meet up. I declined.”
“I also want to say that at my old newsroom my managing editor was notorious for gendered harassment. He was frequently horrible to me and other women at the company, and I witnessed gender-based harassment and sexism playing out multiple ways across the company. His name actually wound up on the ‘Shitty Men in Media’ list for sexual harassment, and although I never saw him behave in sexually inappropriate ways, I believe these reports based on his heavily sexist treatment of the many women he drove away from the outlet.”
“I don’t know that any of this counts as ‘sexual harassment,’ but the most flagrant example of sexist harassment I witnessed at the company made a huge and unforgettable impression on me. At the end of my first six months at the outlet, I was in a meeting where the object was to discuss articles we felt had been successful, standouts, and done well over the previous year. While I watched in confusion, a male editor who was leading the discussion and the other male reporters in the meeting all proceeded to mock and make derogatory jokes about the female reporter who wrote an article, because they believed that she had nominated one of her own articles for this discussion. When I pointed out that I had nominated the article because it had been one of the highest-trafficked articles on the site that year, the editor said, ‘I guess I’ll take this submission seriously.’ Lesson learned: don’t promote yourself or your work if you want male coworkers to take you seriously.”
“For one of my first freelance jobs right out of college, I met the editor taking pitches in the newsroom I was visiting. The editor taught at a university, reported on the war, and was working in a major newsroom. He said to email him to grab coffee with him the next time I was in town. So I did and he liked one of my story ideas. He said I should email him again if I were around and I did. We went out and talked about the story over drinks. His apartment happened to be very close to the bar. I was very, very open about my positive relationship with my boyfriend and we were talking like we were just friends, so when he invited me to his place to just chill a bit, I said sure. Basically, we were super hammered, we hung out a bit, he went in to kiss me and I told him no and he played it cool.
I wouldn’t consider that harassment because, while there was a power dynamic in play, he backed off. What made the situation completely messed up was that when I submitted my story a week later, he completely blew me off. I already had a contract with the outlet to write the story, so he did get it done eventually. It took about a month. It was an exclusive and the timing was key. It made me look terrible to those running the event that I covered. When he finally got back to me with edits, he wrote racist comments toward the people I was covering. I never worked with that publication again.
Another time, I was editing work for a researcher at the university I was attending. He was a professor, and he kept trying to make our meetings dates. He would touch my arms and shoulders so I’d have to sit back far away. He repeatedly wished I had a single twin sister and very openly wanted to be with me. Now, I said ‘no’ like 50 times. It was so creepy, but I needed the money (I was literally skipping meals because of money) and I needed the work experience (I got my first big journalism internship because of this gig). I told him via email that what he was doing wasn’t appropriate, and he needed to keep it professional.
The last time I saw him, he was really touchy. I met him in a busy Barnes & Noble on campus, and I told him ahead of time that I was meeting him at the B&N because I felt uncomfortable meeting him anywhere less busy. I was disgustingly straightforward about the fact that I understood he wanted to fuck me, but I needed the money and job experience so he better keep his hands to himself. My opportunities and support network were very limited at the time.
Yet he still had the nerve to swipe his hands across my shoulders and arms. He even tried to hold my hand. I finally got another writing job and immediately dropped him. He kept trying to contact me, so I reported him to the university. I was on the university payroll, so I was able to use their resources. I had written documentation of him trying to take me out, and of me telling him no and asking him to keep it professional. The school believed me, got me the money he owed me, and I didn’t ask for anything more. I just moved on.”
“I was fresh out of undergrad. A coworker/new friend who sat in the cubicle next to me who I had known for several months began texting me odd messages—things he would have *never* said out loud, like that he liked how my pants looked a little tight. At first, it was mild flirting, which I was slightly bothered by, but I shrugged it off because I thought he was a friend. It escalated to the point where he texted me he had ‘manscaped’ recently (a term for when a man shaves his pubic hair), and I confronted him via text, saying his messages were inappropriate and he had to stop. I later found out he had texted other women in the newsroom inappropriate messages. I reported it to HR and my boss during my exit exam, but I only waited because he was fired shortly after this incident due to another matter, so I didn’t see how saying anything would matter. I feel confident that my (female) boss would have stepped up and done something. I just felt so embarrassed about the whole thing.”
“Early in my career as an editor, I was overseen by a features editor and sales director. While going over pages with the sales director, he groped my bottom. I pulled away and instinctively slapped him. He subsequently gave me a terrible review and tried to have me fired.”
“A really creepy old man sat beside me and constantly made sexual jokes. I wanted to be cool with it, so I laughed along for a while. One day, he made a joke about my husband and my sexual habits. I told him never to talk about my husband again. He did the next day. He was fired soon after that, but not because of anything I reported.”
“On one occasion, I was taking over for the office manager while she ran an errand for an hour. While I did my work at the front desk, an IT employee came by and said ‘Wow, the front desk just got way hotter’ to which I laughed uncomfortably and changed the topic. Then another employee who worked as an audio engineer came by and said ‘You’ve got the face of a model or an actress, I don’t know what you’re doing in radio.’ In the same hour, a third person, another audio engineer, came by and made a similar remark about my appearance. At this point I said, ‘Maybe let’s think about that before you say anything like that to anyone in an office.’ There was another incident where one of the same audio engineers who commented on my appearance was alone with me on an overnight shift, and talked about how he married a woman 20-30 years younger than him. He made the conversation very personal and about his love life. Later, a senior employee pulled me aside and said, ‘Don’t spend too much time alone with him.’ I was pretty taken aback by that and felt like if that was the case, the company should’ve taken care of it ages ago.”
“On my final day on the job, several colleagues informed me that the publisher had been saying sexually explicit things about me to all the other men in the office. For example, he said it was obvious from the way I walked that I ‘liked it rough.’ He also would describe to them the sexual acts he would like to perform on me and would ask them to guess what I would and would not agree to. Because it was my final day at that company, and because I had never directly heard any of the comments, I felt I had no recourse.”
“I worked with about eight other people, all men, all at least 15 years older than me. The CEO of our not-for-profit company would come out to visit us occasionally, and on two occasions, gave me a shoulder rub as a way of greeting me. It wasn’t just a pat on the shoulder—it was a massage-style touch. He came up behind me and with two hands rubbed my shoulders/neck. Also, at an all employee lunch, the only open chair left was next to him, and I really didn’t want to sit next to him but I had to, so I sat down scooted the chair away and he looked at me and said, ‘You can sit closer to me!’ I said no thanks. It was very uncomfortable. Also—and this isn’t sexual harassment but more just demoralizing—one time I was carrying my dirty dishes to the employee kitchen to wash them, and this male engineer saw me and asked, ‘Are you bringing us dinner because we’re here working late?’ I said, ‘Are you just asking me that because I’m a woman?’ And he said no and looked sheepish. There was just a general boys’ club atmosphere there that I felt I wasn’t part of. Sometimes it felt like I was the only one actually getting any work done. The office atmosphere was a major reason why I left that job after two years.”
“I was sexually harassed by my boss for many months. When I started putting up firmer boundaries, he shifted from sexually harassing me to just being super mean to me all the time until I eventually quit. I reported him to HR after the fact. As far as I know, they launched an investigation but nothing ever came of it.”
“I was fired for ‘underperformance’ a few days after filing a report about sexual harassment and age and sex discrimination in my workplace. I had never received any negative performance feedback before then, and in fact a week earlier had been offered a senior role. I believe I was the only employee to receive a perfect score in my performance review the previous year.”
“Myself and other women in the office have privately discussed our discomfort with editorial decisions made around stories of sexual harassment and assault—many of which had been authored and edited exclusively by men. I spoke directly to these men, highlighting reasons why our coverage should be more sensitive to survivors and suggested that more women should write and edit these pieces. Instead of accepting my critique and offering to change anything, my ‘progressive’ male coworkers came to my desk to debate me about the definition of sexual assault and tell me I was wrong. I even asked to move my desk away from them, but the next day the same men stopped by my new desk and continued to intimidate me. The HR rep decided what they were doing wasn’t harassment, but a personality conflict.”
“I often feel uncomfortable when (mostly male) people in our newsroom talk about the recent slew of sexual harassment and abuse allegations. These comments are not what I would think of as harassment themselves, but I’ve encountered many situations where coworkers doubt the veracity of reports by victims of harassment or abuse in various ways, either wondering why they didn’t come forward sooner or picking apart the details of a specific account. There have also been situations where I feel like my coworkers are sympathizing with those accused of abuse and harassment, or seem to be expressing concern over the pace and volume of recent allegations. No one has said this explicitly, but the tone and context of these comments often suggests to me that they are worried about being accused of harassment or abuse themselves and fear for their careers. I often want to speak up in these situations and correct my coworkers’ misconceptions about the nature of harassment and abuse, but I worry about what I might open myself up to if I were to begin that conversation. I’m in a very junior position, and it’s easier for me to just keep my head down and get through the day.”
“1990s: Covering abortion laws…found women’s underwear left on my desk.
2000s: Longtime contributor to a news organization. Harasser frequently made verbal references to my dating status, whether I was lonely, etc. He wasn’t worth reporting because 1) he’d already been in trouble and 2) I didn’t care. He didn’t have power over me and 3) This organization is notorious for punishing people who speak up. HR exists to protect management. I was management and knew the drill, and I had no union to back me up.
I’m less able to articulate this but the larger question is bullying. I saw that happen so often to older women. They were powerful and they were shot down, kneecapped, silenced or sidelined in so. many. ways. Numerous talented and strong women, veterans of overseas and breaking news coverage—now over 50 years old—found jobs vanish or made problematic to do (moving jobs to different city, moving them to overnight, reassigning duties etc). Cannot stress to you how much this is a piece of this newsroom’s culture which, though there are lots of women, as you climb management ladder is entirely male and honestly not terribly bright. Very sad to have left but very glad I did—it is massively dysfunctional.”
“I haven’t encountered harassment in my current newsroom. I have in the majority of my past newsrooms.”
“Not in the newsroom where I work now, but I have in the past.”
“Not in current newsroom, though others have in past times.”
“During all my professional life, many, many times.”
TOP IMAGE: Graphics by Christie Chisholm