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I hope this is an appropriate place to post this; I thought I would get a different response here than a more traditional feminist community.

I'd like to get some perspective on something that happened at my workplace.
I work in a cafe (akin to starbucks) with primarily female co-workers. One regular, male, customer consistently made female employees feel uncomfortable due to staring for uncomfortably long periods of time, and being caught on several occasions moving or leaning over to check out females when they turned or bent to prepare a beverage.

I dealt with the discomfort by maintaining politeness but refusing to engage past brisk work-related interactions. Other women felt discomfort to the point of fleeing to the kitchen when they saw him arriving, and leaving a male employee to serve the customer.

When the situation escalated to that level, one of the female employees decided to talk to the customer, and told him that some of the female employees felt he was staring in a way that made them uncomfortable. He got very red and quickly left. Since then, he avoids the cafe much of the time, avoids looking at female employees at all, and seems to only order from a male employee.

I am conflicted... On one hand, it bothers me that his solution is to entirely avoid us, instead of attempting to interact in a way that doesn't make us uncomfortable. On the other hand, I certainly appreciate that he is amending his behavior to remedy the situation. I can't imagine how I would react if I was in his place, especially if I didn't realize I was making people uncomfortable (I do not know if he was intentionally checking out women or not.)

So I guess what I'd like to know is, what is your interpretation of the situation? Is there a better way to approach this kind of thing?

Comments

I think it was handled as best as possible by the cafe - at least, I can't think of any better way. It's uncomfortable all around, but it's better that he's aware of the effect he is having on people.

As for how he's handling it, I can't blame him for being avoidant rather than interacting in a way that doesn't make others uncomfortable. If he genuinely isn't aware when he's doing this, and doesn't feel he knows how to not make others uncomfortable, it's actually quite considerate for him to err on the side of caution until he learns what's appropriate. (I'm assuming he's just avoiding behavior resembling that which he was told was bothering people, and not being passive-aggressive and pointedly shunning the women.)
I think your cafe handled the situation well. As much as forcing the guy to sit through a Feminist 101 lecture sounds good, it's not usually practical (or possible) in a work setting.

I can't think of any really different way to handle that. I guess one question I have would be do you think it'd be better to have one of the women address the customer, or to have a male address him?


And I agree, I can see his motivation for avoiding the place. I'm assuming (or hoping) the guy didn't have truly nefarious intentions, and is now just really embarrassed.