I just completed a long, irritating online class on sexual harassment in the workplace. Our local Catholic leaders require all workers and volunteers to take these courses every year. “John has a photo of his wife in lingerie on his desk. Is this harassment? What type of harassment is it?” I click “visual,” and they tell me what a genius I am. “Steve tells Sally she needs to loosen up and insists on giving her a back rub, even though she says she doesn’t want it. Is this harassment?” Yes. Right! Again, I’m a genius.
I’m at church only a few hours a week, mostly playing music and leading the choir. Our staff consists of four women and a priest whom we rarely see outside of Mass. I work mostly with kids and old people. I have experienced plenty of sexual harassment in past lives, but not here. Oh wait, there is that one parishioner who touches me all the time . . .
Preventing sexual harassment is important. God knows the Catholic Church needs to clean up its act. We have all heard too much about priests molesting little boys. And I suspect most women in all types of work have been harassed in some way by unwanted touches, comments, or suggestions that they need to cooperate if they want raises, promotions or simply to stay employed. It’s awful. I applaud the “me too” movement, but in my case they are literally preaching to the choir.
One section of the course sparked thoughts that we can apply here at Childless by Marriage. A group of men were seen as harassing a male co-worker when they started making comments about his manliness and his fertility. There’s a related kind of harassment for those of us without children.
- Someone makes casual jokes about slow sperm, spoiled eggs, or menopause.
- A group of women in the break room share stories about their children. When you come in, they either stop talking or ignore you.
- A mom tells you, “You wouldn’t understand. You don’t have children.”
- A co-worker casually asks, “When are you gonna get knocked up? You’re not getting any younger.”
- Someone has to work overtime, and you’re elected because you don’t have to rush home to your kids (although you might have something just as important to get home for)
- You and another man are up for a promotion, but the boss stresses that they prefer a “family man.”
- Co-workers throw a surprise baby shower at the office. Not only do you have to attend, but you’re expected to buy a gift.
I’m sure you can come up with more examples.
Unlike sexual harassment, none of this is illegal. In most cases, people don’t realize they may be causing you pain—or that not having children doesn’t mean you don’t have something equally important going on outside of work.
Have you experienced these things or other instances of mommy-daddy harassment? Tell us about it in the comments.