It’s All Fun and Games


Dear Dharma,

I am a woman in an nontraditional workplace.  I work in the building trades, and though there are lots more of us now than ever before, a woman in a hardhat is still uncommon.  I am near the end of my apprenticeship, and looking forwards to getting my ticket!  It is a great job, and the pay and benefits can be really good.

My question is kind of hypothetical, but based a bit on my experiences and more so on others’ experiences I have heard of.

A lot of construction sites still have a “boy’s club” feel to them, with the joking around and heckling that goes with that. Every site has a No Horseplay policy, and safety is a huge factor, but little annoyances still seem to go on.  Hot sauce in sandwiches, shaving cream or grease in hard hats, centerfold pictures in lockers, like that.  It is all very juvenile of course, but it is almost like a rite of passage to be accepted on the work site.

I don’t want to be the person who goes running to the foreman every time someone makes a joke, and anyone who knows me will tell you I am politically incorrect in most conversations!

Don’t get me wrong, 99.9% of the guys are supportive of women in trades, and some have even said they hope their daughters will follow them.  Where does the line get drawn between what is good natured fun and what is harassment?

Blue Collar (Wo)Man

Dear (Wo)Man,

Crazy, hey?  That this kind of stuff still goes on in 2015.  I mean, it could be worse, like in Footloose where no one was allowed to dance and sing…  Like, really, what the hell was that about…

There are some that might say when you go into a highly male dominated industry like construction that you need to expect this kind of treatment simply because you’re a woman.  It is what it is, and you need to accept it as part of the choice you’ve made to enter willingly into this type of environment.  It’s like moving next door to a bar, and then bitching about it being too loud.

I agree with the latter scenario – you moved there knowing the circumstances, so suck it up, Sunshine!

However, there are so many variables in your scenario that depend on personal tolerance that I’m struggling to give a black and white answer when the area is so very grey and fuzzy.

What’s the line between good natured fun and harassment?  Well, the definition of harassment is “aggressive pressure or intimidation”.  I would also think that includes when the attention you are receiving, for whatever reason, is unwanted, it’s been made clear it is unwanted, and yet it still occurs.  But I don’t write for the dictionary people, so maybe that’s not part of it.

I kind of, kind of, understand the rite of passage thing – it’s designed to test your mettle, and in some cases truly is harmless.  That’s where the personal tolerance comes in, and you’ll have to determine what yours is – that’s exactly what it is they’re trying to determine, too, non?

Anything that jeopardizes safety is off limits, and you shouldn’t hesitate in busting their balls if crap like that goes on. Anything that makes you truly uncomfortable and/or miserable should be a no-go too.  No one has the right to make you feel like that when all you are doing is trying to earn a living.

You know you could put a centerfold picture in your locker too, right?  Shemar Moore comes to mind, and I’m sure the guys you work with wouldn’t have a problem with that…


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