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Casual Abuse November 12, 2006

Posted by Winter in misogyny, sexual harrassment.

On Friday evening a friend and I were setting the world to rights over a coffee in Cardiff. We and a heterosexual couple were the only customers in a coffee shop staffed by one woman. A group of young men stopped outside the window and looked as if they were thinking about coming in, but it turned out that wasn’t their motivation. They waited until the waitress looked up from what she was doing and started to abuse her about the size of her breasts, hooting, shouting “fucking massive tits” and doing that thing men do to mime large breasts. She didn’t do or say anything. She just looked away. I didn’t do or say anything either; I shut down instantly because it triggered bad memories of my own experiences. “Fucking massive tits” was one of the boys’ nicknames for me at school. I presumed it was a nasty one off incident, but about half an hour later a different man arrived and did the same thing; he stopped, waited until the waitress was in eyeshot and abused her verbally. So now I’m seriously considering whether I should call the Police and report these incidents. The waitress is Italian, I don’t think English is her first language, and I certainly don’t want to get her into any trouble, but I feel the men’s behaviour was part of a concerted attack. They know she’s there and they know she’s on her own. I recognised the behaviour; I recognised the gleeful expression on their faces as they sexually abused a woman safe in the knowledge that she is unlikely to retaliate.

What do you think?

Since we’re talking about breasts, let me point you to Yiskra’s post Boobs er Basically.

It is in the way of sexist oppression to ensure that women can never “win” when it comes to their breasts. If you have small breasts, you will be abused; if you have large breasts you will be abused; if you go and get breast implants to try and make them conform to the ever shifting impossible breast ideal many people will still laugh at and abuse you precisely because you have had breasts implants. If something goes wrong with your surgery people will laugh at you. You can’t win.



1. Jax - November 12, 2006

talk to the waitress, explain her rights to her, offer to support her in a complaint? Complain to the owner of the cafe that they are not supporting their staff or providing a safe environment for ppl wanting to eat/ drink in the cafe. Go to the cafe again, take several friends and a camera. When it happens again take pictures of the offenders.

By all means involve the police – ask if they have a community liaison in the area who could take to dropping in to the cafe.

It is only by us all not accepting this behaviour that it will stop. If you can enlist male friends in this initiative, so much the better, to make it obvious that it isn’t just sensitive delicate little women that don’t like their behaviour.

2. Artemis - November 12, 2006

Geez. Why do men think this is okay? Why does society seem to think this is okay???? How do they get away with this time and time again!!!!!

Calling the police is tricky – maybe before you do so, it would be good to go and let her know in advance so she’s not taken aback? I don’t think it would get her in trouble – I would hope not – why should a report of harassing customers get the staffworker in trouble? That kind of behavior shouldn’t be allowed no matter who was working there… grrrrrrrrrrr…..

3. Louisefeminista - November 13, 2006

I think Jax is right. Speak to the woman and explain to her her rights. How does she feel about these sexist men? She may be afraid of losing her job if she made a fuss (paramount that she join a union)

Talk to her about union rights as well. Yes, take friends as well and other people (men as well as women who are sympathetic)as you will feel much more powerless and assertive when you are in a group.

It is hard to involve the police as I don’t see how they would define this “crime” and so on. But I do think you need to know what the woman wants to do.

I think it is appalling that women are made to feel like crap and demeaned by these sexist men. Ideally no woman has to put up with these men. They probably think they can get away with it as she is just a waitress.

4. Andygrrl - November 13, 2006

I wonder what would have happened if someone had gone up and told them to fuck off. Men aren’t used to being called on their behavoir. Get the manager to yell at them for loitering. And it couldn’t hurt to let the police know that there’s sexual harassment going on (if these are local guys and this happens regularly).

5. Kate - November 14, 2006

What they said. If you can, try and speak to the woman. I wonder how alone she feels, especially if she’s from another country – maybe she has nobody to talk to about this. I’m worried, like you, that it is an ongoing abuse (not that it makes it better even if it isn’t).

6. Winter - November 14, 2006

Thanks all.

I think I’m going to start by calling the Safer Cardiff unit — they deal with harassment, hate crime and so forth.

My problem in this instance is that I don’t frequent this coffee shop and don’t know the woman at all. Women can react quite badly when given advice on a situation they feel they can’t change from a stranger, so I do want to tread carefully.

I may go back there soon. If it happens it would be give me an excuse to say something to her at the time.

I’d be worried about contacting the management just in case they thought it would be easier to get rid of the waitress rather than deal with the problem!

This kind of situation draws attention to the intersection of sexism and class.

7. Anonymous - November 21, 2006

For a start I will ask you to excuse my bad English, for this is not my first language.

Second, beeing farely new to the blog-world I look around to find interesting sites. That is how I found you.

Last, please let me say my opinion (even nthough I never understood the behaviour of British youth).

I believe that this girl has a problem that can not deal with. She is not use to thtis kind of behaviour in her country. I also believe that you are having or will (in different scale or respect) have the same problem.
As I third person can see (I am Greek, live in Greece, but visit England often) that your problem as a country is that you conditioned to a few things
One of them is serious.
Alcohol (a lot of it) which is concider a “social thing to do” (like you can not relax or be social without it)

I don’t hate alcohol and I am not running or planing to run a campain against it. I wil have some beer or wine with my food and in a cold winter night I will stay by the fire and have a whiskey.
But the way people think, behave and react, before and after they had a drink in your country is unbelievable!
Whatever you do socialy (even in funerals) it has to go with a drink. Everything!!
And the way Brits behave after it is . . . I let you fill the dots.

These “lads” are propably drunk or will be.
My advice is Let Them Go.
I know you are right. I do not blame you getting angry.
But think before you act.
They may be passing out of this cafe every day.
And you will not be there everyday to protect the Italian girl.
Be carefull, With people in that low level you can not fight.

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