In an older post I just came across over at The Sexist, there’s a great discussion about the idea of “having a thick skin” in the context of male-dominated workplaces as well as street harassment.Â We’ve talked about this stuff before; it relates to the dismissing tactic of calling women “over-sensitive.”Â Sexist reader Chloe Angyal writes about her graduate research into women working on Wall Street trading floors.Â I’m having a tough time not just copying her whole post over, it’s really great…. but here’s the final point, which really hit home for me:
The irony is that these women donâ€™t need to call attention to the fact that theyâ€™re women â€” theyâ€™re being sexually harassed for that very reason. Women who accept sexual harassment, be it at work or on the street, have â€œthick skinâ€ and are â€œreasonable.â€ Women who donâ€™t are â€œvictimsâ€ who â€œcanâ€™t hack it.â€ At work women are faced with two equally unpleasant choices: suffer harassment or discrimination in silence, or speak up and be branded a thin-skinned victim who makes all the other women look bad. On the street, speaking up comes with the added danger of a physical attack. Itâ€™s a no-win situation that we face on the way to work, on the way home, and every moment in between. â€œThick skin,â€ as handy a survival method as it might be, is not a solution: the solution is to change the acceptability of harassment and discrimination.
In the comments, Occam makes a great point about how this relates to the policing of women’s boundaries:
This is a great point about how the choice is between â€œthick skinnedâ€ women or women who â€œmake themselves the victimâ€. This cast actually punishes women who set and define their boundaries as â€œvictimsâ€, when in fact setting and defining boundaries is the opposite of victim behavior. In fact, those rewarded in a male dominated environment are the people who refuse to draw a line at objectionable behavior. Itâ€™s another case of rewarding women who allow themselves to be dominated, and punishing women who expect to be treated with respect.