Behind a cut for #MeToo reasons.
Dear Captain Awkward,
I (she/her) work in a male-dominated creative industry. Over the course of my career, I have worked with several very famous people, including Famous Dude. Famous Dude is incredibly talented and very charismatic, and when I was still a student he really went out of his way to jump-start my career. Famous Dude is also a total jackass. As soon as I realized what was up, I began refusing to work with Famous Dude as much as I could, and in the intervening years I’ve done my best to distance myself from him.
At my current job, I have recently acquired a new officemate. Officemate is male and older than me, though we have similar job titles (and technically I’m senior to him). Our team went out for drinks two weeks ago, and Officemate asked me about Famous Dude. I gave my standard line, which is that I learned a lot from Famous Dude, but that we have very different personalities, and that I found a better fit elsewhere. Officemate continued asking me questions about Famous Dude, so I shared some stories from the public record. (For example: screaming obscenities at reporters, saying terrible stuff about LGBTQ people, saying terrible stuff about women.) (Thing I didn’t mention to Officemate: #metoo. All women in my industry that I’ve ever talked to about Famous Dude either already knew this about him or immediately got what I was talking about when I said something vague about me not wanting to work with him again or him having trouble forming long-term collaborations with women.)
Officemate and I then had what I thought was a great conversation about encouraging diversity in our industry, until it took a weird turn. Officemate started insisting I do a public take-down of Famous Dude (me: “uh, and tank my career? no thanks”) and wouldn’t stop talking about it. I finally had to directly say, “I’m done talking about this,” and really obnoxiously change the subject.
Now Officemate won’t stop bringing up Famous Dude. Totally out of the blue, no context at all, he’ll say things like, “you’re a really good writer, you should write a thing about [Famous Dude].” Me: “I’ve already said no. Stop saying this.” Or: “So you know that thing [Famous Dude] say about lesbians? Can you explain to me why that’s wrong?” Me: “No. I’m not your personal Google.” (I’m a woman married to a woman, which Officemate knows.)
Or: “You going to [event] tonight?” Me: “No.” Officemate: “That’s surprising.” Me: “Why?” Officemate: “[Person at event] used to work with [Famous Dude].” Me: “Yeah, I know. Why should I care?” Officemate: “Well, you have so many opinions about [Famous Dude]…” Me: “Yeah, I’m busy tonight; I’m not going.”
(Officemate also keeps referring to Famous Dude by title, which is really, really weird in my industry. I’ve directly called him out on it — “you know, you can refer to him as [Famous], or [Famous Dude], you don’t need to call him [Mr. Dude]” — but he didn’t stop. Indeed, he’s taken to elongating the vowels [“Mr. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude”] in a cutesy tone, the way one might tease a child about a schoolyard crush. Wtf.)
Captain, how do I get him to stop? Is he trying to connect with me and just doing it really badly? (The way people sometimes say stupid things about your hometown when trying to make small-talk?) If I ignore all mentions of Famous Dude, will Officemate eventually get bored? Should I keep shutting him down, in hopes that I’ll eventually make my point? I don’t want to make this a bigger deal than it is, because this is honestly fairly innocuous. But. Officemate is a person that I need to work closely and even travel with for the next 7+ months, and I want him to stop being weird about this.
I don’t even know what this is
Dear I Don’t Even Know:
My sense of what might be going on with your coworker: He is/was a huge fan of Famous Dude and is trying to reconcile what he knows about him now with how he feels or felt about the work that shaped him creatively. He is trying to use your experiences and connection to Famous Dude as an outlet for processing all of this. To be clear, this is the most benign possible interpretation I can come up with, because all the other ones involve him trying to harass you by proxy by constantly reminding you of something that he knows pushes your buttons.
What he doesn’t get (and what a lot of dudes are not getting in the age of #MeToo) is that women – including the targets and collateral damage of Famous Dude Creeps & Assholes – are ALSO having to reconcile this same weird ball of feelings of being a fan of something and then having that come crashing down. You know who was probably a huge fan of Bill Cosby once upon a time? Literally everyone he drugged and raped. You know who really liked Louis C.K. and wanted to be friends with him? The women comedians he harassed. You know who was probably really psyched at one point to get their big break and work with Matt Lauer? The female tv producers and journalists who he locked into his office with his creepy under-the-desk door-locking mechanism. You know who really, really liked art house cinema in the 1990s? Women who created it, like Annabella Sciorra, Salma Hayek, Uma Thurman, Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino, etc. (and a young Captain Awkward who snuck out of her management consulting job to watch three movies in a row at the cluster of indie theaters that used to ring Dupont Circle before they all became People’s Drug or Restoration Hardware locations). I swear, not a day goes by when I don’t enjoy the work of a prominent male creative person and then think to myself “I would be so incredibly bummed out if I found out that person was creepy.” For example, when I saw Morgan Freeman’s name trending last week, I thought for a second that he’d died, but no, it was just more gross and inappropriate comments directed toward women who were probably initially very excited to meet Morgan Freeman.
There’s a lot about this whole conversation that makes me enraged…and tired…and sad…but if I could make one tiny point today it is that women are also creators and fans of pop culture and have complicated feelings about the work and the people who make it. When we are harassed by creative dudes in our fields, it’s because we are doing the exact same work that they are! When someone who created something that we loved turns out to be an asshole, we also wonder if it’s okay to still be a fan of the work, and we also reckon with complex emotions about stories/music/movies that have been super-important to us! We don’t have time to process all of that and also soothe the feelings or be the personal Google for the nearest dude who feels awkward about having loved Annie Hall!
EVERYONE HAS A LOT OF FEELINGS RIGHT NOW, and that could be a healthy thing, probably, because a huge ugly boil is being lanced, but it’s also a messy thing, because processing the ugliness doesn’t mean things are getting better across the board. It doesn’t mean that the small ways that it is getting better are happening fast enough or deep enough or that they will ever be enough for all the people who were traumatized, harmed, and locked out of working. And it does mean that people who have found a way to make peace with working in the industry are having to be reminded every single day of the compromises they made & of the things they survived (for example, I’m sure you’re not the only person under pressure to write some tell-all piece that will bring you a lot of stress and bullshit). We are very, very bad at centering victims and taking care of victims, and our abilities in that regard are not catching up with the zeitgeist. And then there is a whole other conversation about making marginalized folks be cheerful ambassadors for diversity on top of all their other work…
Letter Writer, your Work Dude is trying to process his feelings about Famous Dude through you and your experience. He is demanding emotional labor from you around this topic, and you don’t owe him shit. I think you are handling this just fine, but here’s a script for the next time it comes up:
“Work Dude, we’ve talked about #FamousDude a couple of times now and I’ve said everything I have to say on the topic. I’ve also told you more than once ‘I’m done talking about this.’ So why do you keep mentioning him to me every chance you get?”
He’ll say something in return, so, listen to whatever that is and then tailor your response. One possible script could be:
“I made peace with where I got my start long ago, and one way I’ve been able to move on creatively and personally is to choose when and how much I engage with #FamousDude and his legacy. If you still follow his career and his mouth-droppings closely, that’s up to you, but you’re gonna have to find someone who is not me to chat about that stuff with, ok? Just because all this is new to you doesn’t mean it’s new to me, and I don’t share your fascination. The way you talk about him is starting to feel hostile and unfriendly. I’m sure you don’t mean it to be that way, so I really need you to stop being weird about this.”
Hopefully he will get the message. If not, the time after that he mentions #FamousDude, you could try:
- Totally ignore him as if he hasn’t said anything. Let the awkward silence build and cover the earth.
- Ask him “Why are you being so weird about this? Are you obsessed with #FamousDude or something?”
- “You keep bringing that up like I’m gonna talk about it more. Weird. So, about work topic…”
- Press a button on your phone that plays “Let It Go” from Frozen. Accompany it with an interpretive dance where your jazz hands morph into middle fingers.
- NEVER give him any more information about #FamousDude. One worry I’d have in your shoes would be that your coworker would say stuff on social media or write some kind of dumb post on Medium about it using your stories.
- “#FamousDude is gonna #FamousDude (i.e. Franzen gonna manzen). My problem right now is with you and the way you keep bringing it up even when you know I don’t want to talk about it.”
I’m glad you’re doing well in your chosen field, making awesome shit. Keep awesome-ing.
Edited to add: I just read this interview with Alia Shawkat, a follow up to that NY Times disaster interview where all the dudes on Arrested Development talked over Jessica Walter and pledged their eternal loyalty to harasser Jeffrey Tambor. It’s a great piece, you should read the whole thing, but I especially want to call attention to this (bolding mine):
In the wake of the interview’s publication, as social media outrage soared and apologies were published, Shawkat says she was bombarded with press inquiries. Similarly, in April, when she was doing press for her new film Duck Butter, Shawkat was regularly asked for comment on Tambor’s harassment allegations from “Transparent.“
She’s chosen to speak out now because she wants her voice to be heard in this conversation, as well as to make it clear that her life and her work are not to be defined forever in relation to a man she has worked with. “I don’t want to feel like I’m doing press for other movies, and trying to get stories about women and queer people and Arab-Americans—things that mean a lot to me that I could talk about forever—and yet I’m still being asked about this.”
“It makes me angry,” Shawkat said. “[Men implicated in #MeToo] need to be responsible for their own actions. Not me.”
I’ve seen so many red carpet interviews with female artists in the past year where they are promoting their show or big moment or just wearing a pretty dress to a thing and they get blindsided with “So, care to comment publicly on this horrible thing #FamousMan you’ve definitely met before did?” questions – questions that men, including the #FamousMan mentioned in the question do not get asked, even though they are RIGHT THERE at the SAME EVENT – and the implication that the women are somehow complicit or cowards or responsible if they don’t answer. I’m glad Alia Shawkat named this weird behavior and pushed back on it.
171 thoughts on “#1110: “Dudebro won’t stop bugging me about another dudebro. I JUST WANNA DO MY JOB.””
I’m reminded of a passage from “High Fidelity”
“She spits out the name of a fairly well-known American singer-songwriter, someone you might have heard of.
‘He’s the one you had to split the Patsy Cline records with?’
She nods, and I can’t control my enthusiasm.
‘What, that you’ve slept with someone who’s slept with . . . ‘ (Here she repeats the name of the fairly well-known American singer-songwriter, whom I shall hereafter refer to as Steve.)
She’s right! Exactly that! Exactly that! I’ve slept with someone who’s slept with . . . Steve! (That sentence sounds stupid without his real name in it. Like, I’ve danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with . . . Bob. But just imagine the name of someone, not really famous, but quite famous, Lyle Lovett, say, although I should point out, for legal reasons, that it’s not him, and you’ll get the idea.)
‘Don’t be daft, Marie. I’m not that crass. I just meant, you know, it’s amazing that someone who wrote — ‘ (and here I name Steve’s greatest hit, a drippy and revoltingly sensitive ballad) ‘should be such a bastard.’ I’m very pleased with this explanation for my amazement. Not only does it get me out of a hole, but it’s both sharp and relevant.”
I just really cannot tell which paraphrasing is yours and which is from the movie, and that makes this comment not very comprehensible to me.
It’s all a quote from the book after “I’m reminded of a passage from High Fidelity”
Thank you! I didn’t mean to sound snarky at ALL, I just can’t quite parse it, I think. It’s a Me Problem!
There’s a movie?
Yeah, it came out about 15 years ago, give or take a couple.
Gawd, I love Nick Hornby.
Hmmmm. *googles Nick Hornby*
Okay, good. No #metoo-related news about him so far.
That could well be a reason why he keeps bugging LW, actually. It’s pretty normal to be excited at the idea of having a connection to someone famous, especially someone you admire. I’m sure most people have had at least a fleeting moment of, ‘Ooh, I wonder if you could introduce me!’ when hearing someone you know mention that they know somebody exciting.
Knowing someone that person badly is a sort of connection … but being the person who encouraged someone to go public about his actions, and thus *have an actual effect* on that person, is more of a connection.
It’s a sort of upside-down fandom: you want the person’s attention (we’d all like the attention of people we think are cool), and being at the centre of their taking-down definitely gets their attention – if not on you personally, then on actions that you’ve influenced.
OMG. I am so grateful for Capt. A!!!! I learn something every single time I read your column.
My first thought? It kinda sounds like DudeBro wants IDEK to blow this up (wants HER to blow up) so she’ll suffer the possible blowback this could/would bring her. Then he can take her job.
Paranoid, I know. But he’s not taking “no” for an answer, and he’s making it all about her & DudeBro, telling her her reality, and those are red flags for me.
He could also be one of those dudes (and they are almost entirely dudes) who believe it’s every victim’s sworn duty to broadcast what they know from the rooftops, damn the consequences to themselves, because if they don’t it somehow makes them complicit in any and all future harm done to others by the person who hurt them.
These dudes, totally surprisingly I’m sure, also do not respect boundaries and feel justified in ignoring even direct communication if they think it will get them what they want. Just with differently entitled, controlling, and self important goals in mind.
I also think it’s likely to be this. And Dudes do not get it because they are allowed to speak. Women are socialised to let things go and smooth things over, so when women do blow the whistle on the way they’ve been treated and who they’ve been mistreated by, it’s jarring because it breaks the illusion. Men and boys don’t typically have this problem, they can speak out (in most cases) and be believed. Women and girls have the dual problem of being able to speak out and be believed once they’ve done so.
Right. It’s been my experience that these dudes think that because they can say “that man touched my wife!” and be believed by many other dudes who are indignant on their behalf that a woman can say “that man touched me!” and receive the same response. Nope. Completely different dynamics on almost every conceivable level from macro to micro.
This…has happened to me. And my rape has been publicly broadcasted and I’ve received backlash for it, all because my now ex decided it was my “duty” to warn other women, and since I wasn’t doing that, it was up to him to do it for me without asking or even notifying me.
It was horrible. To say the least.
OP, NEVER share personal details with this guy or anyone remotely possibly could be one day somehow untrustworthy. They will take it upon themselves to ruin your privacy and then scold you for not doing so yourself.
I’m sorry that you were hurt, and I’m sorry you were further violated by someone you should have been able to trust. All the internet hugs if you want them.
Thank you. xx Fortunately I live on a different continent now, far away from all those people.
That is so horrible. I am glad you are very, very far away from all of those people now.
Damn. What lousy creeps.
I’m so sorry they were so horrible to you.
Oh, them. The “It’s your (the victim’s) responsibility to stop evildoer singlehandedly and if you don’t the next victims are on your head because we can’t possibly expect evildoers to be held responsible for their actions!!!eleventy!!!!” crowd can take a short walk off a long pier.
Yep. 😦 This happened in an online community I used to be in which recently blew up with revelations about a sexual predator in their midst. The number of tweets I saw along the lines of ‘why didn’t she say so immediately? She’s complicit!!!’ I was so downhearted and I hope the victims were able to avoid this sentiment as much as possible. Fortunately the victims who came forward were able to stay anonymous.
The statements from the victims included things like ‘I didn’t say anything at the time because I was afraid of harrassment from his devoted fans’. One even said ‘I tried to tell a fan community for him when it happened and was treated like I was ridiculous to think such a sweet man could ever do something like that’. These important pieces of information were of course ignored by our amateur judge and jury.
I think that the best response I ever heard (and it may have been here, I don’t remember) is ‘I didn’t automatically become his parole officer just because he raped me.’
Totally ignoring also that you can get sued for speaking up! Famous guys have lawyers and are obsessed with their reputation, so they might try it. If you it’s the truth, you’re likely to win, but not everyone has money for a lawyer and time to spend on court and emotional bandwidth to relive their rape in front of an audience.
A friend of mine is going through this now and it really sucks.
Yes, people forget that the very reason that Famous Dudes can get away with so much for so long is that people with a financial stake in their success protect them. Jimmy Saville was protected by the BBC for decades.
I live in the Canadian province which has the dubious distinction of having the lowest rate of sexual assault complaints made to police actually followed up on (Saskatchewan, if you’re wondering). In other words, a woman in this province might go to a police station and report an assault and those police officers may decide, all on their lonesome, that it’s a frivolous complaint and they don’t have to do anything about it.
But what’s the first thing those dudes say when they hear about a sexual assault? “Why didn’t you go to the police then?!!” Such touching faith. And of course no woman was ever harassed and bullied *because* she’d filed a complaint. Oh no, never ever happens.
“He could also be one of those dudes (and they are almost entirely dudes) who believe it’s every victim’s sworn duty to broadcast what they know from the rooftops, damn the consequences to themselves, because if they don’t it somehow makes them complicit in any and all future harm done to others by the person who hurt them.”
This is what I struggled with for a LONG ass time in rape counseling. I was raped by my first boyfriend, and I didn’t tell anyone. I was fourteen when he raped me, and I didn’t know what to do, and figured I wouldn’t be believed anyway. But when I found out that he did it to someone else later, I felt immediately guilty, like, “If I had just said something, she wouldn’t have been raped.”
It took me until I was damn near thirty five years old to figure out that no, it is NOT my job to keep him from raping people. It was HIS job to not rape. And although I talk about my experiences now, openly, I have forgiven the young, terrified girl who didn’t say anything, and I would never, ever tell another victim – no matter how old – that it was her job to speak up. You process how you process – some people want to talk, some don’t. Some people want to share their stories, some don’t. Trying to guilt someone into talking about it when they don’t want to is taking away their agency AGAIN.
K Dubs, you are spot on about this. Forcing someone to talk about when they were raped is just another violation. When someone has done this to me, it was *never* coming from a good place. They did not have my best interests in mind. At the very least they were trying to feel self important. Lots of folks have tried to argue me out of being traumatized. Some had *much* darker motives. Sounds like the LW is dealing with a pretty sketchy character.
Or it could be his idea of how to create a relationship via proxy with famous dude. Trying to get LW create a ‘situation’ where he can somehow position himself as lw’s Second in battle.
“Press a button on your phone that plays “Let It Go” from Frozen. Accompany it with an interpretive dance where your jazz hands morph into middle fingers.”
This is my new favorite response for people that can’t take a gentle conversation redirect.
Yes for tallying purposes this is also my favourite
I came here to say this. +1
Also…. could this be an app?
[programmer here] Alas, no, because you wouldn’t be able to afford the fees to be allowed to play it, or I’d be totally tempted to write it.
One COULD, however, design an app that allows the user to import music, edit it to capture part of the song, and then set that as a tune played with a touch of a button.
Just a thought. 😉
(No, I don’t expect that anyone do this, but it certainly would be funny…)
I actually did this with my iPhone. I thought it would be cool to “Missify” my phone, that is each type of notification and ringtone is a different characteristic exclamation of Missy Elliot. I imported the songs, captured only the “Hoody hooo” or whatever, and set them as my phone sounds. Now when emails send my phone yells, “YESSSSSS!” All I had to do was look up “how to create custom ringtones for iPhone” online.
However one could make (and I’m sure someone already has) an app that allows the user to play any generic audio file save to one’s phone at the pish of a button…
But. A widget that plays a song that’s been downloaded should be do-able. Right? The user would just choose which song is linked to the widget. Not necessarily “Let it Go”
A lot of file explorer apps have the menu option to “create shortcut” on any file (I use one called Solid Explorer and an android phone), the shortcut puts a button on your homescreen and it works with MP3s, clicking on the shortcut starts the track.
I have fantasized about doing this many a time. Although in my fantasies there is no phone button, the music just starts out of nowhere because the universe has realized I needed it.
I’m pretty sure that how much I want this button is a sign of how much I cannot be trusted with it.
It would be so useful though. *wistful sigh*
I have actually sung this to someone who wouldn’t let a subject drop after several attempts to shut it down. They told me they hated the song and to stop singing it. I sang louder. They walked away and haven’t spoken to me much since. I count it as a win.
I immediately started practicing the hand movements.
Yup. Or, if he’s really dude-bro, consider using dog-training tactics on him. Like, snap your fingers in his face and go ‘no,’ or make that dog-whisperer ‘tsst’ noise, or some other verbal and gesture equivalent to getting sprayed with the water bottle. When he gets all “did you seriously do that?” respond “I don’t know, are you making it necessary? Because usually just telling people to stop doing something works, but words don’t seem to work well on you.” Repeat as needed, and when he complains, just go “don’t make it necessary.”
Brutal, but very effective.
+ infinity stars for Let it Go and the interpretive dance, complete with jazz hands morphing into middle fingers. Perfection!!!
I would be upfront about him provoking you to actual anger. “Drop. It.” in an angry tone, followed by leaving the room.
“You are mentioning Famous Dude all the time purposely to annoy me, and you need to stop.” Whatever it is, deliver it in a tone that’s unmistakably angry, then leave for a bit. Blow up at him, then give him (an hour, the rest of the day) alone where you work from somewhere else, to process what happened.
If he talks his way around to apologies (at a later date) use stop-sign hands and say, “ok, just stop needling me about it.”
I like this approach. Some people just won’t listen to anything short of obvious anger.
This could work in certain limited circumstances. Unfortunately, since LW has identified herself as a woman and a lesbian in a male dominated industry, in other circumstances it could also result in a report to HR about LW’s “temper” or badmouthing her all over the industry regarding how “difficult” she is to work with, so I’d advise cautious and judicious application of the quasi-nuclear option.
Yes, unfortunately some of us don’t get to freely express negative emotions in public without reprisals of some kind. I actually like the idea, but she is a woman, and a lesbian, and showing this man she’s obviously unhappy with him could cost her her job, and I hate to say it, but she needs to take care of herself first.
Yeah, I was going to say, if the LW felt it was safe to express overt anger in her workplace she would probably have already done so. And she’s the authority on the matter.
*Not to be pedantic but she has technically only identified herself as a woman married to a woman
Whoops, you are correct!
The problem with being obviously angry is that if he cares about your feelings, he’ll drop it. If he’s enjoying your feelings, he’ll escalate. (From years of bullying and teasing from schoolmates and family alike.)
Yeah, it certainly strikes me as a possibility that he enjoys her emotions about this. There’s that weird narrative that it’s cute for guys to rile up the girl they like or get her bothered somehow. And then of course there are people who just love to feed off of others’ pain.
Yup, guys like that have “taught” me never to express anger, annoyance or emotion at all when talking about anything even tangentially related to feminism. “Visibly annoyed” can sometimes work, though I think this is more likely to work depending on OP’s age, ie now that I’m mid 30s I can express a bit more annoyance without “you’re cute when you’re mad.” But I still usually go with flat, unnaturally calm demeanor as a reflex. Possibly with added slight confusion when accused of emotion. “Hmm? Angry? Oh, why would you think that?” It sucks to have to do this but I have sometimes felt that I am playing a game of “whoever shows frustration first loses” with these guys and this has made me “win” more than once. Sigh.
I have had many conversations like this with (now former) acquaintances and (now estranged) family members over the years. Mostly dudes, but also my mom and sister, all gleefully waiting for me to lose my shit. Amazing how many supposedly upstanding citizens find the “alleged” traumas and personal tragedies of their friends and family members to be a fun topic of debate. To deal with this bag of dicks, I have now perfected my Deadpan Terminator Face. Looking at one of these concern trolling jerks with my Deadpan Terminator Face on, I say something like, “It is odd that you keep bringing this up when I have repeatedly asked you to stop.” Then, I just let the stony silence and Deadpan Terminator Face do the work. Not a perfect system, but it does give me a bit of satisfaction to watch the jerk’s crestfallen look when I do not give the desired emotional reaction.
The interpretive dance to Let it go, with accompanying middle finger salute sounds like fun, though. I snorted my tea all over my phone when I read that one!
LW, it sucks that you can’t speak your truth and feel your feelings openly. The fact that you got away from famous dude and his shit, and now you have work dude trying to get you to rehash it all for his entertainment is just awful. Work dude sounds like a cruel, bullying, childish ass.
Sending Jedi hugs your way.
And if you don’t get angry, they’ll tell you to “calm down” anyway. I can’t tell you how often that’s happened when I make some perfectly neutral and innocuous statement. “Okay okay calm down hahaha” “All I said was ‘I don’t like ketchup.'”
Yeah, my first thought was that he’s playing an annoying game of “there’s yer booooooyfriend,” as if he were nine years old. (In which case an over-the-glasses look of withering contempt might do the trick … except that you’ve probably already tried that.)
It’s a 50/50. Some guys see anger as a “win.” They’re entertained by it.
I jumped straight to the harass by proxy interpretation, that he’s found a way to needle you from cover of safety, that he’s looking for an emotional reaction that he can get off on without being held accountable. Each time you tell him not to do that, he gets off on knowing that he’s bothering you. He now knows the consequence of needling is being told not to do it again. He seems to be hoping for escalation which means more emotional reaction which means more goodies for him. He also seems to be pushing to see how far he can go. From his point of view, this is perfect because, if you go to h.r., you’re outing your feelings about Famous Dude which he knows you don’t want to do (the whole tank career thing), which means he wins again!
My advice? Go to h.r. First document– everything. Tell him again to stop. He won’t. Bring out something for him to sign off on that he knows you’ve asked him to stop and that he’s continued despite knowing this, that he understands this is harassing behavior. When he asks why you’re doing something that petty, tell him you’re documenting for h.r. He may stop at that point, but if he doesn’t, quietly document the other things he’s getting wrong. Also network to the extent of finding out ways he’s needling others. Have a good case put together so you can present it to h.r. all at once.
I hope I’m wrong and that the captain’s more benign interpretation is the correct one.
The thing about going to HR is, a) there might not be HR b) there might not be GOOD HR and I would not assume they would be on the LW’s side – they want to protect the show/company/production and if they protect workers that’s kinda incidental c) HR is going to ask “what did you do to handle this on your own” d) there are risks to the LW in being branded “difficult” (one of the problems with standing up to harassment), and this is something the LW has managed to AVOID so far. If she could survive #FamousDude without going that route, one needling asshole isn’t going to require the big guns.
If the dude is needling her purposely, the LW’s best strategy might be to make it really boring for him. “Huh? Oh that again?” + “So, about work thing.”
If you work in an industry or company where HR is good and effective, GREAT! YAY!
But that is far from everyone.
“Make it really boring for him” is a really great approach. I’d even pretend not to have heard him:
“Did you say something? I was busy with X.”
Or if you’re already engaged in conversation, “Sorry, I just had a really intriguing idea about Y.” And turn away to work in it. Don’t even ask him if he said something.
It sounds to me like this DudeBro is getting *something* out of your interaction with him, whether it’s your anger, indignation, the vicarious thrill of knowing someone who knows #Famous, anecdotes…whatever it is, I’m Team Let the Awkward Silence Cover the Earth. Give. Him. Nothing.
Maybe choose from the Captain’s menu of other responses before going silent treatment on this topic, if you desire. But you have no obligation to take any more bait when DudeBro goes fishing—even if you do plan just to spit it back out at him.
‘Make it really boring for him” is a really great approach. I’d even pretend not to have heard him:
“Did you say something? I was busy with X.”’
I don’t know why, but my brain just went to “I was thinking about goats.” (Or other animal of choice.)
Like, literally just have that always be the response. As soon as Famous Dude’s name comes up, give every impression of having zoned out, and then respond with something absurdist and consistent.
I am so late to the party, but thank you for “I was thinking about goats.” because it made me snortlaugh in my office and I am totally going to use it going forward.
After OP’s said that to him, why not “Baah” at DudeBro every time he tries to talk about Famous Dude? Absurdist, consistent, and he won’t get a word in edgewise.
HR generally should not be used for interpersonal conflicts unless they violate discrimination laws (and while OP is a woman and lesbian, his line of conversation does not fall under discriminatory acts). They are not a school yard supervisor. Best to always handle this on your own unless it escalates in some way that deters their work.
My vote is to say, next time he brings up famous dude, take that school yard mentality and yell IF YOU LOVE FAMOUS DUDE SO MUCH WHY DONT YOU MARRY HIM. Bet he’d drop it after that.
Best to always handle this on your own
That assumes that there is no power differential between the people having a ‘conflict’ and is, in oh so many cases very bad advice.
The LW *has* tried to handle this as you would between well-meaning human beings who respect each other. But sometimes that fails. If he doubles down on needling here, that’s not a ‘personal conflict’, that’s one person bringing a conflict to another.
I don’t know whether I would involve HR, but I certainly would involve my team leader/supervisor/manager, because this dude is making it harder for LW to _do her job_ and that IS something that’s work-related. No idea how to do this most effectively, but this needs to stop being LWs problem – she didn’t ask for it.
LW has said that while he’s older, she’s senior.
How that plays out varies tremendously.
One thing that I feel the need to highlight (every frog-damned day, it feels) is that NO ONE ELSE gets to decide how you handle your harassment/abuse/assault. There is not a “right way” to be a survivor. There is no “right way” to process harassment and discrimination. Many, many, many people found #MeToo to be a great outlet, but millions of people who also experienced harassment/abuse stayed silent. I hate the idea that you are some how “responsible” to speak up to “protect other people”.
You stop rape by not raping people. You stop harassment, discrimination, and abuse by not harassing, discriminating or abusing people. Forcing someone to “write a narrative” is another way of removing their consent.
To those millions of people who didn’t participate in #MeToo, maybe they nodded along, maybe someone’s story was the step they needed to leave a bad relationship, tell someone about what happened, admit to themselves what happened, talk to a therapist, talk to a doctor, talk to police. Maybe the #MeToo movement was just what they needed to tell some asshole on the bus to fuck off.
The person responsible for harassment is the harasser. End Stop.
Mark me down as someone who deals with her own #MeToo by choosing not to #MeToo.
Yeah, me too to that! My act of resistance is making sure that my voice as an intellectual continues to be heard.
more like #MetaToo, amirite
I’ve gotten so much grief for not being “the right kind” of survivor I refuse to participate in #MeToo. Coping with bad experiences is difficult enough without bombardments of secondary victimization.
I’m sorry you dealt with jerks. You did survive, and that’s awesome. Zen hugs if you want them.
I am very worried that Dudebro is hassling OP in hopes that OP will say something that sounds like a contradiction. Then Dudebro can go all “LIAR! LYING LIAR WHO LIES! I KNEW YOU WERE FULL OF SHIT! I’M GOING TO TELL FAMOUS GUY YOU WERE SPREADING LIES ABOUT HIM!!!!” and feel all vindicated in his fandom.
This goes doubly so because LW is a woman and a lesbian. There are still in the year 2018 men who think women “become” lesbians because they are too mean/fat/ugly/fat/resentful/fat/bitter/fat/man-hating/fat to attract a man.
I had the same thought. Maybe he’s trying to squeeze info out of her for purposes of “proof” (i.e. poking holes in whatever LW says or gaslighting her).
This hadn’t occurred to me, but it makes a lot of sense. Cross examination is a pretty common behavior/tactic when a person thinks someone else is lying. In this case, maybe he just hopes she’s lying, since how would he really have any proof other than analyzing every little thing she says to death?
That certainly seems like a possibility (it’s what people do online, so why not IRL). And it’s worth considering that if that is the motive and LW makes an issue of the coworker’s harassment which the coworker can discredit, then LW has just “proved” she makes things up about her male coworkers.
I should clarify– i mean worth considering in the abstract, not something LW should consider before doing whatever needs doing.
Yeah this occurred to me as well, the possibility that either he’s a Famous Dude suckup and is trying to get info on his behalf or wants to get into that role with FD by passing along info. I really, really hope we’re wrong about that.
Agreed in that I’m getting a giant whiff of “insincere to get something out of her.”
Maybe he’s used to making friends with women by positioning himself to gab about crushes, and then using his inside information to pull strings. It seems like he’s doing a weird secret-crush mirroring here with the frequency of bringing it up and his tone. I’m getting high school flashbacks “I know you’re excited that duuuuuuuude will be there,” “I heard Mr. Dude hooked up with someone,” etc. He’s got the fixation, the mentionitis, and even the special naming convention (only he calls him Mr. Dude).
I also am struck that he needled anything out of LW considering how cautious she is about it. My guess is he does this a lot and he’s good at it. Proceed with caution and the expectation that whenever things are going well with LW or alcohol is involved he’s going to try to dig for more.
Charlene, this sounds like it could be the case here for sure. I have had lots of people do this to me. You know, like they thought they were being “subtle” about their cross-examination.
I once gave my sister a very knowing look and replied, “Why are you so interested in hearing the details of me being raped? Do you really want to know details? That is pretty creepy, sis.” She said that she did want details because she thought my story “just didn’t add up.” You know, the story I *hadn’t told her yet*!
That sucks, but now I know anyway.
My sis prides herself on being a feminist. I told her that slut-shaming and victim-blaming are two things that feminists are fighting against, so maybe she should rethink that.
She said, “You don’t need to humiliate me like this!”
We haven’t spoken since.
Dudebro does sound like a
couch-commando-cross-examiner to me. The type who, if you do tell him anything, will immediately tell you to calm down. Especially if you are already calm.
Maybe a raised eyebrow and a “you seem a bit obsessed,” will help to fend him off? You know, like he is so insignificant that you can’t be bothered with an emotional reaction? Boring is good.
Clarry said, “I jumped straight to the harass by proxy interpretation, that he’s found a way to needle you from cover of safety, that he’s looking for an emotional reaction that he can get off on without being held accountable. Each time you tell him not to do that, he gets off on knowing that he’s bothering you. He now knows the consequence of needling is being told not to do it again. He seems to be hoping for escalation which means more emotional reaction which means more goodies for him. He also seems to be pushing to see how far he can go.”
I also jumped straight to this too, and I DO NOT GET IT. This is how dudes joke around, and as a dudette person, I’ve found in 50 years of living that women in general just don’t do this. I’ve had this done to me before, went nuclear, but not before being nearly bothered out of my mind so that the nuclear option felt like the ONLY option. Really? Seriously? Do you just not get that this is bothering me? Do you not care? CAN you care at all? Do you just totally lack all empathy, and are you a malignant narcissist, that you are aware of causing harm, seeking to cause harm, getting off on it? WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?
I for one would seriously like some scripts from the Captain and the commentariat about how to shut this shit DOWN, and I mean FOR GOOD, preferably on the snarky side where it is clear, ideally, that you make it known that 1) you have sincerely fucked up with me; 2) I will never trust you again; and 3) you are a garbage person for doing this, now change immediately, because as you are, you are simply insufficient and inadequate.
Gosh, can you tell I have feelings about this? It’s one of the downsides of being an HSP, an empath, and someone with misophonia. I’m annoyed, make it known, ask politely for annoying thing to stop… and people keep doing it? DOES NOT COMPUTE, WILL NEVER COMPUTE.
Sometimes people will just decide that your being bothered doesn’t “count”, or at least not as much as their own reason for doing the thing that bothers you, whatever that reason may be. Such people are assholes, but they do exist.
My personal favourite reaction is the cold stare. No verbal response. Just cold stare for a beat or two, then go back to whatever you were doing.
If they have any decency they’ll make some excuse and the behaviour will eventually stop.
Unfortunately in my workplace I had to do this with basically an entire department who act like we’re still in high school and think it’s fun to “tease” everyone. I don’t like it, so I refuse to respond to anything beyond light cajoling.
But I also have excellent resting bitch face, and practiced cold stare technique. YMMV.
An alternative that I just remembered, is the bewilderment stare. Act like they’ve just announced they are a tripedal humanoid from the planet Xenon and would like to eat your tile floors.
As a bonus this one is funny to think about.
Seconding. Dudely people do this sort of thing to feel important and significant. It’s a way of counting coup.
Withering contempt is far more deterrent than overt anger.
Yep, also my experience.
I’ve gotten a lot of ‘frigid’, ‘boring’ ‘buzzkill’ type responses to that, but I’ve also mostly been left alone afterward.
Which is success!
>> This is how dudes joke around, and as a dudette person, I’ve found in 50 years of living that women in general just don’t do this.>>
Ooh, ooh, my family does! Lucky me. Of course, our dynamic is built on a crab-bucket mentality wherein it’s considered HILARIOUS to have feelings other than scorn and superiority.
I don’t talk to them much now.
That’s a little bit #notallwomen, and I’m sorry about that. I guess my point is that the societal neutral point for Dudes in regards to toxic narcissism, when translated to a woman or group of women, is way out of the ordinary. Like 50 Jerk Points is “acceptable Dude” and “super-rare catastrophe Lady.” Hm.
This reminded me of the way my older brothers used to irritate me into screaming fits by mimicking evry word I said. They stopped doing that shortly after their balls dropped, though. I don’t suppose OP knows what the state of Other Dude’s junk is.
My experience has been different. In my life, as many female persons find a vulnerable spot and exploit it as do male persons. It’s just the female people do it as a means of aggression while the male people do it as a means of flirtation. The females seem to use many almost-invisible tiny sharp stabs because they don’t have larger daggers to do the work or are afraid to use those larger weapons. The males seem so genuinely clueless that they think using a smaller pointed object is kindly because it’s so obvious they could use a larger one. The tiny stabs are attention getting and reaction getting which for them is the opening gesture for the type of relationship they want. After all, you have to start with introducing yourself (<—sarcasm).
Back to your questions. Do they just not get that this is bothering? Yes, they get it. Do they not care? Of course they care. They want to bother you. Do they totally lack all empathy to the point of being malignant narcissists? Yeah, that's pretty much it. WHAT IS THEIR PROBLEM? I wish I knew. (I had to look up misophonia. People likely can't help the sounds of breathing, clearing their throats, shifting in their chairs, swallowing, tapping on computers, writing with pens, but that's another subject.)
No, people generally can’t help these things, but there are three broad categories of reactions they could have upon learning they’re tripping Katie’s:
1. “I’m sorry, that sucks. Since I can’t not make these sounds entirely, what are some strategies we could use to reduce their effect on you? Physical distance between us in the workspace? Authorization for you to wear earplugs/earbugs/headphones? If you would need permission from managers/HR to do any of these things, I’d be happy to back you.” ((Best case))
2. “Obviously I can’t help it, so…*shrug*.” ((Unsympathetic but not outright evil))
3. “You mean TAPPING ON COMPUTER KEYS bothers you? Like this? *loud tap loud tap loud tap* *smirk*.”
I’m guessing from the context of their comment that they’ve gotten Reaction 3 quite a bit, which is depressingly unsurprising.
Someone can lack empathy and be able to respect someone’s concerns, and people don’t have to be a narcissist to be a respect-free, self-centered jerk. I love the metaphor of the daggers, and how they can be used in multiple ways. And, wow, “they think using a smaller pointed object is kindly because it’s so obvious they could use a larger one” really describes some stuff I have seen people do and justify doing – people say “at least you don’t have it as bad as X / at least I don’t do Y” and it’s sometimes like, yeah uh, I guess thank you ever so much for your generosity in not hurting me/us even more???
Ugh. I too have experienced the dismissal of dudette-style reactions to dudely “joking around,” and it is SO. FRUSTRATING.
Some people only hear you if you respond to them in their communication style. In my observation, when a dudebro is not having the “joking around” or teasing from another dude, he doesn’t necessarily display a lot of anger, at least not verbally. The reaction is more a quiet and cold, “Back the fuck off, bro,” accompanied by an unflinching stare. (Or, for the teenage dudebros, a punch to the face without preamble, but I do not recommend this.)
That is, the message that dudes are most likely to heed, unfortunately, isn’t “You’ve upset me” or “You’ve hurt my feelings.” It’s “You’re acting like a dipshit and I’ve lost patience. Cut it out.”
I’ve had success with taking that approach. Saying something like “Why’re you busting my chops? I’m here to work/to celebrate Father’s Day/to watch the game and so are you. Drop it” is most likely to get results with the dudelies.
I’ve had some success with : “Don’t.”
HSP = Henoch-Schonlein purpura? Google, I thought you were my friend!
Highly-sensitive person, I think. Linked to a resource in my name.
Highly Sensitive Person.
In Australia its Halal Snack Pack (HSP) a lovely late night meal of roast meat, chips and various toppings.
I’ve had a lot of success with an evil stare + a terrifying smile + “Don’t make me set you on fire” in a creepy voice.
I love a good:
*pause after they repeat themselves; look confused and wait until it’s genuinely uncomfortable and then wait a bit more*
…why would you ask me that?
*even longer pause after their answer *
… how strange. I just don’t understand why you’d ask a colleague that…?
and then just repeat the pause and the how strange line every time they answer you until they want the earth to swallow them and they give up and change the subject.
the trick is to maintain an air of polite confusion. and then if they try to tell anyone else about it and the other person asks you what happened, you *have to keep it up*, like: yeah, dudebro was acting a bit funny that day, no idea what was up with that! *politely confused face*
Yes to this. I’ve used it many times. It allows you to put all the awkwardness back on the other person, where it belongs, but in a way that’s less confrontational, so it’s easier to do (for those who’ve been socialized never to make things awkward). It’s also harder for the harassing person to go to your boss and complain about how rude you were to him, because you weren’t rude; you were perfectly polite.
I once asked my (now) ex why he (and many otherwise lovely guys I know) thought it was funny to annoy people (probably mostly women) to the point of them breaking and getting angry with him, and the only response he could think of was because that meant he had “won”. Haha I guess?
…suddenly I understand our political situation in the US much better. Gosh. Thank you!
It’s literally what a lot of 45 supporters are doing. “owning the libs.”
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to combat this. Getting mad doesn’t work – it means they “won.” Ignoring them doesn’t work, they just double down.
UGH! People like this are just exhausting to deal with. Fortunately, they seem to grow out of it over time.
This dude’s behavior is truly weird. My take is that he feels entitled to know “the facts” about Famous Dude and find out “what really went on” so that he can make some sort of judgement call about whatever industry rumors may be circling about Famous Dude, and/or decide whether the LW’s reaction to Famous Dude is “warranted” or some such. In other words, he is holding Fairness Court in his head and things the LW is required to provide sworn testimony. But he understands on some level that he can’t come right out and press for that (without following the trail of breadcrumbs to the understanding that he is not entitled to press) so he is trying to get the LW to spill. Either that or he is one of those dudes who super likes to perform his allyship and the LW did not provide him the stage he requires to play out his Male Feminist Ally performance. Maybe this is his way of either retaliating or trying to get LW to raise the curtain so he can perform his Male Feminism Can-Can and receive his allotment of Sensitivity Cookies.
“perform his Male Feminism Can-Can” [snort] this is hilarious! The performative ally-ship can-can just became canon in my mind.
This read of dude coworker rings true for me. And he thinks LW is obligated by Fairness Law to comply with a Fairness Court Subpoena Ad Testificandum.
” raise the curtain so he can perform his Male Feminism Can-Can and receive his allotment of Sensitivity Cookies. ”
Congratulations, you have won a free Internet!
best comment of the day, i think
I suspect it’s some combination of being star-struck by the connection, processing his feelings about Famous Dude, and making the LW uncomfortable because he finds it entertaining. This is really quite the trifecta of things that make people act weird: celebrity, fallen heroes and sexism.
I also thought maybe he was a bit star-struck. He feels important because he now knows something that would be a bombshell if it were to get out. And so he’s enjoying some sort of weird thing where he and LW are, collectively, People Who Know Something Important and Scandalous. Ugh.
Yes, this sounds about right, jennthemighty.
Make Feminism Can-Can? So hilarious! Snorted tea all over my phone!
Male not make. Wtf, auto-correct?
I think he’s enjoying hassling you, so your chances of shutting him down are slim. Maybe though if what he does is shown as so obvious even he can’t miss it he’ll quit. (I doubt it though. I think you’re stuck with him.)
So you might consider adding this to your scripts. “Really? Again? You already know I’m not going to discuss Famous Dude. Shut up about him.”
“Press a button on your phone that plays “Let It Go” from Frozen. Accompany it with an interpretive dance where your jazz hands morph into middle fingers.”
Best. Idea. Ever.
Since Officemate was the one to ask about Famous Person in a nonprofessional setting, presumably where alcohol was involved, my guess is that he is at least somewhat obsessed with Famous Person and wants inside knowledge. Now, he knows there’s dirt, he wants to know all the details, and is attempting to annoy them out of the Letter Writer.
The immature part of me would be tempted to tease him back about his presumed jealousy until he succumbs to embarrassment and stops.
Like other commenters, I also read this as Coworker Dude deliberately being a harassing jerk. He’s a bully and deserves many bad things to happen to him. But since you probably can’t make bad things happen to him (at least not without significant risk to yourself), you have to make it boring and/or super uncomfortable for him.
Ignoring him whenever he brings up Famous Dude can also be a signal to jerks like this that he’s getting under your skin, and might make him double his efforts. How sweet it will be for him to break your wall of indifference! I mean, it’s certainly worth a try, but if it doesn’t work in a couple of weeks, there’s your answer—he’s not trying to process anything, he’s just being a bully and getting off on your discomfort/irritation.
Other option is to turn the tables and make it weird and uncomfortable for him. “Wow, you bring up Famous Dude a lot. You seem kind of obsessed with him. What’s that about?” Instead of letting him quiz you, you can put him on the defensive. If you consistently respond to all mentions with “You keep bringing up Famous Dude. That’s so weird. Why are you so obsessed?” you get the two-fer: a boring, predictable answer, and he’s made to feel uncomfortable.
You: blah blah work stuff blah
Him: blah blah oh hey what about Famous Dude
You: Why are you bringing up Famous Dude? We’re talking about Work Stuff. What a strange thing to say.
Him: Well I thought that Famous Dude was relevant because blah blah / or / I’m just curious blah blah
You: Wow, you do that a lot, you’re kind of obsessed. Weird. Anyhow, work stuff blah blah work stuff
Don’t reward him with your discomfort. Do punish his bad behavior with mild social censure.
LW, can you return the awkwardness to sender? Like, the next time Office Bro brings up Famous Dude, maybe just look at him with concern and say “Office Bro, do you have, like, some kind of fixation on Famous Dude?”
Office Bro: laughs awkwardly, sputters denials.
You: “I mean, you bring him up _a lot_. And like, it’s cool to be a fan, or you know, whatever your feelings are about him, but I’m honestly concerned about the amount of time you seem to spend thinking about him. Have you considered discussing these feelings with a therapist? I’m just… concerned about your well-being. This isn’t normal.”
Office Bro: Indignant denials, pissy silence.
He’s being a creep and a weirdo. Let him feel all of the discomfort that comes from seeing himself through that lens. I bet it’s the end of conversations about Famous Dude.
Also, document the crap out of all of this. I do not trust Office Bro.
This is an excellent suggestion.
“Also, document the crap out of all this, I do not trust Office Bro.”
SAME. This whole situation makes my spidey sense tingle like crazy. Other people have suggested that he may be prying in an effort to discredit or otherwise be a little shit-stirrer, which I think is an important thing to keep in mind.
All I know is that I have the frustrating urge to set his shoes on fire with my mind. What a jackhole.
That would be an awesome power to have. Just sayin’.
YES. Brace, though, because his response will probably be “I’m not obsessed with him, YOU’RE the one that’s obsessed with him,” since you’re giving him the words. Just ride through it with confidence and continue to be Very Concerned about his worrying fixation on Famous Dude.
“Well, tell you what, since you say you don’t notice how often you do it, how about I keep a log for a few weeks. Data’s always helpful!”
I’m another who gets a harassment-by-proxy vibe.
Get a small pocket-sized notepad and pen. Write this on first page, and memorize so you can tell him this the next time he mentions Famous Dude: “I have made it very clear that I do not want to talk about Famous Dude. That you still continually try to get me to talk about Famous Dude can at this point only be deliberate. Why, I neither know nor care, but from this point on, I will document every mention or allusion you make to Famous Dude.”
Then pull out the notebook and date it.
Then carry the notebook in your pocket and pull it out and make a note every time he mentions Famous Dude.
I like doing it this way because it’s relatively neutral statements, which (hopefully) won’t provoke him and leave your options open. You’re not accusing him of harassment and haven’t threatened to go to HR. You’re not making an empty threat.
If he asks why you’re doing it, just say “because nothing else has worked to get you to shut up about Famous Dude.”
If he asks what you’re doing to do with it, “I haven’t decided.”
“Why can’t I mention Famous Dude around you?” “Because I asked you to stop.”
Keep it emotionless and matter of fact. The only reaction he gets from you about Famous Dude is your making a note in the notebook.
Asking you about the notebook is the same as mentioning Famous Dude, so the notebook comes out if he bugs you about the notebook.
Don’t use the notebook for anything other than documenting dudebro’s comments about Famous Dude*. If dudebro tells any co-workers about it, they will notice when you pull it out. Certainly never pull it out when you’re talking to anyone not dudebro** since you don’t want to look like Harriett the Spy.
* Unless dudebro starts bugging you about something else.
**Unless not-dudebro came to you with a message from dudebro about Famous Dude.
If he has a brain in his head, you will never hear about Famous Dude again, but dudebro is such a chowderhead, the notebook might need to make a few appearances before he shuts up. If worse comes to worst, you’ve got documentation of his sexual harassment of you. Constantly needling someone about a known sexual abuser is sexual harassment, especially if the target could be a victim of the abuser.
Your coworker doesn’t realize it but he is using his maleness and proximity to Dudebro to be nearly as creepy as Dudebro. This letter raised my hackles.
I’ve never told anyone about my metoo moment because I am still afraid I’ll be blamed and flamed for it. I’m also in a creative field. I ran into a charismatic and attractive man who asked if we could take a walk and see some conference events together. I agreed. We walked and had some interesting conversations (largely about him). He suggested we skip the conference events and just hang out and talk. I was taken by him – I was young and he was fascinating. I let him call the shots – where we walked, what we talked about. He smoked a joint. Talked about his romantic interests. He leaned in to kiss me. I said I wasn’t really in a place to be kissing people. He said he knew I was attracted to him and kissed me anyway. I didn’t fight back, I didn’t do anything. I just let him. I’m ashamed. He walked me back to the hotel where we were staying. He stopped and kissed me many times. It makes me sick to write this. Then he harassed me and texted me constantly for the rest of the week. I pulled back and wouldn’t spend time with him. I had male colleagues/friends accompany me everywhere I went. He continued to text me for months. I finally blocked him. The other day a friend said she would be working with him this summer. I twisted inside and told her to be careful, stay away, and NEVER mention she knows me, or my name. It has been years and still I’m terrified. I don’t want people to know.
I didn’t actually mean to make this comment about me — I’m so sorry. But I’m going to leave it up to say I empathize with you. If someone brought up the person who made me feel this level of shame on such a constant basis, I would feel victimized all over again. He needs to STOP. You know this and if your coworker is a genuinely good person, I think it could be time to sit down, say seriously that he needs to quit it, because he has no idea what it’s like and is being wildly inappropriately himself. Maybe being informed that his own actions are getting to be just as sketchy as Dudebro’s could be a wake up call.
I’m so sorry.
What happened to you WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.
Thank you for sharing your story. It shows this is note merely jerky, borish behavior by dudebro.
Repeatedly reminding someone of a sexual harasser – ESPECIALLY when that someone might have been a victim – is sexually harassing them.
“Anon for this one”, I’m so sorry that this happened to you. I’m so sorry that you’re still terrified. I hope that you know that what happened was not your fault, and I hope that someday our fields can be free of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
I raise a mug of tea to you in solidarity.
This is very not your fault that he was a harrasser/no good very bad person. So sorry this dude happened to you.
I hear you.
FWIW, it sounds like you handled it perfectly.
I’m taking a flying leap to a conclusion I just invented…
Given your industry and Officemate’s age, is there any possibility that Officemate (A) may have been a harasser in the past, or (B) is concerned that he may be accused of harassment he can’t remember, and is using IDEK’s proximity to Famous Dude to try to figure out how #metoo “works”; what the potential blowback for him could be, if any; and how best to handle it if he is ever accused?
That sounds extremely plausible. Especially since Officemate _is_ currently harassing LW its a safe bet he has a history and is trying to “figure out how #metoo works.” Love your phrasing.
Indeed, he’s taken to elongating the vowels [“Mr. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude”] in a cutesy tone, the way one might tease a child about a schoolyard crush.
This is why I don’t think it’s dudebro trying to process his own feelings about Famous Dude. He’s deliberately employing tactics designed to embarrass/annoy/distract.
If dudebro’s problem is his emotional growth stopped in 3rd grade, the notebook will make him tread carefully around you, because not knowing what you’ll do with it will scare the shit out of him. By not saying anything about escalating the matter to HR (or otherwise), you’re keeping him off guard, as well as not making a threat you might not want to follow through on.
If it turns out that dudebro is a bad dude, not just an emotionally stunted fool, the notebook is evidence. He is not bugging you; he is not teasing you; he is sexually harassing you. HR ain’t gonna like that.
Oops. I meant this to be an extension of my comment above.
Hi LW, I had a coworker for a while who reminds me of your dudebro coworker. He’d constantly want to talk about various things I did not want to talk about, and used a lot of the same techniques. What worked for me was to become utterly boring – because Coworker was looking for reactions, someone to pay attention to him, etc. He enjoyed pushing buttons, and he enjoyed “winning”, in that “winning” meant “I got you to agree with me about something you don’t agree with.” So a very exhausting person.
Captain’s scripts are excellent, but I would suggest going broken record/gray rock and either ignoring him, or repeating “Do you need something work related?” and just refusing to engage. He will pout. He will wonder why you don’t like him. He will ask other coworkers if you are mad. Don’t respond to any of that either.
Whatever his intentions are, I think the best course with people like this is to GIVE THEM NOTHING. No explanations, no conversations, nothing. Utilize awkward silence to the fullest. I wish you good luck with your coworker and in life!
This is excellent advice, provided you can do it indefinitely — up to and including forever — without ever breaking down and giving him a response. If you do ever break down and respond, it will be like de Becker says about stalkers. You will simply have taught him how many days/weeks/years he has to keep this up in order to get a response. Intermittent reinforcement is very powerful
It also assumes that ignoring them will make the “game” boring, when it well could increase the “challenge.”
And most importantly, silence and ignoring the harasser put the burden on the victim.
If someone’s bugging me, I want them to STOP. If someone is deliberately annoying me like dudebro is annoying LW, I am not willing to only play defense because I’m not willing to let them control the game. Meet them on the playing field with your own set of rules: you’re aware of what they’re doing and you’re going to make a record of every time they do it.
That only works if the record constitutes an actual threat, though. If their superiors wouldn’t actually do anything about his behavior if they knew about it (which is a distinct possibility), then it might actually give him more ammunition.
I don’t think LW needs to ignore it, but coldly shutting down any line of conversation that isn’t work-related isn’t the same thing as ignoring it.
If an employee provides the employer with a record of harassment by another employee, and the employer doesn’t do anything about it, then the employer is on the hook too.
I guess it’s a choice between certainty that you’ll have to put up with an asshat indefinitely vs. possibility that you might have to knock some sense into your employer about doing their job to shut down harassment.
I love the notebook idea. I’d just like to add, this dude-bro is not a co-worker. He’s a cow-irker. He irks you, and probably other people. He is irksome, and KNOWS it, and continues to do it *with purpose*. You have told him 1) that he irks you and 2) how he’s irking you, and 3) that you want him to stop irking you in that manner.
Perhaps telling him this (along with the above notebook spiel), followed by, “Since you insist on being a cow-irker, I have no choice but to start speaking your language and MOOOOOOoooooo every time you irk.”
Do that, while whipping out your notebook. If anyone asks why you’re mooing, show them the notebook. She the boss. She the CEO. She the spouses at the company picnic. Don’t be subtle.
If the man intends to act as a farm animal, rather than a human being, start speaking his language.
Oh, the repetition. It repeats repetitively, doesn’t it?
Deliberate silence is a valuable strategy… if you can make it work.
I am a big, big fan of letting people know they are recapping a reiterating recurrence in the most boring way possible – hopefully, in a way that reminds myself that I’m actually allowed to close this conversation right down.
Can you write on an index card “Famous McFame, conversation closed.”
And then show him the card next time he brings it up. No voice. No conversation. That conversation has collapsed. This conversation is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker.This is a late conversation. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. This is an ex-conversation.
The next time (you know there will be a next time) write the date/time in back of the card.
The next time, write it again … with a raised eyebrow for opening this closed conversation -again-.
All with no voice.
It’s powerful, when you say the conversation is over, and then refuse to talk.
I was thinking about printing out a picture or buying him a little action figure and telling him to address all Dude-related questions to it from now on.
I would have a very strong urge to make a “talk to the hand” gesture in Dudebro’s face and silently walk away. Or, if he’s come to LW’s workspace to pester her, make waving away motions with my hand, as if she is brushing him off of her desk. He thinks it’s rude? She was just kidding. Why can’t he take a joke?
I think that one aspect of this is male Officemate has trouble seeing women as fully functioning individuals. To make it easy for himself, he has imprinted Dude Bro onto you. Its a lot easier to relate to this one experience in your life rather than doing the work to see you as a person / coworker, which you can’t be because FEMALE.
Personally, all my METOO moments follow this model.
Captain, thank you *so much* for engaging with my question. I appreciate how many feelings this topic might bring up in someone with your day job, and I’m really, really grateful for your emotional labor here. Your advice is absolutely perfect; the explanation of Office Bro processing his feelings makes a lot of sense, and your scripts work great no matter how this plays out. (I’ll probably skip the jazz hands, but that is a FANTASTIC image!)
And to all the other commenters weighing in — thank you all as well! Your additional scripts are really helpful, particularly if Office Bro turns out to be less than benign. (Or if anyone else in a similar but more sinister situation is reading this.) And it’s really validating to hear that other people find Office Bro’s behavior bizarre. You all are really great!
I hope you can imagine all of us commenters sitting on your shoulders like invisible parakeets, cheering you on!
Or not, if that image is too weird and creepy!
Yay! If you have any updates, please let us know!
Cheers and good luck!
Ugh this sounds exhausting and super crappy. Just reading it made me want to follow my cat’s lead and take an angry nap. Not sure if it would be something that would work for you, but I’ve previously put people who will not stop inappropriate communication (and who I’m otherwise required professionally or socially to put up with) on my ‘toenails’ list. All questions and statements on ‘unwelcome topic’ are replied to with precise and exhaustive details of my toenail clippings. Not accurately, but mind-numbingly boringly. Go on as long as you can. “I used the toenails scissors for my bigtoe last time, but not the time before – that time I used clippers and it was slightly slanted but not really at least compared to my pinkie toe which had a weird kinda discoloured edge to it. I cut that one a little too short last time and one of the clippings was super small and I couldn’t find it but maybe one day I will. Sometimes my toenails have a bit of lint under them, but usually only if I’ve been wearing socks but sometimes I wear socks and my middle toe has a bit more lint and I have to pull it out and sometimes I can’t tell what colour of socks I was wearing…….”. It has the advantage of being quite personal but not sexual and not too gross. If they ask you why you’re doing this they get some version of “I dunno, you were asking weird questions and talking about things I don’t want to talk about, so now I’m talking about weird things that you don’t want to talk about! We’re doing the same thing – high five!”* “Ok, but I just think that/just want to know….” “Last time I cut my toenails on a Wednesday, but I think I’m going to do it early Tuesday next time….”. Anything along the lines of “oh look it’s the weird toenail lady” gets a cheerful/matter of fact return acknowledgement of things like “weird dude who refuses to drop the most drop-able topic” or “Oh hi work guy who texts me personal stuff at 3:00am but who I can’t block because of work”. It’s not a perfect strategy, but I’ve found variants of it to be useful and have heard of similar tactics from others. You have to be willing to go on forever though, and as evidenced by the length of this post that’s not a problem I’ve ever had.
I’ve also has some luck with variants of “Huh. I’m going to go find a less awkward (racist/uninformed etc.) conversation.” delivered in the same unassailable tone of voice that you’d use for “Excuse me, I’m just going to go find a washroom.” Bonus points if there are no other conversation groupings for you to go join and you just go sit in the corner and pull out your phone. I wouldn’t use the ‘awkward’ one against someone who is being harmlessly awkward, just when ‘awkward’ is a synonym for ‘asshole’. Unlike using the word ‘asshole’ however, most people seem to realise really quickly that they can’t repeatedly insist that they’re not making things awkward without actually making things awkward.
*Obviously, weird and obtuse rambling at someone who is hassling you about your harassment would not actually be “the same thing”. This is plausible deniability “same thing” that he has to deal with in order to avoid “actually significantly worse bullshit” that you have to deal with. I do not mean to imply equivalence.
Ha! I recently got in a 3-way shouting match at lunch at work about, of all things, Emmanuel Macron (I work in kind of an eccentric place). One of my co-workers came in to the room and very matter-of-factly said “Wow. I’m going to find a less angry place to sit, like over here.” (She then very obviously sat on the opposite end of the break room.) It was an extremely tactful but also extremely effective way to get us to pause, re-evaluate the appropriateness of our behaviour, and stop arguing. It was great, and I’m definitely borrowing that technique from her/you for future use!
All I could think of while reading you’re comment was this:
I was thinking you need a little airhorn that you can let a loud penalty blast out of every time he mentions Mr. Dude. If other people come running over to see what the issue is, you can prompt him to explain with your arms fully crossed while giving him an angry look.
oh god you found a sea lion in real life. yeah basic stonewall and just end any conversation where the topic comes up, just up and leave.
1) I think your co-worker ‘learned’ from that first conversation that if he just keeps needling you, more tidbits will be forthcoming. Since then, he’s upped his needling tactics. After all, you have ‘opinions’ (not prior trauma, not a history of harassment, not even ruffled feathers – just ‘opinions’ according to dudebro) about Famous Dude, and he wants to hear alllll about them.
2) I’m not sure co-worker groks that this is more #MeToo than it is Days of Our Lives. Our society treats celebrities as if they are commodities for public consumption, and a certain segment of the population who wants to be In The Know tends to ignore the humanity of the ‘source’ in proximity as well as that of the famous person. I think co-worker a bit of a Drama-Llama Gossip Queen who gets giddy when there is something afoot, and (from his perspective) it seems that you have juicy, insider information. So he’s treating you like TMZ, and your life like his own personal Soap Opera. For whatever reason this particular subject interests him, and he’s hoping you’ll spill the deets. If you and Famous Dude interact and Great Big Drama happens, he doesn’t want to miss it. In fact, he’d like to instigate it. Maybe he can goad you into writing about Famous Dude and then he’ll be perfectly situated to watch The Fireworks explode! Co-worker sees you as entertainment by proxy.
In your place I would firmly assure co-worker that there is nothing else for him to know (because it isn’t any of his business), that there is never going to BE anything else to know, this isn’t something the two of you are ever going to bond over, or even discuss again, this isn’t banter or office chit-chat, this subject is BORING to you and this repetition makes co-worker a boring, shallow, and uninteresting person to talk to, and his growing obsession with that one detail about your life makes you extremely uncomfortable. I would inform him outright that he is acting like a creep. Then every time he tries to figure out what’s the story with you two, turn the question around on him. He suggests you write an article, you suggest that he should write about his own obsessions. He wants to know if you’re going to function where Famous Dude will be in attendance, you remark that this seems like something more suited to his interests, since he’s the one who cares so much about Famous Dude. I might even start pointedly keeping score. He mentions Mister Famous Duuuuuude, and you wonder aloud just how long he can go between mentions, make a notation, and set your timer. Another mention? “Congratulations Brad, you made it… *checks timer* three whole hours before your personal obsession butted into my work again! We’re now at two irrelevant and creepy mentions for the day and I was bored with this subject before the week even started. The timer resets now. Can we try for…. how about, NEVER AGAIN?” Another mention? “This is getting weird and I’m starting to think that you really need help.” Maybe put a whiteboard up to publicly mark off the number of times he brings it up in big red letters, as a visual reminder of his inability to Let It Go.
Like playing Dudebro bingo, but with a side order of documenting his creepiness.
LW: go to HR. You’ve literally been extremely direct. You’ve been so direct the jerk is possibly yanking your chain bc of it? It sounds to me like he’s got some other issue like maybe he can’t aleep with you bc you don’t sleep with men or what I don’t know. But either way this is harassment. I’m usually 110% on board with cap. But I think you’ve done the stuff she is suggesting. More of the same is unlikely to work. You’ve tried turning it back on him. You might try an email that says you find his comments harassment? Or similar. I’d find a good email script that basically lets him know you regard this as metoo harassment and that you have spoken to hr. Find someone sympathetic in the office to help with this as a witness or as backup also. And I get your HR might be useless but if it’s not…. this is absolutely asshat harassment.
Like saying: hey remember the time that guy raped you? Hey there’s that guy in the news again. You know the one who raped you. What are you gonna do about that guy? You know. The one who raped you? Your situation doesn’t sound like a rape though I’ve no idea. But you get the idea, he’s throwing your trauma in your face and it’s metoo. And he neeeeeeeeds to see that in an email. Preferably also in HRs office
Well this is timely. I’m currently dealing with my own feelings about how to navigate Asshole Famous Dude in my field who gave me my start. Though luckily no sexual abuse tgat I know of, just rampant and insidious emotional abuse. What a pain.
Lots of good suggestions. My strategy would be to imagine him making weird seal noises everytime he brings up Famous Dude and react accordingly. “Wow, you’re doing that again? You can’t stop? Have you tried? Are you getting help for that? I’ll just be [some other place] doing [some other thing] until you regain control.” Good luck!
I don’t know if this alters the response any, but there is a reasonable chance that as dude is older than LW but “technically” in a junior role, that he could be feeling belittled by being of lower status than LW, and this behaviour is a way of striking back at the status differential. (Also, if LW is in the mildly senior role, then going to HR on mildly junior person could be a career limiting move, as managing working relationships with juniors is part of increasing seniority in lots of fields)
If his actions are partly due to status anxiety stuff, then the shutting down might seem to him to be a dominance tactic, and encourage him to continue to play the social dominance game (can I provoke her to talk? if she doesn’t say anything then she’s alpha…) So it’s hard to see a good way to have that conversation end fast – could you do a circuit breaker by looking at your phone or something or moving to a non-social topic.
If so, although they’re his emotions to deal with of course , if you are willing to do a bit of emotional labour to make the office-mate relationship smooth then maybe finding a way you can relate as colleagues/equals that has nothing to do with FamousDude would be helpful? But, under the rules for training most animals, the collegiality reward shouldn’t happen close to the FD misbehaviour. So,,, good luck.
“The period of my life where I knew Famous Dude is over. I don’t care to waste mental energy on him anymore, so don’t continue to bring him up with me. Thank you.”
That last as definitively you can. The conversation is over. Anything he says afterwards is the start of a new conversation, in which your only participation need be staring at him incredulously and/or walking away.
Any further mentions of Famous Dude can get shut down with “I’ve told you I don’t want to discuss that.” Whether your tone is broken-record boring or OKAY, MAKING A GODDAMN SCENE NOW, or anywhere in between, depends on your preferences.
Also: if and only if you feel like expending the additional words, if he ever starts harping further on how it’s your duty to ‘expose’ Famous Dude, it might be worth saying (once) that you disagree with the notion that it’s the inherent responsibility of a person who’s been victimized to take action against someone who hurt them (or paraphrase the many other good scripts and posts in this thread) followed by “That’s a choice for individuals to make and I’ve chosen not to do so. You need to respect my choice (and shut up about it). Thank you.”
Do not give any factual details to anyone you do not know well enough to trust with your life.
Famous Dudebro is likely the type to sue for libel and slander.
This is one of the tools du jour for silencing victims. It’s the second line of defense. Used after the settlement with gag clause doesn’t work.
I would not put it past office dudebro to run to famous dudebro and tell FD you are “slandering” him. Seems like the type,
If he absolutely will not stop, you can tell him “My lawyer said not to discuss it further.” Even if you don’t have a lawyer,
This is part of the hurdle women face in disclosing. You can be telling the truth but still be sued by someone w deeper pockets.
I’m a lawyer myself. I’d never report or even disclose a specific act of assault or harassment unless I hard hard evidence such as video or a thousand nuns as witnesses. The risk of being sued is too great.
I’ve seen battered women sued by abusive husbands for slander and libel. The basis? Things the women told their employers and landlords in order to get protection. Truthful facts. But facts the women could not prove.
Saying “I fear X” is ok. Saying “x is a wife beater” is problematic if you can’t prove it.
I’m not saying this is right or just. It is, however, still the world we live in,
I had an annoying office guy like this once who was clearly doing saying things to get a rise out of me. I had communicated I did not like it and wanted him to stop and tried for a long time to get him to stop. The thing that worked for me was to treat it as if he was not speaking to me when he did that. Not get upset but behave as if no one was in front of me speaking. Really boring as the captain says. It stopped in a week or two.
Scrolling down to post that I know some Famous People. My connection to those folks is through a pretty narrow channel, so if I share dirt or even just amusing anecdotes, it could end up gossip fodder and I would be cut off from the shiny world of Famous People forever.
So I don’t talk about them. I even had to ask my mom to delete something on FB that she posted out of sheer enthusiasm that she knew someone who knew someone.
More to the OP’s dilemma, I have also experienced people who are desperately fannish and can’t fathom why I don’t use my connections to become Famous Person’s bff or write tell-all books about them. These are the ppl that tend to make stupid ‘jokes’ or drop endless hints until I cut them from my social circle. The few I have seen who managed to insert themselves into Famous People’s notice are quickly shown the door, so to speak, which tends to sour them on Famous Person but not enough to shut them up.
That’s where your co-worker might be. Not having direct access, having enough dirt to want the whole picture, and not willing to understand that you knowing + him asking =/= obligation to tell.
TL;dr – My opinion is that coworker is being a jelly dick and using #metoo as the lever to move you to feed his jones for fungible gossip.
Man, the sad thing is I started to think, “Oh, ___ field and ___ guy…” and then I realized there’s so many fields and people it could be and I only probably know about half a dozen of them.
At any rate, it doesn’t matter if the dude is doing it to get a rise out of you or because he’s just so stuck on the idea of Famous Guy.
The best way to deal with it is probably like folks said–make it boring. Don’t really respond to anything about Famous Dude with anything other than “huh.” or a shrug. Or anything else. One way or another, the guy is getting something out of talking to you about Famous Dude.
I’m sorry you have to deal with this. It’s super gross.
Completely OT, but every time is see/hear the word “huh,” I think of Malcolm Reynolds, and get very distracted for about a minute. YMMV
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