Unfortunately, like almost all women, I have numerous sexual harassment stories. The #MeToo statuses and tweets have been so unifying and inspiring to see. Girls (and guys), #ibelieveyou.
For some reason, one particular instance has really stuck in my head today. I actually think of this time often. Not necessarily because it was the worst, but because it was the time someone put themselves on the line to speak up for me.
Here’s what happened. I was a junior communications and journalism student just starting to get the bigger reporting gigs at my campus TV station. On this day, I was co-hosting the basketball halftime show with a fellow female college student.
I had only hosted a couple of times before, and so I had all of the usual jitters. We were getting on our headsets when an upper-level college administrator came over to speak with us. The conversation went something like this:
Administrator: “Hi girls.”
Administrator: “Well don’t you two look nice tonight. We have some real hot reporters today. Smoking hot.”
I could feel both of us turning red from embarrassment. We couldn’t make eye contact with him anymore and our heads fell to the floor. This man was in his 60s, and his position put him over our department. What could we say? What could we do? We desperately hoped he would just move on or at least change the subject. Then my professor suddenly appeared. Maybe he had been watching and had an idea what was going on. The administrator turned to him. This next exchange has played in my head so many times.
Administrator: “Don’t we have a couple of sexy young reporters today!”
Professor: “I only see two young professionals.”
Shut down and embarrassed, the administrator walked away. The professor then proceeded to give us a few broadcasting tips before we went live.
My professor didn’t have to do that. The administrator was actually one of his bosses. But he did. He stood up to his superior to protect our dignity. He made us go from feeling uncomfortable and helpless to feeling confident and proud. I don’t think I’ve ever thanked him. Maybe I’ll try to look up his email somehow. But let me issue a blanket thank you to anyone who has ever seen harassment and stopped it. You are our rock stars, and we appreciate you.