It's unfortunate and infuriating, but not surprising. Yeah, I'm talking sexism in the workplace. You may have witnessed it or even experienced it for yourself, given that it's so common that men essentially feel empowered to thoughtlessly make misogynistic, condescending, or harassing remarks to their female colleagues. And I use "empowered" loosely, since it's so normalized that the idea of men even being "granted authority" to be misogynistic is, quite frankly, bizarre in our society.
Anyhow, to call attention to just how prevalent, demeaning, and detrimental this is, we asked women of the BuzzFeed Community to share with us the worst thing a man has told them in a professional context. To give you an idea of how rampant this is, we received more than 300 responses. Here are but a few:
1."I was running late one day, and I skipped putting on makeup so I could still be promptly on time. When I walked in, my male coworker said, 'Whoa! You're one of those women who really does need to wear makeup every day.'
2."'You're not pretty enough to be this opinionated.'"
3."I was 16. The Clinton trial had happened a few years prior. My assistant manager, who was in his late 20s, literally cornered me and asked if I 'wanted to play Bill and Monica.' When I complained to our (female) manager and demanded not to be put on the same schedule as him anymore, she rolled her eyes and told me it would affect my hours."
4."I worked in retail at a department store when I was 16 and stayed there for almost two years. A 17-year-old coworker was there for a few months, and at one point, we were talking as I stood on something that then tipped back. I caught myself, but he looked at me and told me, 'It happened because you're fat.'
"At the time, I was recovering from an eating disorder."
5."I had a manager who asked me how I felt about a major change to one of the programs I ran. I said I felt fine about it and that it was a change that needed to happen. He responded, 'No, you feel like your authority is being challenged, and we shouldn't change.' He then proceeded to lecture me on why I shouldn't feel like that — which, to be clear, I did not.
"My mom always said that nobody can tell you how to feel, but this squashed banana thought differently."
6."I had a manager that I was training tell me, 'Why are you calling HR? I haven't even touched you yet.'
"I was calling for a completely different reason, but it gave me a reason to call HR on him."
7."When I was in grad school, I told a male professor that I wanted to do research on sexual assault. Out of supposed concern for my future career, he discouraged this because 'there are a lot of men on hiring committees, and let's face it, men don't really care about that sort of thing.' When I told him that that's pretty terrible, he got defensive and said it’s not terrible because 'why should men care about something that doesn't apply to them?'"
8."I work as an inventory specialist — receiving deliveries, heavy lifting, etc. Delivery drivers who are dropping something off will say, 'Where are the men?' or 'Are the men on lunch?' The most recent comment: I was wearing work gloves, and one said, 'Oh, just stand aside. Don't want you breaking a nail now.' Mind you, I'm built like Luisa from Encanto. One driver even calls me 'little lady' despite the fact that I'm much taller than him.
9."I work in a hospital. A male nurse and I were in a patient's room, and he looked down at my ankles and said, out loud, 'Oh, honey, don't you ever shave your legs? You really should...' Yes, he said this in front of the patient. I walked out of the room. Looking back, I wish I would have told him right then and there how uncomfortable that made me feel and how inappropriate and unprofessional it was.
"It still makes me mad when I think about it."
10."I've often been told I'm assertive or harsh with my delivery, especially when things go wrong. In my opinion, people not doing their job correctly is incompetence and should be justification for making me annoyed — but, hey, what do I know? The worst, though, was from a peer who, in an annual feedback form, called me aggressive. Aggressive to me is violent or threatening. It is not being assertive and refusing to excuse people not doing what they're paid to do, especially when it directly impacts my work. Call me direct if you must, but would you call a man aggressive for not making small talk or thinking that the same people always messing up is okay?"
—Anonymous, United Kingdom, 30
11."When I was 36, my boss (in his 50s) told me, 'Your personality is too kind and caring for an office atmosphere.'"
—Anonymous, New Hampshire, 68
12."After mentioning how it's important to prioritize nonviolent communication amongst peers to my resident advisor staff, he told me, 'I just can't respect you as a supervisor or as a leader. You're supposed to be catty. That's what boss women do. You're too nurturing.' He then proceeded to go out of his way not to do any of his contractual RA tasks, sans attend staff meetings.
"I was 21; he was 19."
—Anonymous, North Carolina, 25
13."I used to work in a place that required a lot of phone interaction with clients when I was 23. My 52-year-old manager, who was two levels above me, asked if I was using a sexy, low voice, and then proceeded to do said voice."
14."'You are too outgoing to be successful, and that makes you a liability.'"
15."A male superior of mine pulled me into an official meeting because he thought I was 'spiky.' His reasoning? When he came in in the mornings, I didn't always ask him how he was."
16."I was 21 and had just started working at this restaurant. Our uniform was a white shirt with a logo. One day, I realized I had forgotten to wear a bra. I pulled my female coworker aside and asked her if we could switch aprons — hers went around the neck and covered the chest, while mine only went around the waist — for the day and privately explained why. I didn't realize that my boss, the owner of the restaurant, had followed us to the hallway and was standing in earshot. He started laughing, pulled my arms apart from where they were tightly crossed against my chest (so no one would see), and called the other employees and his wife, the co-owner, to look at how funny it was...in the middle of the restaurant. In front of everyone, he told me that I was going to poke someone's eye out.
"To say I was mortified would be an understatement."
17."When I was 25, we flew in our insurance brokers to meet with us regarding our upcoming renewals. My manager introduced me to the main broker, who was in his 50s. All he said while shaking my hand, looking me up and down, and making eye contact with only my male manager was, 'Wow, aren't you lucky?'"
—Anonymous, British Columbia, 36
18."I was training for a new job at a café in a rich gym. The new assistant manager — by new, I mean he started the week before I did — treated me like the dumbest person ever. He was an asshole, so I assumed he treated all people that way until I saw an interaction between him and a male coworker. He treated him like a king. During my training, he was showing me the smoothie bar (keep in mind, I've worked at a smoothie restaurant before) and explained the ingredients to me — as in this man had the audacity to explain ORANGE JUICE to me. He said, 'Now, I know this might be confusing, but this is orange juice. We make it by diluting a concentrate.' I was shell shocked. He did it for many other ingredients, even explaining that I have to take the peel off of a banana before using it. The smoothie bar wasn't even part of my job.
19."On a video call with multiple people — wherein I was the only woman on the call and the only woman in a position of authority — I was told by a client, 'For someone so pretty, you sure are smart and reasonable.' They thought it was a compliment."
—Anonymous, California, 38
20."I'm an MD. A 54-year-old male doctor once saw me with a dishcloth and said, 'What are you using that for? You are a kitchen fugitive,' meaning that my place was in the kitchen."
—Anonymous, Mexico, 25
21."I was told that the field I was in was for 'stodgy old men' and that I 'should bend over and take' the criticism I received (about my writing).
"I was in my early 20s at the time, and this man was in his 50s."
—Anonymous, Alabama, 37
22."After not getting the answers he wanted, this 50-year-old man asked to 'talk to the man in charge of me.' He wanted me to bend the policies, ignore the fact he had repeatedly failed the certification exam, and issue him the certification anyway. I was 25 at the time and immediately hung up. I then told my boss that I refused to talk to him again."
—Anonymous, Wisconsin, 35
23."I was in college taking an advanced probability class. There were around 30 students, and I was the only woman there. The professor asked me to solve a problem on the board, so, before standing up, I looked at my notes. In front of everyone, he then said that I was a clear example of why women should be assigned simpler tasks, like cooking or cleaning. My one friend gave me a sympathetic look, but the rest were laughing.
24."At 27, I was hired to an engineering position by a married man, who was at least 40 years old, with children. Before I started, he called and asked to spend a night at my place because his car broke, and I refused. The next morning, he said he was excited to hire me but now thinks he made a mistake and that I won't do well. I still went on and did my job, as I had quit my last one. At my next engineering job: 'Are you the new engineer? Good, make us coffee.' An office manager also told me it'd be my duty to do dishes for management when she's away, because I'm the only girl. Another older male colleague overheard me saying that I value my time and replied, 'You'll assign value to your time once you work as a prostitute.'
"I left the field after two years."
25."I was 25 and working as a receptionist in construction. The head of accounting called me 'Legs.' He followed this up with, 'I'm 84 and married, but I still notice.' This was after he compared my weight to the middle-aged HR woman's weight, which was really uncomfortable for the two of us. After telling my female boss, she and the HR woman tried to place the blame on my choice of clothing, saying that it broke the dress code. However, it had been fine for the multiple weeks before he'd said anything.
"I ended up quitting the job before the week was over."
—Anonymous, California, 26
26."'I know it's inappropriate to ask, but do you think your pregnancy hormones are affecting your ability to do your job?'
"This was said to me by a 63-year-old man when I was 37."
—Anonymous, United Kingdom, 42
27."I work as a paralegal, and while wearing slacks and a turtleneck, was told by a 42-year-old man, 'You should consider not wearing such form-fitting clothing. You're going to make it hard for everyone to focus.'
—Anonymous, California, 25
28."I was working retail, and we had to wear name tags. A male customer told me that I didn't pronounce my name correctly, because it wasn't spelled like how it is normally spelled in the US.
29."I worked as an engineer, and for a while, worked with contractors. When I was 23, one of the (at least) 60-year-old contractors said to me, 'Come sit on my lap, and I will spank you for that.' This was because I'd said something that was slightly incorrect. Mind you, I was fairly new and had a lot to learn, and this was in a private office with just the two of us."
—Anonymous, Georgia, 27
30."The day I returned to work after my wedding, a male colleague asked me, 'So, now that the wedding is done, are you going to start trying for a baby?' Firstly, isn't that just a strange way of asking if we're having lots of sex? Secondly, this guy had no idea of my health, finances, or even opinion on wanting kids. Thirdly, not one person in my husband's workplace has ever asked him if we'll be having kids.
"Men, please stop asking women when they are going to get pregnant."
—Anonymous, United Kingdom, 33 (and still happily without children)
31."I had hyperemesis gravidarum with my pregnancy, so I missed a lot of work and was ultimately put on bed rest. One day, before I had to stop working, I was sorting files in the main office. At one point, I coughed, which led to me gagging. My boss — a man old enough to be my grandfather — said, 'I don't feel sorry for you, you know. You did this to yourself. No one told you to go out and have sex and get pregnant.' It was so wildly inappropriate that I just ignored it because anything I said back was bound to get me fired.
"Also, I'm married and was married then, too — not that it would matter if I wasn't. Ugh."
—Anonymous, Missouri, 25