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Feminist Esprit D’escalier

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I witnessed an act of sexual harassment this evening and I didn’t do a damn thing about it.

We don’t go out to eat very often at nice, sit-down restaurants in large part because my schedule is such that I don’t get off work until after supper time. It’s usually just easier to make something, reheat, or for me to grab something for us on my way home. But we’re working a modified holiday schedule right now and there is a group Mr. Pirate joins for dinner on some Friday nights and the restaurant they had picked was one I hadn’t tried before.

So we packed up some dinner for Elle and went.

This is the part where I say that one of the members of the dining party tends to be something of a lech and a shameless flirt with the waitstaff. Usually, it’s in good humor. Usually, he tends to be polite about it. Always, he says these things in the presence of his wife.

Tonight, while taking drink orders, he said something to our server in such a way that completely soured my dinner and has caused me to seriously reevaluate my continued attendance at these outings.

Server to Lech: “And what will you be having this evening?”

Lech: “Other than you, what is being offered?”

I should have called him out.

I should have apologized to our server for his inappropriate comment.

I should have done any number of things other than sit there, with Elle next to me asleep in her car seat, and neither do nor say anything.

I should have handed the server my feminist membership card and excused myself from the table.

I am ashamed of and disgusted by my failure to act. Because I did not speak up when something needed to be said, I became complicit to his harassment. If Elle’s ability to understand conversations were greater – we’re still working on connecting “Mummm,” sounds to me as Mum – my silence would have communicated to her that his comment was socially acceptable.

It’s not and I want her to know that.

I don’t care if someone harkens from a generation where treating a woman, regardless of her profession, any different from her male co-workers is acceptable. As long as people from my generation neglect to do anything about it, then Elle’s generation will be forced to continue to deal with the bullshit that is sexual harassment.

This is not the tone I wanted for my first post of 2014. In fact, I wanted to return to the blog from my writing hiatus with positive, upbeat zany stories about the juggling act that is being a mom and a mechanic and a wife and a friend and all the other labels that I identify with.

Instead, I used my first two curse words in a public forum.