Sexual harassment in the service industry | Opinion | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Sexual harassment in the service industry

“Why are so many restaurant owners in this city pretending women aren’t getting harassed and assaulted within their establishments?”

click to enlarge Sexual harassment in the service industry
Meaghan MacDonald is 24 years old, 100 percent Haligonian and is finally ready to fight the good fight for her city. A version of this opinion piece first appeared on her Facebook.

Working in food and beverage for eight years means that from a young age I was exposed to sexual harassment and sexual assault. I was made to feel that the gain and devotion of a customer mattered much more than the concerns and protection of an employee.

Women are brought up hearing that we should cover up, we should shut up and we should change how we feel because the way we feel is too sensitive. Instead of voicing our lack of comfort, we should just accept these standards because that's the way it is and that is the industry we chose. It was all our choice. 

At the ages of 16 and 19, I did not choose to have my co-workers sexually assault me. I never wanted to tell my bosses about these issues and why I am justified in feeling sensitive and anxious in the workplace, only to be told to get over it, deal with it and hear that in order to work in this industry, I “cannot be so sensitive.” I never asked a co-worker to tell me the only reason I make good tips is because I “have big tits,” and tell me I am “choosing to be offended” by his comments.

“I have constantly had to fight to be treated like a human being.”

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When informing my boss of this harassment, it was ignored. I can tell you it never mattered what environment I was in because I have worked in them all and they were all incredibly unsupportive. I have constantly had to fight to be treated like a human being.

Why are so many restaurant owners in this city pretending this poor treatment and lack of concern does not exist? Women are getting harassed and assaulted within their establishments. They need to initiate a change.

There are multiple programs across Canada for industry workers to get properly trained on how to safely challenge sexual violence. It is about time we provided this kind of training for industry workers in Halifax. More people need to be educated, while others need to feel safer. We need this training and we need more restaurant owners making the statement that they do not stand for this toxic behaviour.

To all of my brave ladies out there, we do not need to feel useless or unable to stand up for what is right. We are not the ones who need to change, but we will fight until we see a difference.

I’ve made the choice to leave my hospitality education so I can pursue a career devoted to helping women and ensuring this happens.

For those who have struggled with similar experiences, I will help you gain your voice. I will help you build yourself up. I will help you rise and be heard. I can’t say that in every job we have we won't be viewed as big-tits, big-ass, big-sensitive-vagina, but we will make it stop. 

Ladies, don't give up. Don't shut up. Don’t cover up. And don't ever change how you feel. We are strong and we are stronger together.

Sensitivity does not mean you are weak or wrong. Opening up does not mean you are admitting to being a victim, it means you are acknowledging that you are a hero.


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