A Vulgar Dignity

Looking back at Quillette again this morning to re-read the book review, I noticed also this woman's expression of a very different sort of experience with sexual banter.
What I learned that summer was that the adult world was often about sex. I learned that I didn’t need to be afraid of it. I learned that I had a lot more power over men than I originally thought—not simply because, as a cute young thing, I was awakening to my own feminine sexuality and realized how keenly the guys wanted me to like them, but because I had more power than I realized to reject their advances, to assert my sense of sexual agency not because it was a private and protected part of me, but precisely because it was so openly commented upon.

What I realized, too, is that these exchanges weren’t offensive, they were playful; that they weren’t demeaning, but led to mutual respect. It was the very indecency of the back of house culture that made working at that 24-hour restaurant a tolerable job, and it was all the vulgar insults of the workplace that gave a kind of gritty dignity to our work there. Working there one became part of family. Flouting the rules that govern social niceties, which had to be observed carefully in the restaurant dining room, was the initiation into the clan. What I’ve learned since that summer is that the culture of that greasy spoon kitchen has a rich anthropology; it’s the type of community that populates the taverns of Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, and it functions in direct opposition to officialdom.
There's a lot to what she says, and no reason to dismiss her experience from the fact that others may not share it.


raven said...

Certainly far far better than to have to walk on eggshells, afraid any comment might be interpreted wrong and offend some snowflake.

New acronym- TPO "The Perpetually Offended"

Grim said...

I had a female boss once who loved sexual banter in the workplace. I always felt like I needed to be constrained -- in part because, as a married man, I didn't want anyone to get the idea that I was flirting with anyone. But it was clearly joyful for her, and the other women in the office seemed to like the way that she engaged it.

I find this story similar in that respect. The young woman learned a lot from the experience, and went on to a successful career that was doubtless strengthened from the confidence and power she developed. There's no reason to believe that this sort of talk is universally oppressive to females. It might be that some really are hurt by it, but it may also be that some really are taught empowering lessons.