I work in an office. As such, there is always the little dramas, gossip, stories, and the rumour mill running rampant. Anything you say “in confidence” will more than likely be told to someone else by the end of the day, if not by the end of your sentence. It’s the risk you take day-to-day, but even more so in an office. You’re in each others spaces more than anyone else. You see your coworkers more than your family, partners, friends. You’re bound to come across some crazy dynamics, and information is eventually bound to leak.
Last year my workplace had a sleuth of nasty rumours going around the office. Every rumour was unfounded, based on speculation, and in the end every rumour was found to be false; As rumours often are. When I first started working for this company one of the very first things I “learned” about one of the women in my work place was that she was a “whore who was sleeping with a married man”. Every time this woman would walk past certain people would mutter horrific words under their breaths and comments would be made if this woman was ever seen out to lunch with the aforementioned married man. This language and behaviour was all I had to judge these two people on. And yet – the man was never called nasty and degrading names. Only the woman.
Why is that? As far as I “knew” she was single, he was married. Isn’t he equally, if not more “in the wrong” should they actually be sleeping together? But then again, that a assumes a range of things about these two people.
1. Shes straight.
2. He’s in a monogamous marriage.
3. The wife isn’t in on it.
4. They’re attracted to each other to begin with.
There’s so many factors that are instantly assumed about both people in the split second it takes to decide two people are making hanky panky. This permeates throughout our culture on a daily basis without most of us realising we do it. We make a host of snap judgments and assumptions about everyone around us to help form our opinions of them. And it usually results in the woman being a whore and the man being a champion. It’s a super weird dynamic, and it’s pretty
One day I realised the only thing I “knew” about either of these two people was their names and that they were apparently sleeping together. Nothing else. So I decided I wanted to have a conversation with the woman. I had walked past her desk several times and seen messages of female empowerment on it. I saw she was in to fitness, and based off her wall, she seemed like someone I could hold a conversation with. So that’s what I did. I got to know the woman behind the nasty rumours.
Forward to the new year and we’re a team. She is now one of my confidants at work. I am her biggest champion going in to meetings where women are underrepresented and undervalued. We have each others backs – in the workplace and out of it. We share so much in common, it’s amazing I went as long as I did before I approached her. I’m actually ashamed of it. I told her the reason I started talking to her, I told the other person that was involved, and as a team, we started a quest to squash rumours.
There has been a downside however. I’ve been ostracized from the original group of what I perceive to be bullies. I’m left out of group lunches, I’m not spoken to about anything other than “Hi, crazy weather.” That’s all I get anymore. And you know what? Some days that’s really hard. Being isolated, can feel really shitty; and being deliberately and poignantly left out of group activities is one of the definitions of bullying. But I have my own group. The people who uplift and support each other. I did the right thing. I made a hard decision and I stand by it.
As I mentioned previously, my workplace is undergoing respectful relationships and mental health training – company wide. Due to this little event of gossip and bullying, one of the things that has been brought up as disrespectful is gossip. Alas, not everyone seems to have gotten the memo and don’t view their actions as harmful or disrespectful. And that’s a shame. But for those of us who are learning, adapting, forming closer bonds, we’ve built an amazing group of supporting and uplifting women… and that’s filtering through to the men in the work place and every new colleague who joins our pretty incredible team.
Managers have started becoming more open and transparent with their feelings. Hard conversations are starting to be had with honesty, creating a non-secretive, open culture. Young men in the work force are gaining the vocabulary regarding their feelings so they can talk more freely with the people who have displayed open and supportive work culture. It’s permeating through the system bit by bit. Other employees have started calling each other out if they detect untruths or potential gossip. The change is incredible, because women chose to band together to stop dissing each other and stand united and it was seen.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand the childish mentality that comes with gossip, but it makes me proud to work for a company that actively tries to quash it and educate people about why it’s an insidious and nasty thing. Girl on girl hate is prevalent, but I feel like the movement against every day sexism and women standing up for themselves and each other is making head way. Having men join the fight has been so important as well and I’m very lucky I have supportive men and women in my life who are about girl power, and banding together to show love and respect to one another and everyone around us. It makes a huge difference day-to-day in emotional and mental health and it shows just how important emotional education can be.
Sure, it’s hard to defend people and to be the strong voice that says “I won’t stand for this injustice”, especially when it’s something that’s so ingrained in our culture – but people banding together to defend each other using education, honesty, support and love is a game changer. I look forward to seeing the future where there is no girl on girl crime and we stand united.
Until next time, stay silly, stay kind xx