In February, I was entertaining the idea of leaving my (then) job due to various reasons. I was only five months in. I felt I wanted to give it another month, because “six months” would look better on my resume than “five months”. Then it happened, and I had to be content with “five months”, along with explaining why I couldn’t stay there longer at every job interview afterwards.
In summary, I had to
run away from leave my old job because I offended some (I didn’t know at that time) thugs around my workplace, culminating in them stalking me for two days and a police report that was never followed through.
What really happened: I was having lunch alone at a stall, and the guys at the table next to mine decided it was a good idea to start harassing me. If you’d like to know, it wasn’t direct. More like, one-of-them-blew-smoke-in-my-face-while-they-made-fun-of-me-and-my-expensive-phone-which-I-was-playing-with-’cos-I-was-trying-to-ignore-them harassment. Not a biggie, right? It’s not like they fondled me or anything, right? But I snapped anyway. I already had a rough day by then, and I didn’t feel like giving in to yet another group of people who were bent on bugging me just because they could.
“Macam sial!” I said when I was leaving. They roared in laughter.
As I walked away, I looked back, and one of them was looking at my butt. So I threw a middle finger. And that’s the beginning of my personal hell breaking loose.
In the evening, I waited downstairs for my two clerks to come down (I usually drove them home). They were taking so long, and before I knew it, the guy who got my middle finger was chasing me into the restaurant below my office. We had a heated face-to-face argument, like this, only without any physical contact. I think he knew better than to beat me up. He grabbed my phone from my hand and threw it to the floor. Miraculously it survived. Thank Moon for Gorilla Glass?
I had to listen to the most horrible, patronizing, entitled, lelaki-Melayu-pantang-dicabar rant ever in my life. Complete with, “Ko tu perempuan buat la perangai macam perempuan”, “Ko ingat ko orang puteh”, “Pompuan tak beradab” dan sebagainya. He also said I was not right in the head, but I don’t think someone who went on like that for 15 minutes was that right in the head either. Seriously, what was said to me was much more horrible than what I paraphrase here. It’s not really something I want to remember. I was forced to apologize just so he would leave me.
By the time I joined my clerks, who didn’t know what was happening and were happily tucking into chapati at a stall, my spirit was shattered. I told them to tar pau the food ‘cos I wanted to go home right away. When I got in the car, I cried.
After I sent one of them home, the other was still concerned and suggested going to the police. So I went with her. And the police didn’t care. The officer taking my report kept fiddling with her eyes – something was wrong with her blue contact lenses. The report was badly amateur: the middle finger scene was described as “tunjuk fuck” over and over, and I was even asked if I really wanted to put that in since it might jeopardize my case. I was told that another officer would investigate the following day, but hey, it’s been more than half a year now and I haven’t received any calls. I wasn’t physically bruised or anything – just mentally anguished, loudly weeping for the whole station to hear, that sort of thing – so they weren’t that concerned.
The following day when I arrived at work, a group of them was waiting for me at the restaurant downstairs. Six or seven bouncer-looking men. Again, they weren’t directly threatening me. Just wanted to intimidate me with their power in numbers! Eleventy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11 Um. I really didn’t expect that. I thought what’s over was over. Seriously, why would a bunch of adult men be so hung over a middle finger thrown by a (let’s admit it) physically non-intimidating woman? What’s with this middle finger that it roused the worst in these men?
I called the police, but again they didn’t sound concerned, so I didn’t call their supposed hotline for immediate action, whatever they called it. And now, my employers came into the picture. My clerks had told them what happened, but I didn’t know that my employers already knew, so I told them anyway. Well, they seemed nice about it to me, but of course some victim-blaming was thrown it: “You shouldn’t have challenged men, Ms lautbulan”. They photocopied my police report, which I’m sure is now used to make fun of me before their friends than it is used for whatever legitimate purpose.
Later my clerks escorted me to lunch. And they told me that the reply they got from my employers was that, “Tell Ms. lautbulan not to talk to us about this. We don’t want to know anything about it”. Yeap. So not only was I being stalked by a bunch of thugs now, I was also clearly fucked over by my own employers. (Something I already knew by the way they treated me, but this was the last straw.)
So I wrote an immediate notice of resignation. (Thanks for not confirming my employment.) After I sent my now ex-clerks home, I was jobless for a month. And I only got half of my last salary, which I only received three months after I left. (Small firm partners are probably the shittiest employers ever.)
I posted these events on my Facebook profile, of course. Some nosy “friends” immediately wanted to meet up just so I could tell it to them directly. Interestingly these same people never got in touch with me for a few months later, so I gave them the boot on Facebook and in real life. What? I trim down my list every few months or so, it’s normal.
I stopped talking about this altogether a short time later. Because I was blamed. Because I was told that I was weak for crying. Because losing a job meant having to deal with my friends’ true colors. Because I was told to understand those thugs’ worldview. Because no one could see let alone pointed out that what happened to me was disproportionate to my middle finger. Because I’m a woman who’s had to deal with this shit all her life and I’m just so fucking tired of being expected to shut up whenever I’m violated. Because women shutting up for ages results in men being extremely insulted by a meek middle finger. I mean, come on. These dickheads were threatening me because I was pissed with them for harassing me? I don’t even…
Part of me did blame myself though. “If only I wasn’t so quick with my middle finger…” “What was I thinking?” “Feminism failed me.” Now that it’s been some time, I realized it’s not my – or feminism’s – fault that some men can’t deal with a middle finger. It’s the patriarchy’s fault. (Or kyriarchy if that floats your boat.) We’ve succeeded in creating entitled men who can’t be challenged. Ye la, lelaki Melayu pantang dicabar. Personally, when faced with this kind of men I do think that women are fucked over. It’s fight or flight as long as we don’t overhaul our society, and either way isn’t pretty. It’s a bloody long and winding road to equality. And watch out for the self-proclaimed liberal men who secretly hate women.
Listen. You may think I’m an idiot. You may think I deserved it. Whatever. After all, I did have to leave my job. But I’m not willing to shut up anymore. I’m not willing to further accommodate the patriarchy/kyriarchy in a country where everyone but cisgender-looking men – with a significant number of them being, y’know, WOMEN – are just not safe on the street. I’m not in a position to “get even” either, whatever that means. I just feel that not speaking up, not taking any action in a scenario of harassment works more to the harasser’s advantage than it does to the harassed. (No, I’m not telling women how to dress if you think I’m saying that.) Women have to be responsible too to some degree and not just let things happen. It didn’t work out that well in my case, but who’s to say it won’t work out for you? Or the next generation of girls who will reap the rewards of our work now?
lautbulan now works in a better place. She's spent half her life listening to j-rock, and she recommends 'Cunt' by Inga Muscio to everyone. She is also a Kakak Killjoy. She is writing this under a pseudonym for reasons that may adversely affect her relationship with her employers and compound her emotional wellbeing.
Posted on 20 October 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.
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What is the main motivation of the Bar Council and Malaysian Bar when issuing statements or taking action?