So I wanted to see what you think. This is something that I've definitely been aware of for a while but haven't really felt the need to, wanted to, or known how to address personally whether it be actively or just in understanding. Obviously the topic of sexual harassment and/or discrimination in is challenging to tackle no matter who, where, or what you are talking about, so throw in a couple other cultural and language differences and you're got yourself in a regular ol' pickle.

You can often chalk up a lot of workplace or business situation awkwardness in another country to language barriers and/or cultural differences. Calling someone by an improper title, using inappropriate language without realizing it, or going in for an informal cheek kiss when you're really supposed to shake hands- par for the course. But then there are those times that you wonder whether you are just letting something inappropriate slide because you don't know how to react. That certainly stems directly from the perspective I have being a female, as in most cases, but what I'm not sure of is when that changes or is adjusted because I am in a different culture and furthermore, if I should be ok with it. Because of the context I am writing from, the only case I can address is harassment coming from a male to a female.

A few examples come to mind. In terms of the two workplaces I have here, one is a U.S.-based organization that employs only two men, one the husband of the director, and the other a native Mexican man, and I have faced a total of 0 intimidation or discomfort. In the other, a native Mexican high school and higher education facility (of all places), the story has been different. While I have found the environment to be very professional and organized, it is also very much so run by the "club" mentality, either you're in or you're out, no in between. Because of that fact, I have come across various individuals who feel they have more right than others to say what they deem appropriate. That's not to say anyone has every directly come out and said something inappropriate, that would be too obvious. But I have been in the presence of male colleagues, one being my supervisor, who either refer to a female colleague in a way we would call "too friendly" or make comments, I'm sure according to them in a joking manner, about their work ethic, conduct, or appearance. Used to inappropriate hootin' and hollerin' in the streets, I'm constantly on the defense. Although I had never felt uncomfortable with the afore-mentioned supervisor, there was a time when another male colleague of his made a comment to him privately, turned and "pointed" at me with his eyes, and my supervisor just smiled in agreement and nodded. I stand out here. It's a fact. But, we can call it paranoia or we can call it questionable. Whatever we do, we need to put it in context. Personally, I let it completely roll off my shoulders. Later on I got really pissed at myself.

Another "higher-up" at school made more than one comment during orientation in front of all the teachers about how lucky he'd feel to have me as his teacher and get to look at me all day. Thanks, old man. But it's allllll done in good ol' fashioned fun so I don't worry, right? I need to remind you- this is all relative. This is not a daily occurrence nor one that has ever become an up-front issue at work. But does that make it roll off your shoulder material?

I have a close friend who is a lawyer and works for the state penitentiary. Within an already frighteningly-flawed system, she goes to work everyday to see the people who we hope to never meet that have done things that we don't even want to think. She's badass. She does her work and she does it well. And that intimidates her supervisor. Actually, it pisses him off and he lets her know it. Some people just don’t know what to do with a strong-willed woman here who doesn't take shit. Now, granted there is a large majority of workplaces that are like that all over the world, but in a low-income community where over half of the households in the entire state have a family connection to migrants in the U.S., employment opportunities are not what we would call abundant. And naturally, for Mexican women, they are much less prevalent. So put that together with a Mexican mama who knows what she wants and you may just have yourself a spooked supervisor. One, like that of the friend I mentioned, who gives you more (unpaid) night and weekend shifts than other employees, threatens you with being let go because you didn't show up for work on Friday despite the fact that you asked for the day off three months prior, talks about you behind your back concerning your "lazy work habits" and "sense of entitlement" (where did he pull THAT out of???), and is just a plain asshole when it comes to issues you may have.

If someone says something that makes you feel uncomfortable or unjustly targeted, it's wrong. But what about if it's more culturally acceptable? Who says it's culturally acceptable or not? What does that even mean? I again, hate these kinds of things because I have trouble separating an issue from what could be the actual reality. And one of the realities here is that sexual harassment is actually addressed at times with such in-the-face campaigns as this one from almost two years ago. Granted, it has its critiques but it's an effort nonetheless. I should say that I have been more than impressed at times with the level of professionalism and level of commitment shown by those I work with but at the same time, flaws shouldn't be ignored.

We won't ever disagree that any form of harassment in the workplace is wrong but where do we get these ideas? What context did we form them in? What experiences have we had to make us feel that way? Why do those guidelines travel across borders when at the same time the argument is the opposite when we talk about things like the U.S. valuing work and money over family time? Microwaved dinner and Mickey D's over family meals and Sunday get-togethers?

Do you see what I'm saying? I think it's wrong. But that's because of who I am. The white woman from the U.S. who has actively put herself in open-minded environments her entire life before coming here. I'm going to keep playing with this one in my head and see what happens.

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