July 9, 2013 8:24 pm

Not okay, Part Two.

The job I got laid off from was the one mentioned here. On my last day there, a co-worker instant-messaged me a link to this video (cartoon underpants visible, watch at your own discretion).

It’s a Harry Potter themed video that depicts a parody of the “wingardium leviosa” scene from the first book. Except Ron uses the spell to flip Hermione’s skirt up, and as she’s saying “no” and “stop,” Professor Snape comes in and stares, and then “corrects” Ron’s pronunciation.

My co-worker’s actual words were:

I’m not sure about you, but i’m a fan of HP and thought this was hilarious :D

I get that it’s supposed to be funny. I really do. And I get that the joke is also about the pronunciation and their faces. But this is basically the very definition of Rape Culture – the fact that sexually harassing somebody is considered “normal” and “funny” instead of gross and reprehensible.

At the time he sent this message, I had just been laid off, I had had it up to here with being subjected to this kind of stuff, and figuring I had nothing to lose, I laid into him.

I am probably the biggest HP fan in this room, but what is so funny about that video? the fact that Hermione is being sexually assaulted, or that she says “no” and “stop” and nobody listens? I understand it’s meant to be “funny,” but that’s sexual assault, and I’m not sure why you would think it’s hilarious, much less why you’d think I would think so as well.

I also linked to the two rape culture links above, and then recommended a Harry Potter video that’s actually funny – A Very Potter Musical.

You guys, it was SO HARD to press send.

You know why?

  1. By complaining about it, I’m at risk of being seen as “humorless,” which happens to a lot of women in tech when they complain about sexist behavior or harassment
  2. I want to be liked. I don’t want to be seen as “a bitch.”
  3. I worried about being “mean” to him, even though he had made me uncomfortable
  4. I second-guessed myself a million times about whether or not it was actually inappropriate to send me that at work because it was a very casual work environment
  5. I second-guessed myself a million times about whether or not what was depicted in the video was objectionable, even though it actually didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things because the video was weird and unfunny and I didn’t like it.

His response was:

Ah sorry I didn’t mean to offend you. Most of my friends find that kind of bad humor funny :S
I am all about bad humor, trust me, but I wanted to take an opportunity to educate – there are a lot of ways that video could have kept the funny “levioSAHHH” without showing Hermione’s underpants.

In the end though, because there wasn’t a HR department or really anybody to complain to, and because I would be out of there within hours, this interaction stayed between the two of us. There really wasn’t anywhere else to go.

Not okay.

I do not know what in the world was going on in that guy’s head when he sent that video to me. I am nearly certain that after our interaction, he probably wrote me off as a crazy feminist loony, but my hope is that he actually opened up one or two of the links I sent him and read a bit of the pages.

And maybe next time he considers sending a video like that to a female colleague, he’ll reconsider.

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  • Melissa says:

    It’s sad that those situations (when people rather innocently send things or make jokes they think are funny but are actually quite inappropriate) are so difficult to deal with and often result in what you said: that the “jokers” think it’s “just a joke.”

    Awesome that you pressed that button and told him those things. Hopefully he did visit those links!

    • Meggan says:

      I hope so too! I still feel like I came off as pretty humorless, but I was really, truly, genuinely shocked that somebody would think it was A) okay, and B) funny, to send me that video at work. Blecch.

  • Elliot says:

    Like Melissa said, there are a lot of guys that just don’t understand that things that they say, do, or share are offensive. And it’s not about knowing your audience, it’s about not understanding that a video like that is using sexual assault as a joke. They’ll just think, “he he, panties.”

    It is very important to call out that kind of stuff. I know a lot of people that have responded very positively to that. A lot of guy will realize it and say, “oh no! I didn’t even think about it that way! That was a horrible thing to [do/say/share].”

    A no one will learn if they aren’t told that they are doing it wrong.

    • Meggan says:

      I was really nervous about calling him out on it but you’re right – in the end I think it was for the best. Thanks for the support, Elliot!