My First Protest

On Thursday, Google employees held a global protest against the way the company handled several cases of workplace sexual harassment.

It was my first protest. Everyone I’ve told that too has been surprised, including my son. I always meant to join marches, hold up signs, join the fight. Women’s rights, racial equality, climate change… I’d admire folks I saw doing defending causes in news stories.

Only I was never in the loop, too introverted, and to be perfectly honest… I trusted that other folks would carry the load. At this point in history, however, I don’t think it’s wise to sit out anymore.

The most amazing thing happened when I got up from my desk at the appointed time, 11:10am, to go protest. Nearly every man in my team went with me. It was incredibly moving, and I felt supported, like there was an army who had my back. Even writing about it now, I’m tearing up. If any of you are reading, what you did was awesome.

Protesting was hard. It brought up issues that I feel passionately about, reminded me of old wounds. And yet, it also gave me a platform and a safe space to express.

I created a set of story cards and showed them to people. Some were shocked and saddened. Too many women nodded knowingly. One young guy said, “Did that really happen?” It hit me later the irony that even a man at a protest against sexual harassment would ask that question. To be fair to him, he seemed earnest and concerned.

My favorite moment was when a young woman in her twenties was surprised and shocked by the story. As comforting as it can be to see another woman nod and affirm a shared experience, I very much hope that workplace sexual harassment someday becomes extinct.

One woman walked by as I was presenting and said to me, “that face, we always make that face.” And I thought about my expression. My lips were tight and my eyes were wide. I’d stare straight into people’s faces as I silently flipped through my story. It was a strange emotion, and after that woman’s comment I realized what it was. Solid, strong, calm, anger.

I cry easily, but I wasn’t crying that day. I wanted to drill the importance of this message straight into people’s brains. I wanted them to understand that it didn’t just happen to anonymous people far away. That it happened to people working alongside them, all too ofter. And likely they’d never know.

It was hard exposing this part of myself to strangers, and to coworkers I’ve only known for three weeks. After the protest I felt raw, and emotionally vulnerable. I woke up the next day with this panicked feeling of “Oh god, what have I done? How will I ever face those folks again?”

And then I saw this, and knew that even in a very small way I’d helped get the message out, and spoken up for someone who’s been silenced. It made it all worth it.

Geek Wire’s TLDR; report [1:34 minutes]

My first protest, I don’t expect it to be my last.

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