By Shakira Danger
For about cumulatively five years of my life I have worked at McDonald’s, and I still do now. I consider myself lucky to have my job, it allows me to pay my bills and save up a little bit, it has taught me about hard work since I was 14, I love my co-workers and it can honestly be kind of fun. Although I don’t hate my job, I am well aware of the low status that is associated with working at McDonald’s. Trust me, it’s impossible not to be. Ask anyone who has worked at McDonald’s and they will be able to recount stories of rude, obnoxious customers who know they can get away with treating the employees like crap because, well, it is McDonald’s.
But by far the worst offenders are those who sexually harass the employees. The combination of a low status job and sexism unfortunately lends itself really well to this, with customers asking inappropriate questions, making uncomfortable gestures and staring, commenting on employees’ appearance and touching employees. I can honestly say that when I am working as a cashier that this will happen at least once a shift without fail, and there is no surer way for my shift to be ruined than for a man to remind me that because of my job and my gender, it is acceptable to harass me and make me feel unsafe.
While I generally try to shake off these incidents and move on, there have been several times when I have almost been brought to tears or legitimately feared for my safety. Once while working at night, a customer made me feel so unsafe and continued to harass me for a period of twenty minutes that when my shift ended I waited almost an hour for a male co-worker to finish just so he could accompany me on the six minute walk to my house. I have told my managers numerous times about customers making me very uncomfortable and upset only to have nothing done, and on one occasion even been laughed at by my manager.
On the verge of tears I have screamed at one of my managers “sexual harassment is not a part of my job description!” These things happen every day to female service employees all over the country, but harassment of women and the acceptance of poor treatment towards service workers are so ingrained and acceptable in our culture that it is an issue that never seems to be addressed. Without the status of both women and low class workers being challenged throughout society, these issues may never be addressed.