The unravelling of Harvey Weinstein has finally given women (and men), the confidence to speak up. But it's also given people the opportunity to see how wide spread the problem is. Pretty much every woman I know has been harassed. It happens on the street, in the office and within relationships. And because so many women have experienced some form of harassment, I felt that what happened to me... was only a big deal to me. I shared that hashtag. So, it seems right that I should share my story too. Well my worst story of harassment, as it was by someone who abused their power.
I was 23 at the time.
I’d been living in London for about a year, working in a small boutique agency. One of our campaigns had been nominated for an award, so I went to the doo, with one of the women from accounts and our client.
I sat at the same table as him. He was the Creative Director and Co-owner of another agency. He was friendly. He was really interested in who I was and what I did for a living - and also, a very very old, married man. As I introduced myself to him and his team, he mentioned that they were looking for an art director to expand their team.
I was on the hunt for a new job at the time so, I happily showed him some of my work on my phone – I’d just got my site working on mobile and I remember being pretty chuffed with it (Yup. It was that long ago I was 23). He seemed really keen on my work, and I spend a good section of the evening chatting to him about my portfolio, career goals and creative passions.
A few hours passed celebrating as a table. And as everyone got a bit merrier they got up to dance, leaving just me and him behind. Sitting at the table alone with him, he complained the music was too loud and said he’d love to chat to me more about the role, and suggested I go back to his hotel room to discuss things further...
Hold up. WHAT?! Why was he wanting to talk further about it? In his hotel room. The awards were in a hotel so I had to presume he didn’t realise how dodgy as fuck that sounded... Right? Don’t worry. I didn’t go. Now I shudder to think what would of happened. I can imagine it would of become very Weinstein-esque if I had. Instead I said it seemed inappropriate, but I had to apologise A LOT. I said some crap along the lines of 'I don’t really know you, and I’m sure you’re not like that.. but I’m sorry I don’t think that’s appropriate' – he suggests something like that, and yet I’m the one apologising. FFS.
Still interested in interviewing me, we swapped emails and he later invited me to come in for an interview. At his agency this time, so I went. And what do you know… his agency was actually bloody legit (which only added to me feeling like a muppet for the hotel room suggestion).
He offered me a job. I wanted a new job. I wanted to be in a real advertising agency. And I had convinced myself he wasn’t a dirty old man. So, I accepted the job and for a bit it was okay. The first couple of weeks after I started I just presumed his interest in me and my personal life was just him and had noticed he was a bit 'flirty' in nature with other women in the office. Sadly I thought it was just one of those things I’d have to get used to and just ignore.
As you may guess by now. Things got worse.
Back then, I was also in a relationship that stunk like a bag of dead turtles. It’s a sad state when your boss is giving you more attention than your boyfriend… and after weeks of heartache, I realised he was involved with another girl. So, I left him. It was hard, but as you can imagine my boss was very supportive. He gave me a day off and reassured me my ex was an idiot. It was nice to have a friendship with him, and I appreciated how understanding he was.
Once my ex was out of my head. I began to date. And that's when my boss friggin' hated it. He became jealous. Inquisitive of details about boys I'd spoken to, and he became even more flirty and sporadic both in work and over messages. At work it would be things like touching my shoulders when he stood behind me to critique my work. At night I would get chatty texts throughout the evening. I felt like if I didn’t reply I would have to explain why the next day. It was not normal. I began to fear being alone with him, and dreading every interaction we had.
At work we’d just won a pitch to shoot a TV ad in Australia. To cut costs, and massage his own ego of him believing he could direct film - he suggested that the team fly over to shoot it. The shoot would mean 3 weeks travelling the country in a camper van with him and another partner of the agency. My boss said I should go with him, but he had to decide between me and the other art director. The thought of going away with him truly terrified me. I honestly thought about quitting there and then, or quitting if I was told I was going with. I was so worried about what he might try, and how I’d even be able to ‘laugh it off’ as harmless.
I remember being on my first ever date, which happened whilst he was still deciding who was going to Oz. My boss saw it as yet another reason to text me, telling me he had a dilemma and didn’t know who to take. Me - or another art director (who has loads of commercial shoot experience by the way). Sat on a picnic blanket, with a nice, age-appropriate guy I decided I’d had enough. I bluntly replied – that he should take the other art director. No friendly chat. No niceties.
When I stopped being friendly, it got way worse. I began to feel like my job was being dangled over my head. I didn’t think it could get worse but it did. I had a six-month probation and was about five months of hell in. The thought of leaving scared me, and the thought of being fired filled me with shame. I was trapped, stressed and I felt incredibly alone.
I eventually opened up to two colleagues after work and confessed just how scared I was. Sat in run-down wine bar with two people I hardly knew, trying not to cry. They suggested speaking to his partners, as he owned the company with two other guys. Not wanting to make big deal of it, I decided that I’d just swerve him just to survive being there every day, and save up as much as I before my probation ended. And that worked for a while, until the day I couldn’t swerve him. I remember I had to go to him for something. I can’t remember what it was, but I’d been dodging him, and especially being alone with him for a fair few days now. I decided to brave it by sticking my head through the door in his fish-tank like office door to ask a question.
He then he did something that was so unnecessary and frankly traumatising that I can scratch my whole experience down to what he said and did in that moment. He grabbed my face, putting his crinkled-cut old man hands around my face in a weird loving embrace and said with such pride “Ooooooh I’d kiss you now if it wasn't inappropriate”. *insert mental blank and internal freak out here* I don’t even remember what I said. I don't even remember if I got an answer to that thing I needed... I think I just awkwardly laughed to get out of there as quick as possible and ran to the bathroom.
That was my definitive moment. The moment I knew for sure, that this was harassment and that I couldn’t go on with the way it was. Knowing I was already on my way out, I decided to tell his partners about his behaviour, highlighting this incident and how it made me feel. I had at least shared my side of the story, no matter what happened next. Anyway, it fell on deaf ears of course, and 3 days later I was let go. He took me to a pub and told me he ‘had to let me go’. I was so happy it was over and that I’d be away from him, that I thanked him for "setting me free" and left.
As the reality of being fired / let go / whatever you might call it sank in, I was left feeling ashamed. I'd been treated like shit, and had no proof of why I was let go. I’d deleted his texts, my email was works email, and I was left unemployed. I was so worried what I’d say if I was ever asked why I’d only lasted six months in a job I figured I would scratch it down to loosing clients so it was last in/first out. Ironically I think that’s still what my LinkedIn says... lol. That month was hard. But I was free. I picked myself up (slowly) and was lucky to bag myself a really good job in a global agency.
You’ll be happy to know that karma did eventually catch up with him, and he was pushed out of his own company, for having a shit attitude (or quite possibly his behaviour to other women, who knows?). Although... he was probably paid a lot of money to leave, and now he’s attempting to be a photographer and director. Just another Harvey Weinstein to add to the mix hey.
A few years later, still holding onto my mobile number it seems, he sent me a WhatsApp message commenting on how attractive I looked in my profile photo. Are you having a giraffe?! How, after all these years, did he still think his behaviour was okay? And that I would be okay with it... what a bell.
I have grown tremendously since I worked for him, and become much stronger in a way because of all the shit he put me through. I always regretted not calling him out for the absolute douchebag he was. I wanted him to know he could no longer treat me like that. But shouting at someone didn’t over whatsapp didn’t seem like the way to really get my own back. I took a subtle approach, I changed my picture.
He couldn’t control me anymore. Never mind look at my photo. He knew what he had done, so what was the point of telling him and getting nothing or denial back. I didn’t reply, I just updated my profile image. If he happened to peek at my photo again, all he'd see was a crisp black and white photo of my middle finger with "fuck you" written underneath it.
It’s a sorry state when every woman you know has been through some sort of harassment. And everyone can recall multiple times. This is the worst incident of harassment for me, but it happens on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. I have written another blog post which is sitting unpublished from the summer when I guy harassed me in the park. I decided me and my "fine ass" no longer felt safe walking through the park after work which really upset me. I ended up not posting it cos I thought no-one would think it was a big deal.
That’s why #MeToo is so important. Its shining a light of how often it happens and how women are made to feel. I hope this simple hashtag rids people of the taboo of saying what happened. I hope this gives us all more power, both men and women to stand up when we see it happening.
Anyway, back to my pervy old boss. I hate the thought of him treating others like this and worry it will happen, or has happened to others already. His WhatsApp years later just goes to show he's another dick who is either too clueless to know the difference between flirting and harassment or he thinks that it’s okay to treat women this way.
Whilst I was writing this, I decided to do a two searches. A quick google search today has revealed his photographer profile where he lists some of his preferences for photography as 'Lingerie, Glamour, Nude, Adult, Topless' despite having a portfolio of poorly created photos of fully clothed people. Living the dream ey, you absolute pervert. I also seached my personal email and actually uncovered some emails from him, that even now make me gag. Replies to my emails like ‘you make me smile’ and ‘I shall hold you to that ;)’ that I’ve either been too naïve to see for what they were, or I’ve just swerved in my replies. I guess I do have evidence of his behaviour after all.
I wonder if he’ll ever read this? I hope he does.
And in case he ever does I have a message for him incase he didn't get the one I left for him last time...
Go Fuck Yourself R.C