Two days after the election of Donald Trump, I decided to escape to my happy place for a little while. My movie theater has always been my safe haven. But after the film, I accidentally left my jacket in the theater and had to go downstairs to check their lost and found. While the man behind the counter went to go check, another man came up behind me.

“Damn, baby, what’s it like being so beautiful?” I gritted my teeth and pretended to look at my phone.

“Baby, damn, I just love everything about you. And that outfit, woo girl.” For the record, I was wearing a gigantic sweater and leggings, not an inch of skin showing. I continued to stare at my phone, fake texting and hoping he’d go away. Instead, he asked for a hug.

I looked up and saw a man, most likely around our new president-elect’s age. I attempted to be nice in the hopes he’d go away. He reached towards me to try to hug me and I backed up as much as I could saying, “no thank you,” repeatedly. Eventually, he unhappily accepted it when the man behind the counter kindly asked him to stop.

I live in a city, so it is, unfortunately, no surprise when men come up to me and demand my attention or shout rude things or try to touch me. I’ve lived in Boston for three years now and I’m as shaken every time it happens as I was the first time, freshman year, when a man followed be out of the T station, yelling many things that I will not repeat here.

Donald Trump

Gage Skidmore on Flickr

It’s a strange feeling knowing that our soon-to-be president could be one of these offenders, someone who thinks that women owe him attention, that they are something to look at or something to play with. “Grab them by the pussy” has become a mantra, allowing men to think that, if Donald Trump can do it, so can they.

The day after the election, a friend of mine shared a story on Facebook, of what it was like doing something as simple as going to CVS that morning. A man waited by the door for her, yelled “grab them by the pussy,” and laughed while he tried to grab her genitals. Locker room talk or not, Donald Trump has created a new normal.

The fact is that sexual harassment isn’t new, but at the very least, companies were pretending to care about their employees facing this kind of thing at work. Now, they don’t even have to pretend.

One of the worst offenders has always been the food industry. I had never met a friend in the food industry who was not harassed by a boss, coworker, or customer. I decided to talk to women at every level of the food industry, to ask how they experienced sexual harassment.

Of those that I talked to, only one woman said that she had never faced harassment while at work. (For the record, she worked in an all-women food truck.) Many of those I talked to asked for their names to be omitted, because they believed that they may face consequences at work. 


JeepersMedia on Flickr

Emily Barger, a senior at Emerson College, had her first job at Panera. At 16, she was afraid to speak out, although she was frightened and frustrated by what was going on around her. One of her coworkers was a man who would slap the behinds of the women there. He once picked Emily up and held her without her consent. When he was training another girl on her first day, he complimented her behind. Emily later found out that the guy had taken a friend of hers out on a date and they had sex, without the girl’s consent.

Because Panera has a pretty revolving door when it comes to managers, Emily didn’t know who to talk to about the situation and eventually left the job. The following year, Emily began working at a golf center, in the restaurant and bar, where a regular customer would come in and brag to her about his open marriage and make propositions for her.

When she was washing a glass one day and had to make an up and down motion to clean it, he watched her intently and then asked to do it again, but slower. At the same restaurant, the cook repeatedly brought up sex to her and also attempted to ask her if she was a virgin.

A senior at Emerson College, who has asked not to be named, had a similar experience, with a customer making inappropriate propositions. At the restaurant she had been working for, an older man approached her and asked her to spank him. Her boss, who was standing behind her, was shocked, but did not step in. When she went to serve that man and his friends at their table later, she asked if they needed anything, to which the man replied, patting her shoulder, “only you."

Curiosos / Curious

Hernan Piñera on Flickr

Sarah Dolan, a junior at Emerson College, worked at a family resort hotel, where she worked as a waitress to customers on a week-long meal plan. She usually ended up serving the same families for a week straight. Towards the end of one week, she remembers a man, around our new president-elect’s age, patting her behind. His 12-year-old granddaughter watched the whole thing. Sarah did not say anything for fear of upsetting the girl. 

Not all harassment comes from outside. A Simmons College junior was terminated after she experienced harassment in her job at a pizza place.

She faced harassment that was not necessarily sexual from her boss, who repeatedly would ask her if she gained weight and would tell her to stop eating because she weighed enough already.

One day he told her that she was too big for her pants and she needed to buy a looser pair. When she said that she couldn’t afford to at that time, he sent her home. I can’t help but think that this story sounds a lot like how our president-elect acts when he finds a woman that he thinks “weighs enough already.” 

The junior continued to talk about the sexual harassment she faced while working there.

“The delivery boys would ask my female coworkers and I on dates, ask us to come with them to the car, and would even steal our phone numbers from the employee call list,” she said.

One worker was relentless with her and would ask her out repeatedly, telling her every time that he forgot that she had a boyfriend. One day, she snapped at him and told him off. The next week she was fired. A friend who still worked there later told her that the man had told her boss that she was leaving early and sitting down on the job, neither of which were true. She was fired for not going out on a date with her coworker.

Krista D’Archi, a junior at Emerson College, had a boss who refused to hire anyone other than women. He seemed to enjoy patronizing them. She constantly felt that he was looking to insult the women working under him and would scream at them if they got anything wrong.

Caroline Blanchard, who now works as a teacher, worked at a restaurant and bar from 2004 to 2006 and a full-time business manager from 2005 to 2008.

“I faced more harassment in a bar and restaurant than I ever did in a corporate office,” said Caroline. “Add alcohol to the mix and it’s a dangerous situation.” 

Oslo bar

the tinz on Flickr

For one thing, her boss had a penchant for meddling to the point that he enjoyed embarrassing his employees. He would spread rumors that one coworker was interested in another, even if one was in a relationship. He once told a young female employee that a male coworker was asking about her and gave her his phone number. When she called, the man’s fiancée answered and was enraged and it resulted in the young women and the man feeling embarrassed. Finding it hilarious, the boss then scheduled their shifts together.

While bartending, Caroline and her coworkers faced constant harassment. In one instance, a man who was getting married attempted to pay her $100 to go home with him for the night. The male bartender often faced harassment as well, mainly from bachelorette parties that came in inebriated and would attempt to touch his butt or ask for a kiss. In one case, a maid-of-honor forced her hand down his pants.

Her boss caused even more of a problem for the female employees. He hired and fired based on looks. If he heard a customer complain about someone’s looks, saying that they were fat or ugly, he would immediately fire them.

Like Caroline, Kati Fratanduono saw the worst of her harassment when she was a bartender. The owner of the bar she worked at  would frequently come up behind her and press his genitals on her backside.
chef plating

stu_spivack on Flickr

These examples are from the waitressing or service end of the food industry, but that’s not the only place where harassment is. A chef currently in Las Vegas has worked in the MGM Grand and the Cosmopolitan. She asked not to be named as she is currently dealing with harassment at her job and is concerned about being terminated for speaking out.

While working at the Cosmopolitan, a sous-chef made a show out of dipping his fingers in the whipped cream she was making and licking it off sexually. She is also a new mom and had to pump at work. She was allowed to leave the milk in one of the refrigerators and a chef followed her to one and proceeded to ask if she had any extra cream for his coffee.

MGM Grand Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada

Ken Lund on Flickr

When she worked at the MGM Grand, she was a Master Cook and was therefore in charge of a lot of the men in the kitchen. She was often called a bitch and was actually told to stop telling the men what to do, although not doing so would have interfered with her job.

Kati moved from bartending and into the kitchen and agrees that the professional kitchen is a man’s world. She noticed that she had to try not to be too feminine in order to be taken seriously. When she did, though, the men in the kitchen labelled her a “hardass.”

Aliesha Morgan Howell worked in privately owned restaurant in kitchen as the only woman. She was constantly pelted with accusations of being on her period if she was ever angry or attempted to be assertive. Everywhere she turned, she heard complaints that women didn’t belong in professional kitchens. What’s more, the kitchen was fairly small and men used it as an excuse to rub up against her and touch her inappropriately. At that and other kitchens that she worked in, she noticed that the men would stake claims in the women.

“It’s like men see you as open game,” Aliesha said. “I have worked with men who have used my number to send me sexual explicit pictures as well. And the higher ups do nothing at all.”

Aliesha has been working in the kitchen for six years. When asked if she thought that harassment in the food industry had gotten any better, she immediately said no.

“Different kitchen, same nonsense,” she said. “Most women are afraid to speak up because they feel they have warranted the attention by something they said.”

With the election barely behind us, women are already reporting facing sexual harassment and assault on the streets. "Grab them by the pussy" is the new normal, so what does that mean for an industry that had accepted that mantra long before Trump ran for president?

The food industry has allowed male and female workers to face sexual harassment, with no support and no one to tell. There’s little hope that the industry will get better with Trump as a symbol of why sexual harassment is no big deal or just “locker room talk.”