Self-defense isn’t just about weaponry or martial arts.
Sometimes, defending yourself means having difficult conversations or even seeking outside assistance.
What happens, though, when those conversations have consequences?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) Haircut49 when she came to the “Am I the A**hole” subReddit for some outside opinions.
“AITA for reporting a colleague because he kept saying he didn’t like my new haircut?”
OP began with some context.
“I (28 female) have always had long hair, but a few weeks ago I decided to get a buzzcut.”
Then she immediately got to the problem at hand.
“One of my colleagues reacted… not so well to the change.”
“When he saw me he went ‘oh my god, no. Just no. I can see your SCALP!’,”
“To which I replied ‘yeah, and I could see yours every single day for the past few years (he’s bald), and you didn’t hear me complain. Maybe return the courtesy, yeah?’ “
“He wasn’t outright rude after that, but for weeks he kept making comments about how he hopes I’m going to grow my hair out again, and that my hair was so beautiful when it was long.”
“I mean, a man trying to police a woman’s looks is nothing new around here, and we’ve been always friendly before, so at first I only kept asking him to stop with the comments, but he didn’t.”
“Then once had a longer talk with him in a firmer tone, and he backed off and even apologized.”
“Then a day or so later he started again, except in a joking tone, which is just horsesh*t dressed as a bride.”
“Every time I told him off he went ‘oh it was just a joke, we already had this talk’, and I really don’t know how to deal with such blatant idiocy so I reported him to our HR department.”
“My colleagues were surprised and told me I overreacted, and that there were more levels of escalation before going to HR.”
“Like ‘you could have talked to him, make him understand you’re serious’, or ‘you could have just threatened him with going to HR instead of actually doing it’.”
“I tried the first one, and he didn’t take me seriously, so I don’t believe he would have taken my threats seriously either.”
“At the same time, I don’t know what kind of effect this incident will have on his career, as we don’t get a lot of cases like this in my company.”
“I don’t want him fired, I just want him to keep the sexist bullsh*t confined within his skull.”
OP was left to wonder.
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for some outside opinions.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: NTA
Some responses were very direct.
“Workplace harassment and creating a toxic workplace are absolutely reasons to go to HR.” ~ Give-Me-A-Dollar-Now
Others tried to comfort OP.
” ‘so at first I only kept asking him to stop with the comments, but he didn’t. Then once had a longer talk with him in a firmer tone, and he backed off and even apologized.’ “
“NTA. All the escalations your colleagues/friends suggested, you did do. From what you’ve written it feels like you were pushed to a point that you felt that going to HR was your only option.”
“You seem to be worried about the effects it’ll have on his career. Not sure how things are where you are but as the person making the complaint, you can probably ameliorate the level of consequence if you so choose.” ~ Mr_Ham_Man80
There were also personal stories.
“I once was out with my extremely fem presenting friend whose hair is shoulder length and brightly colored.”
“I happen to have had a very flattering pixie cut.”
“I was constantly complimented on my hair. When I went to the bathroom some old sloppy balding combover in a sportzing jersey told her he could ‘get her off like your Girlfriend never could.’ ”
“He assumed our sexuality based on my short hair.”
“My friend is one of those women men fall all over themselves for and I don’t do so bad myself..she was too polite to tell him he was beneath her.. but I was not.”
“I told him we weren’t gay but his attention made us really think about that.”
“To be honest I just said he grossed us out and we were leaving the bar specifically because of how nasty he was.”
“He asked her again if she was interested…..I’m like get away dude. Like she is rapunzel” ~ Mundane-Currency5088
“I once had a workmate who I respected and after I cut off my long thick hair to a shorter style, that I loved, he told me how upset he was about it.”
“We were both married and I couldn’t believe he would say something like that.”
“Anyway I still think about that and it was one comment. If he had gone on and on about it I would’ve been so angry that he thought he had the right to police my body like that.”
“So no, you spoke to this guy, you told him to back off and he didn’t.”
“He deserves his little trip to HR. It’s just a shame it needed to go that far.” ~ gwendolberry
“NTA – I’ve done repeated rounds of big chops and donating my hair so I’ve experienced the weird behavior of people around a sudden haircut and it is so weird.”
“I’ve had people see me suddenly rocking just chin length hair and burst into tears, point and yell, and many times get upset I did not ‘warn them.’ “
“A lot of people also seem to think I should have asked them or make comments implying it’s less pretty and bad but acceptable because I’m doing it for a good cause.”
“As though it’s only ok to have a less ‘feminine’ hairstyle if there are extenuating circumstances.”
“Honestly I warn people for the month or so a big chop is coming up now because it’s been so disheartening to get such possessive, negative reactions to my own appearance.”
“I believe in living by my values and it feels like I’m breaking my own rules by catering to others but at the same time seeing people cry when they look at my face can be a little demoralizing.”
“It is not vanity to not want a coworker to tell you they are displeased with your appearance regularly.”
“Your appearance really should not be a topic of discussion at all. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this unreasonable behavior.”
“Also I hope you’re enjoying your new short hair! I bet showers and getting ready are so much faster and easier!” ~ AugustNClementine
Commenters saw this as part of a larger issue.
“It is not a woman’s job to continuously put time and effort into making men believe we’re serious and finding new ways to make them stop harassing us that won’t negatively affect them.”
“It should have only taken one easy attempt – he refused to listen and respect your wishes when you asked him to stop.”
“Reporting him to HR was absolutely the right call.”
“Even if you had given him no warning at all and gone straight to HR from the beginning, it still would have been the right call.”
“Why do we need to give men fair warning and teach them harassment is not ok?” ~ slinkypotato19
Responses even complimented OP’s patience.
“I gotchu babe.”
“Been there done that with the long to short hair.”
“Been told by my male coworkers that I was ‘prettier with long hair,’ how I looked ‘much less feminine’, ‘what did your husband say,’ ‘can’t wait until it grows out again,’ etc etc.”
“You, however, were much more patient with this guy than I was.”
“After the first day of dealing with this I straight up told them to f*ck off and proceeded to give my own opinions on their less favorable features.”
“Was that the most professional way to handle it? Of course not, but it was very effective.”
“The situation never made it up to HR and I never had to deal with any of that again. 10/10 recommend.”
“Not sure if your HR is going to do anything but give him a slap on the wrist, if it continues then just give him a taste of his own medicine.”
“Being the bigger person is overrated. And remember – you are his coworker, not an office decoration there to visually please him.” ~ _mellophone_
OP did return with an update to her story.
“UPDATE: he’s just been fired.”
“My report earned him something akin to a sensitivity training, and word spread around the company thanks to him whining about it to literally everyone.”
“As a result, 3 other female colleagues went to HR today to report him.”
“Not sure how I feel now since I started the process, but he must have done something worse to at least one of those women to get fired so my sympathies are limited tbh.”
“Thank you everyone for your comments, I really appreciate your feedback.”
All actions have consequences – good or bad.
Remember that you are not responsible for someone else’s behavior – or the consequences they incur because of it, only your own.