Oct 15, 2013

A Little Fable About the Benefit of the Doubt

In 2007, I worked in a tiny open air market, selling lovingly crafted jewelry. I actually made money doing this; all my bills got paid, even if I didn’t have a lot of extra income. Naturally, anyone who was pushing people away from our market was a real threat to our livelihoods.

We got a new guy – a photographer. His strategy for making sales was to hit on pretty girls who wandered near his booth. It didn’t work. They walked away from him in a hurry, and in doing, they walked past all the rest of us.

In the car at the end of a particularly poor day, I told my boyfriend I was frustrated with this guy. “He probably doesn’t know he’s doing anything wrong,” the boyfriend said.

The next time I saw the photographer harassing a girl, I very gently called him out. I told him that his behavior was pushing my clients away, and to please tone it down. He apologized, but he didn’t stop the harassment.

“I’m sure he’s an all right guy,” my boyfriend said. “I talked to him and he seems pretty cool. Just give him a chance.”

For months, the photographer didn’t stop or slow down. He kept doing it. I would set up my shop as far from him as possible, in the hopes that his victims might NOT feel endangered by the time they got to me. “It takes time to learn these things,” my boyfriend said. “Some men are just hardwired for it.”

And then, shit exploded. The photographer came into the space, behind my displays, and told me I was oh so wrong. Another girl had given him the stink eye and walked away even though he only harassed her a little bit this time. I told him he should stop harassing them altogether. He told me that these girls were clearly asking for it with the way they dress. I told him they didn’t dress that way for him. He said that was bullshit. I asked him to leave my booth and never return.

I packed in a huff that day. I was mad, and worried. Other people had seen the argument, and I knew they would blame both of us. I knew the guy would never stop after I’d told him off so strongly. ┬áIn the car on the way home, my boyfriend snapped. But he wasn’t mad at the photographer.

“What is WRONG with you?” he yelled, “Why can’t you just give him the benefit of the doubt?”

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