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who do you owe?

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do you owe him the benefit of the doubt? because the advance was unwanted, but it wasn’t repeated. there was nothing that passed to the level of harassment. there was nothing physical. it made you feel shitty to have what you thought was a professional interaction be twisted into something else, but it didn’t pass any lines drawn by the legal system. it was clumsy, but you can see his perspective. it was minor in the grand scheme of things. he’s been perfectly pleasant in subsequent interactions.

do you owe women who have suffered real trauma to not take up air time with small issues? because this is a small issue. and you don’t want to undermine serious conversations with trivial things. you’re fine.

do you owe future women he comes in contact with? are you maybe being selfish by not saying anything? can you help prevent other women from feeling objectified and undermined? is it your obligation to make the path up easier for the people behind you?

do you owe the industry? we’re not going to move forward until we start having more meaningful conversations about inclusion, and the measure of inclusivity shouldn’t just be “this behavior was legal” but rather “this behavior was unwelcome. it made me doubt how my colleagues viewed me and the value I added, and it’s been something I’ve carried with me for years.”

do you owe other under-represented minorities? are you thinking about intersectionality? you want inclusivity to lift all boats; does bringing this up raise any boat at all? are you sure it even raises yours, let alone anyone else’s? all of this really smacks of privileged white lady problems, doesn’t it?

do you owe his wife?

do you owe your daughter?

and last, and probably most importantly, but still inevitably still last – do you owe yourself?

and what the fuck do you do when the answer to all of these is ‘yes’?


  1. Hard questions, asked by a thoughtful questioner. Such questions, asked and answered one at a time, will change the world.

  2. Interesting post, some of these questions are things that I have never asked or thought about myself, which I suppose is part of the point. But I do feel like my work would be better for everyone if management cared about some of these questions sometimes.

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