Osäkra och otydliga strukturer gynnar övergreppskulturer. Bilden är beskuren.

#boilingover: We demand action

2020-01-10 | Undertecknarna padlock


The restaurant industry is characterised by insecure employment, harsh hierarchies and a sexist macho culture. Here 1 863 women and non-binary working in the industry give testimony on everything from verbal abuse to sexual abuse, from colleagues as well as bosses and guests.

The petition #boilingover was first published in Dagens nyheter on the 30th of November 2017.

We have seen women in sector after sector stand up and roar, demanding an end to sexism and abuse. The turn has now come to us. Our work environment is characterised by insecure employment, harsh hierarchies and a sexist macho culture. We are often young, sometimes underaged. It is not rare that our work environment is unsafe, having to interact with inebriated guests. Your workplace party is our workplace, your guys’ dinner is our workplace, when you whistle at a waitress, it us you whistle at.

Despite the restaurant industry being divided, without a clear infrastructure or bigger networks where women and non-binary people can meet, we grew to more than 1 000 members in the Facebook-group #boilingover in just a couple of days. We are now some 7 000 people with different backgrounds, in different ages and in different positions. We have come together in a collective feeling of shame. Feelings of shame over harassment and abuse directed at us. Shame placed on us for the actions of others – the actions of bosses, guests and colleagues. Shame over having to have to laugh off abuse that has caused us pain and has stayed with us.

The members of the group give testimonies about everything from violations such as denigrating comments to rape. The testimonies have come from all over Sweden. Some of us have carried our stories for many years and have not dared to come forward until now. Others tell of abuse that happened last weekend.

Early on we are taught how the industry works, how we are to accept a jargong that so often take place on our expense, how we are to accept that we are there to make the place a bit more beautiful, how we are expected to accept hands on our bodies, horny glances from our guests and patronising comments that we often choose to laugh off. For who would stand up for us?

Here are some of the testimonies:

”When I was 16 I was working a shift at a restaurant at Söder in Stockholm. The place was owned by a family friend and his two brothers and they needed help during the summer. When I was changing before the shift the oldest brother entered the changing room, laughing when I desperately tried to cover my breasts and said: ’but why are you covering yourself up? I love young, firm, girl’s breasts.’ He was almost 60 years old.”

”That time at the office party when the chef tried to make out with me several times even though I had pushed him off of me. Or the time when the dishwasher lamented me wearing big chef’s clothing so that my curves could not be seen. Or that chef who every fucking shift had to ask me how many people I had slept with. When I was cooking sausages he was asking me if I enjoyed sausage and if I wanted one in my pussy. That he would fuck me with his sausage and so on. Every time you’ve cleaned a cucumber and some lovely bloke referred it to jerking off a dick. Yes, all movements and food products that has ever been possible to refer to any intimate body part or something sexual. Who one would prefer to sleep with. When being flicked on the bum. When the restaurant manager gave me a highly inappropriate nickname. And all of those times when you have dared to put your foot down but not taken seriously and been laughed at for being ’a sensitive and a ridiculous chick’. And then all those instances when you didn’t dare to, or had the energy to protest...”

”Two years later I worked at a different restaurant at Djurgården. The chef offered to drive me to the train station and since our shifts ended at the same time I didn’t think he had any ulterior motive. When we were in the car his phone rang, he asked me to be quiet so I wouldn’t be overheard. While he was on the phone he passed the trainstation. When he finished the call he said: ’sorry I missed it. I will take you to Slussen instead’. When we got close to Slussen he turned left toward the quays and drove on until stopping at an empty parking place. He unbuttoned his pants and I gave him a blow job in the car. Then he drove me to Slussen. He was 34 and I was 17.”

”A colleague at the same restaurant used to grab my hops and hump against by bum when I bent over to grab a soda from the fridge that was placed under the bar. He also used to ’touch my boobs by accident’ as soon as he had a chance. This was so unpleasant but I didn’t dare to say anything about it since all the other male colleagues thought it was such a laugh.”

”I am 17 years old, working as a waitress and about to remove trays from a table where some of our regulars had just been eating. They are about to leave when they see me. Then one of the men says: ’hold on I would like to see this one bend over before we leave’. All eleven men sit down again and look at me been ’bending over and reaching’ for their trays. Those men had lunch there every day.”

”Night club. Been working the first hour on my shift. Have already been sexually harassed three times by my male colleagues making sexual comments. I remember being outside smoking a cigarette with a colleague, on the way back inside we step over a rope and when it is between my legs he says ’that must be a bit of a tingle’. I ignore it. 15 minutes later I am in the scullery, the dishwasher sprays my shirt with water (not on purpose however) and adds: ’Nice, you can enter a wet t-shirt contest, this is hot’ instead of apologising. I get furious, not able to stand the comments any longer. My boss takes notice and later gets all colleagues together to tell them that if he hears of one more situation where a woman is sexually harassed the person responsible will be fired. As a result the men freeze me out, they will no longer talk to me or look me in the eye (for several months). Thankfully I am not bothered at all since I was so fed-up with them, if they were people I cared about I would have been devastated.”

A lof of us enter the industry at a young age, it may even have been our first job. We want to learn, we want to be competent, we want to be well liked and get friends – we simply want to do a good job. We work in an environment where our primary task is to make sure our guests are happy, all under stressful conditions, in non-standard working hours and not rarely in an environment with guests who are under the influence. But we learn, we fight and we do a good job. We are proud of our job.

But: in this environment we are regularly exposed to patronising comments, sexual innuendo and abuse from guests, colleagues and bosses. The testimonies reveal a widespread macho culture where abuse of different forms are normalized. They paint a picture of us being vulnerable in different ways – by our colleagues, bosses and by guests. The testimonies also point to a culture of silence: when we we draw attention to the abuse to managers we are told that we have to take it, that we are exaggerating, that the harassments of the guests are a natural part of the business. No one tells us of our rights, no one informs our guests, colleagues and bosses that their actions are wrong. No one encourages us to take action.

Insecure and unclear structures such as these foster a culture of abuse where women in vulnerable positions are taken advantage of.

”Restaurant in Stockholm, the owner was on my case to move into his place, since I was still going to end up there in the evenings from now on. Or at restaurant school where I after an examination was told to work more on my role as a female waitress and be ’a little more flirty with the guests’ and not to be ’matter-of-fact and assertive’. Or at a different restaurant in a smaller city where I was not allowed to continue working when I got pregnant, I was also not allowed to take courses at work. When I wanted to take parental leave I was fired. At the same place I was also working double shifts heavily pregnant in order to make up for the coming parental leave. This was, of course, done under threat of being fired and deducted pay. These are just some of my stories that still affect me and that I still get psychiatric treatment for.”

”I worked for one season at a bar in a restaurant when I was 18 years old. One evening the male bouncer came up to me at closing time and asked if I wanted a ride home. It was late at night so I said yes, got my stuff and stepped into his jeep. When we came to an intersection close to where I lived I told him to take a left. Without making eye contact he suddenly turned the other way. I could feel my heart pounding and told him several times we were going in the wrong direction. He continued driving and stopped by a gas station and left the car. When he returned he had six-pack under his arm. Without a word he got behind the wheel and drove on, opened a beer and finished it. After a while he stopped outside what I realised was his home. I could hardly get out of the car. My legs were weak, like I was going to fall over. I was thinking that if he kills me no one would find me. I told him several times I was tired and wanted to go home, but he paid no attention. He took me into his bedroom. Finally I faked an attack and fell to the floor. Then he drove me home and threw me off outside my door. I called in sick the following day as I was so fucking afraid of him.”

”I was doing seasonal work as a waitress at a seafood restaurant on the west coast. On innumerable occasions during the summer at least a couple of the male chefs called us waitresses camels. Why? Since according to them we were stupid mammals with two humps, good for nothing than to carry stuff.”

”I am 17 years old and working at a local bar, one of my bosses is a biiiig muscly man, he asks me to come into an empty section of the restaurant. We were playfully fighting as always (in a very innocent way) and all of a sudden he pushes me up against a wall. He spreads my legs and holds me so hard I bruise. He starts humping against my crotch, eyes turning dark. I am terrified and my body is like spaghetti when he lets go of me. Behind us are three of my colleagues who are also close friends of his. Their mouths are wide open. But no one does anything and I am terrified every time I go to work.”

”I was in one of the biggest nightclubs at Stureplan when I got separated from my friend, and was invited for champagne by a group of older men at one of the vip-tables. Then everything turned black. I remember small fragments of what then happened. I remember waking in a bunk bed, so afraid that I plummeted straight into a glass table. I remember the men from the nightclub being there and screamed that someone had to call an ambulance. I woke up at Karolinska [hospital]. Somebody had thrown me out by the entrance of the emergency room and left. The doctor had shaved and stitched my head together. I was in an orthopedic corset for 3 months. I looked up the well-known night club afterwards asking for assistance to see who had booked the vip-table, to look at the surveillance camera at the entrance. But I was met with silence. No one knew anything, no one had seen anything and the surveillance footage was apparently gone.”

”I considering for a long time which occasion to write about. There are so many, from both guests and colleagues, that I can’t possibly remember them all. Then I remembered that it is exactly that, working in an industry where sexual harassment is so normalised that no one even does anything about them. You are expected to play along the rules and not question anything if you want to keep your job.”

”18 years old, living in a small village some 1 500 miles from home at boarding schol, I stayed at my side job after closing hours to have some pints with a colleague and his mate. He worked in the bar and I was waitressing. It was nice for a while, then I remember nothing. I wake up in his bed, them inside each end of me. I am unable to ask them to stop and the next time I wake up I am lying naked in between them. With only that memory about what had taken place I leave and I have never spoken to anyone about that night. It is only now, 10 years later, that I understand that this was sexual abuse and that I was most likely drugged by my colleague and his friend.”

”Was working for a longer period of time at a top restaurant in a big city. The star restaurateur was very interested in girls, especially blond ones and being blond he was coming on to me. Among other things when new dishes were added to the menu. When everyone was tasting the new dishes I was fed it by the restaurateur while the rest of course could try them with their own cutlery.”

”One evening at work, while things were hectic, I heard the kitchen bell and hurried into the kitchen from the crowded dining hall. All the chefs were in line next to each other holding up their aprons and saying all at once ’service’ referring to it being time for blow jobs. This took place in one of the top restaurants in Stockholm which belonged to a well-known corporate group.”

”Was working at a restaurant in Uppsala where the owner repeatedly commented on how I should dress, the dress could be shorter, and I should unbutton a few more buttons in order to increase sales, often he would unbutton them himself in the dining hall in front of guests. When this happened for the 100th time and I told him to lay off, I was fired.”

”For a long time I was working with a man who was taking advantage of me through giving me a good job at a top restaurant in Stockholm. He would brush up against me, giving me compliments and then began pushing up against me in the kitchen, pushing his crotch and erection on me during the shift. He said it was cramped. I was 18 and he was around 40.”

”He often pretended to ’brush off’ dirt from my chefs’ outfit on my breasts so he could feel them. But the classic was pushing his erection up against me. Sometimes we were in the lift together, there are several lifts at this workplace. He pushed me into a corner licking me on the neck and asked when we were to sleep together. He was sending text messages with sexual innuendos at night. He was married. This went on for a long time. He would also comment on me: ’you are so sexy’, in front of the rest of the staff. At work trips he tried to get me into his hotel room. This is one of the biggest and most famous chefs in Sweden.”

From now on we choose to be difficult even it means spoiling the mood. We want to make visible oppressive norms and structures. Many of us are now at workplaces where these power structures prevail and where abusive behaviour is taking place. Some of us have left the industry but can not forget what has happened once or numerous times. There are many of us who have carried what happened to us as secrets. But we will no longer be quiet in the face of abuse and sexism. We demand transparency and respect.

We have taken on our responsibility by telling you what goes on. Now it is up to you to take action for real. Words are not enough. We now demand action from those responsible.

We demand zero tolerance against sexual exploitation and oppression. Sexual abuse and harassment will have to have consequences such as being fired, that guests are asked to leave the premises and that criminal acts will be reported to the police.

We demand that those of you in a position of power – restaurateurs, owners, managers amongst others – take your responsibility. That you start acting with care and take this seriously and put an end to the prevailing culture of silence that so oftentimes protect those involved.

We will continue supporting each other and listening to each other. Because no one should have to remain silent any longer.

We will place the shame with the perpetrators. For it shall no longer be borne by us.

We know who you are.

1 863 women and non-binary people are behind this petition.

Being a signatory to the petition does not mean that one has personally been the victim of abuse.


Skriv ut


Du måste vara inloggad för att kunna lämna en kommentar.