Charleston server hopes #MeToo movement translates to real world for working women

Charleston server says #MeToo movement not translating to real world for working women (WCIV)

Revelations from the #MeToo movement created shockwaves in Hollywood, with powerful men in entertainment circles suddenly facing charges of sexual harassment from women who'd remained silent in some cases for years.

The chance for equality and respect in the workplace gained momentum then, but has the #MeToo movement reached everyday people?

Perhaps not. A woman working in Charleston’s service industry says getting sexually harassed is part of the job.

“It's not always smacking someone’s butt," says Kyrston Clouse, a server in the Charleston restaurant scene. "It’s often something really, really subtle and since you can’t say anything, it escalates. You are miserable and uncomfortable and then it feels gross to be tipped on top of that. Like, 'What is this money really for?'”

Clouse says she loves her job, but every week she endures sexual harassment from customers.

“I have seen the look on a man’s face where he gets off on it. Like, 'Oh, this is so cool, I can flirt with her, I can say things to her and she can’t say anything back,” says Clouse.

It's an apparent power imbalance between server and over-served Clouse says servers know can turn dangerous.

“One guy who was probably my dad’s age, we were having this banter, and he said, 'I’m going to take you out back and beat the sh** out of you," Clouse said, recalling one alarming incident. "It was so jarring that he was trying to make it in a flirty way. That was the weird thing. He wasn’t being aggressive; it was his idea of flirty banter."

Clouse says she left the customer's food on the serving tray, set it down, and walked away. To her shock, Clouse says, her restaurant did nothing about the customer. Clouse says she left that job, but not the food and beverage industry.

Clouse says she was excited when she saw the #MeToo movement.

"Now it’s like a snowball," Clouse says. "There is no slowing it down.”

But not all are convinced the #MeToo movement is reaching everyone. Janie Lauve, director of the nonprofit People Against Rape, is among them.

“I don’t think the #MeToo movement of today is very accessible for the everyday person, or those low income workers it started the conversation we just need to keep it going,” says Lauve.

According to Lauve, a cultural change is still needed.

“We live in a rape culture where sexual violence is normalized and its accepted," Lauve says. "Particularly for women in the workplace we have dealt with it for decades. For generations."

Even Kyrston admits she’s counseled other servers to accept customer's bad behavior.

“I've said, 'This is what it is,'" Clouse says. "After I had time to think about it, I was ashamed.”

Kryston now says her worst fear is one day possibly having to tell her daughter to watch out for sexual predators.

“I was so upset, I was talking to Jeremy (husband) about 'What if we have a daughter?' Oh man," Clouse says. "That’s hard to talk about, because what am I supposed to say to her about going out into the world and feeling safe?"

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