my coworker has an offensive bobble-head doll on his desk

by Ask a Manager on May 7, 2014

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A reader writes:

I’m having an issue with a coworker. I don’t meet with him often, but it’s well known throughout the office that he holds very conservative views in addition to being homophobic. As a social media manager at the company, I manage our clients’ pages through a profile created by the employee before me. As the profile is “friends” with him, every now and then, articles expressing hot button topics (anti gay marriage, pro-life, racist articles about Obama, etc.) pop up on the newsfeed.

However, after the Duck Dynasty controversy when the patriarch shared some racist and homophobic views, this coworker brought a bobble-head of said patriarch and has placed it prominently on his desk. Now, I’m all for people bringing personal knick knacks to add a bit of personality to their work space, but every time I see this bobble-head, it makes me uncomfortable and upset. I support his right to have his opinion, but as someone who shares opposite and equally polarizing viewpoints, I don’t think the workplace is an appropriate place to have these views on display. Furthermore, clients do come to our agency regularly to meet with this director in his office, and I feel it’s only a matter of time before someone besides me is offended by this.

The issue? He’s an executive director and managing partner of the company.

I want to go to HR about this, but it is a small company. All the executive directors are male. They attend the same conservative church as many other coworkers (one of my coworkers has had two other coworkers try to “save” her). The HR director is also a managing partner and, while I think he tries to remain as neutral as possible, I’m afraid that speaking out about this will lead to me being pegged as “difficult” in an environment that’s notorious for showing preferential treatment towards men. I also fear I’ll be treated poorly, or even fired.

I don’t think I’m being too sensitive about this, but I honestly don’t know how to approach it. I’m not comfortable talking to the executive director personally as I’ve had multiple coworkers tell me he can be cruel when offended. Side note: I am enrolling in school as an “exit strategy,” but classes won’t start for another three months. But that also makes me conflicted about whether I should bring this up at all.

Well … basically, it sounds you’re working for a conservative company, where you’re going to be exposed to socially conservative viewpoints.

I get why the bobble-head doll bugs you, but I don’t think it’s something you’ll get much traction complaining about, especially in this particular office. A figurine of a reality show star isn’t likely to rise to the level of hostile workplace in the legal sense, and yeah, in the office it sounds like you’re working in, you’re likely to be seen as being overly sensitive.

I agree with you that it might offend clients, but it doesn’t sound like your company is terribly concerned about that. It’s prominently displayed, after all, so if someone senior to you in the company is concerned about how clients will feel about it, they’ll address it. It’s not behavior he’s hiding or that others aren’t positioned to see.

At the end of the day, this guy is a jerk, but it’s a doll. I agree you with that Duck Dynasty = ick, but there are bigger issues.

Speaking of those bigger issues: I’m much more concerned that you’re working with someone who has apparently been vocally homophobic in your workplace, and that you’re having to listen to his racist and homophobic speech on social media. I’d block his posts so that you don’t need to see them from the work profile that’s connected to him (you can do that without unfriending him), and if you hear any more hateful speech from him, I’d absolutely complain about that. (That said, in an environment where more than one coworker has tried to “save” someone, that complaint may or may not get results.)

{ 621 comments… read them below or add one }

Apollo Warbucks May 7, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I’d be happy he had the bobble head on his desk, it would save me the trouble of talking to him to find out he’s a fool.

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CanadianWriter May 7, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Efficiency!

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Apollo Warbucks May 7, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Just think how much time you could save if more people displayed a badge of stupidity

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Allison (not AAM!) May 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Makes me think of Bill Engvall – “Here’s your sign!”

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Carpe Librarium May 7, 2014 at 10:24 pm

According to The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson, that’s what glitter is for:
“Wait. We’re angrily throwing the glitter in the office of the person who pissed us off, right? Because I could get behind that. Glitter never goes away. It’s like a shiny grudge you leave behind to remind people how much you hate them.”

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MousyNon May 7, 2014 at 12:54 pm

+1

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Grey May 7, 2014 at 1:26 pm

It seems kind of harsh to call someone a fool just because they like a TV show that you don’t, or have beliefs that don’t mirror your own.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Come on. It’s not about disliking people whose beliefs or TV viewing habits are different than your own. It’s specific to a figure who’s known for spouting hateful views.

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Anonymint May 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm

I should have pressed refresh before I posted – you summed up my feelings much more eloquently, Alison!

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The Real Ash May 7, 2014 at 1:39 pm

The guy didn’t say anything hateful, come on.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Google the news coverage. Absolutely he did.

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JoAnna May 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Conor Friedersdorf said in an article in The Atlantic (“Refusing to Photograph a Gay Wedding Isn’t Hateful”), “Some opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in bigotry and some isn’t. Assuming otherwise is itself prejudice rooted in ignorance.”

Homophobia is an irrational fear of homosexuals. I read Phil Robertson’s comments and he didn’t seem that fearful. He quoted the Bible and expressed his opinion that homosexuality was against nature. May not be a popular opinion, but it hardly constitutes homophobia. He also said, “I love all men and women…I am a lover of humanity, not a hater.”

I really get tired of the knee-jerk reaction that any support of traditional marriage, or any opposition to same-sex marriage, or any belief that homosexual behavior may be sinful or against nature (note that I said behavior, not the inherent attraction — they are quite different) is automatically full-blown homophobia, when it’s not. I know some people who identify as gay and oppose same-sex marriage for one reason or another, and I would hardly call them homophobic.

To me, homophobia is the Westboro Baptist Church types and those who express an active desire to kill, maim, or otherwise unjustly oppress anyone who has same-sex attraction and/or acts on it. Phil Robertson et al doesn’t fit that descriptor.

If I had a co-worker with a bobblehead of, say, Richard Dawkins, who has made some utterly offensive comments about Christians, I’d roll my eyes but wouldn’t think anything more of it, and I certainly wouldn’t try to get the bobblehead banned. I have more important things to do with my time, and a stupid little doll on my co-worker’s desk isn’t going to hurt me.

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MJH May 7, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Ignoring the comments about LGBT people (I don’t think they should be, but whatever), his comments about black people were legitimately offensive and shouldn’t be glossed over. I’m not sure why they were lost in the furor, especially the evangelical furor, over this.

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Turanga Leela May 7, 2014 at 2:53 pm

+1

Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 3:11 pm

+1

Apollo Warbucks May 7, 2014 at 3:13 pm

You make some interesting points, but I still find it unpalatable when someone passes judgement about another persons behaviour. A lot of my liberal views are formed on the basis that it’s none of my business how anyone else lives their life. I’ll live my my morals and leave others alone to live be theirs.

Had you written to AAM about a Dawkins bobblehead offending you I’d take the same attitude and say it was inappropriate in an work setting.

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Poi May 9, 2014 at 2:01 pm

You’ll leave others to their morals and simply call them stupid, right? Sounds like a judgement to me.

PJ May 7, 2014 at 3:19 pm

He also said, “I love all men and women…I am a lover of humanity, not a hater.”
——–
Just ’cause he said it doesn’t make it so.

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LauraUK May 7, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I would equate the belief that homosexual behaviour is against nature with being homophobic. I know this isn’t the tenet of the debate and it’s totally fair if Alison shuts me down on this as not quite on topic. I’m in London though and the idea that that wasn’t homophobic would never fly.

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De Minimis May 7, 2014 at 4:22 pm

It’s also inaccurate in that you see homosexual behavior occur fairly frequently in nature.

PM May 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm

There is a difference between someone expressing opposition to widely accepted, rarely or never discriminated against, mainstream behaviors or cultures, like, say, being male, white, or celebrating Christmas – or expressing opposition against anyone or anything more typically discriminated against.
It is great that you would not be offended by opposition against Christmas. That is a privilege you have – the religious holidays you celebrate are “normal”. Similar to white privilege or male privilege – it is hard to see what privilege you have…

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Zillah May 7, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Yes, exactly. It’s easier to brush something off when it’s the exception, not the norm.

Robin May 8, 2014 at 8:46 am

Yes, this exactly.

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Here’s the original article that spouted the controversy: http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson

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The Real Ash May 7, 2014 at 3:11 pm

I did read the coverage and I still disagree that he said anything legitimately hateful. Compared to the stuff that comes from Westboro, what he said was pretty tame. I’m definitely a supporter of gay marriage but I’m also a supporter of a person’s right to speak freely, and I don’t feel that his intent was malicious or destructive. I think the OP is having the vapors over something insignificant here (the bobblehead) when they should be much more concerned about all of the other huge red flags (preferring men to women, having rude coworkers, etc.).

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm

I don’t think Westboro is the bar here. They’re so far over the line into offensive that if we use them as the measure, very few things would meet it.

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Toto in Kansas May 7, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Gah… I work in Topeka and see those Westboro people all over the town with their signs.

BethRA May 7, 2014 at 3:15 pm

That’s a little like saying someone’s not really racist because they’re not wearing a white hood.

(although I agree that the bobble-head is the least of the issues in this office)

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Yogi Josephina May 7, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Bingo. Perfect analogy.

Also, I get equally tired of the “but what about all the lousy things people say about Christians?!” As if that’s a valid comparison. Come on. Most of us are in the US, and in the US, Christians hold the cards. They are in the dominant position of power, and that power has historically been used to oppress other groups – perfect case in point, the LGBTQ community, among others. Our entire government has been historically based on Judeo-Christian values and the Ten Commandments. They are the privileged religious group in our country, and that is absolutely irrefutable. Understandable backlash against Christians who misuse that power by pushing their religious beliefs into the political sphere is NOT the same thing as oppression backed by institutionalized power through the centuries. Stop trying to make false equivalencies. It’s emotionally dishonest.

/soapbox

Felicia May 7, 2014 at 4:32 pm

+1. There are countries where Christians actually are persecuted and denied rights because of their beliefs, and it does a disservice to those Christians to pretend it’s the same in North America. As the majority group with all the power, it”s particularly a false equivalency. Being told that you shouldn’t try to force your views on others in a country with a separation between Church and state is not even close to being oppressed.

Yogi Josephina May 7, 2014 at 4:51 pm

EXACTLY. I once read the most beautiful essay about this. I’ll always remember one line in particular: “‘Oh no, someone bashed Christianity on an online forum?’ How about, ‘oh no, Christian believers were executed in China last week?’”

It’s the same thing that REALLY butters my muffin when I hear people whining about how Obama and the left in the US are communists or socialists. Not that I personally have a problem with either political group as a theory, but I would just loooooooove to see those folks head on over to Russia or Eastern Europe, stand in the middle of a street where thousands of people have most likely had their relatives executed by Stalin or Lenin, and just dare them to try calling Obama a communist. Just try it.

I’d be thoroughly entertained by the reaction they’d get.

Felicia May 7, 2014 at 5:18 pm

The type of people who call Obama a communist and a socialist are also probably the same people who think communism and socialism are the same thing. And here in Canada, Obama wouldn’t be much of a “leftist”. Centrist if anything. Socialism (which is not communism) works quite well in many Scandinavian countries, which are nothing like Obama.

hellcat May 7, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Exactly.

A Cita May 8, 2014 at 10:55 am

This and all the responses…feeling the love! Gay rights and marriage rights are very dear to my heart and very important to me. I was starting to cringe and slowly back out of the comments with with a heavy heart. This makes me feel much better. So articulate. Thank you.

hotbox May 7, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Are you gay? Are you african american? If not, maybe you should consider the feelings of those directly harmed by the langiage before you pass judgment whether something is or isnt hateful in this case.

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The Real Ash May 8, 2014 at 9:27 am

So I have to be a minority to be allowed to judge whether or not something is hateful? Wow.

Ask a Manager May 8, 2014 at 10:15 am

No, you don’t — but you should consider that if you’re not a member of the group being talked about, your perspective may be grounded in a different set of experiences.

Yogi Josephina May 8, 2014 at 11:45 am

You can absolutely judge whether something is hateful. However, if, after you’ve judged whether or not something is hateful, a member of the group that is being directly affected tells you that your judgment is off, you defer to them. Even if you don’t understand it. You take their word for it. You won’t understand or agree with everything because you’re coming from a place of privilege, but you still step aside and let them have the floor, and recognize that your privilege is the most likely the reason you don’t see it the way they do. Then you let them define, explain, and fight against the problem in the way they deem best.

The bottom line is, the privileged party doesn’t get the ultimate say in what is or isn’t racism/sexism/homophobia/classism whatever else. That’s hard to swallow because for years they’ve been told that they have the right to usurp that power from the marginalized – that’s the very definition of privilege. Learning to shut up and listen is a very hard lesson, but ultimately it’s the only one that will lead to any sort of healing.

tpkatsa June 2, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Yogi Josephina May 8, 2014 at 11:45 am wrote: ” You can absolutely judge whether something is hateful. However, if, after you’ve judged whether or not something is hateful, a member of the group that is being directly affected tells you that your judgment is off, you defer to them.”

You do? Really? What is the point of making judgments about groups if such judgments are subject to an arbitrary veto by those being judged?

Koko May 7, 2014 at 11:22 pm

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person,” Robertson is quoted in GQ. “Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

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Anonymint May 7, 2014 at 1:37 pm

I agree it’s harsh to call someone a fool for not liking the same TV shows as you, but I’m pretty sure the “fool” comment was about his racism and homophobia.

Even if your religious views mean you don’t agree with homosexuality, you’re still a fool if you expose co-workers to your controversial political views.

No matter what your religious or political views are, you’re still a fool if you’re blatantly racist on a forum that you’ve chosen to connect to your company’s social media site.

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Apollo Warbucks May 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Maybe it is harsh but it seems the guy is racist, sexist, homophobic and has no problem displaying that to everyone in a professional environment that’s why I called him a fool. Bigoted views annoy me in general but even more so in a work setting.

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Vicki May 8, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Also, we’re calling him a fool for bringing in the doll and making it overly obvious what his beliefs are.

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I think that the bobblehead is acting as a focal point for the OP’s other concerns; I don’t think it’s a specific enough signifier in its own right to be worth asking to ban, and all the stuff that it’s representing will still be there anyway.

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The IT Manager May 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm

+1.

The LW knows when the bobblehead appeared on his desk and knows the executive director has homophobic views, but the bobblehead itself in not offensive and is unlikely to signal to clients that its there to express anti-gay hate. And he’s the “boss;” he’s not really a co-worker.

That said, I don’t actually read anything in the letter to go to HR about. He’s well-known in the office for his opinions but has he sadi anything to LW or is it just well-known. And it doesn;t even sound like he’s exactly ranting on Facebook, but more likely liking articles that rant and embrace the conservative POV. What he does on Facebook is his business; although, am in 100% agreement that it should not be popping up on your company’s site. Frankly that sounds to that like your company’s page may be set up as a personal page instead of a business one because shouldn’t business pages not have friends. (Fans or likes, but not friends?)

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Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm

I think the OP meant that she logs into FB using the company profile, so s/he sees what all the company’s “friends” are posting. The manager’s articles don’t pop up on any company site, but the OP sees them (and yes, the profile is probably not set up as a page).

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Sunflower May 7, 2014 at 1:13 pm

We have a company FB page and it must be started under an actual user account. The person in charge of the page started frequently changing so we just made a fake person page and I think you might need a certain amount of friends to have the profile be active.

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Ornery PR May 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Exactly

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Anon Accountant May 7, 2014 at 12:56 pm

+1

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Yes! Agree on this totally. Most days, I don’t have to interact with him or see said bobble head (and remember other details about his views), but on days I do, it bubbles up and I’m more rattled than I should be. I think I should keep my head down, do my work to the best of my ability, and speak up if I witness anything in the office (like remarks, statements, etc).

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KrisL May 7, 2014 at 8:35 pm

One thing you might want to think about. You said “he holds very conservative views in addition to being homophobic.”

Are you equating “very conservative” to racist? A person can be both, and it sounds like this guy is, but is it really fair to act like “very conservative” is in itself a bad word?

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Mike C. May 7, 2014 at 1:02 pm

I came here to post the very same thing.

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AdAgencyChick May 7, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Well said.

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Adam May 7, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Exactly. It’s a symbol of the aspects of the director’s views that bother the OP. I reaffirm what another poster said: it sounds like this organization culturally does not match up with the OP’s personal beliefs and she would probably be better off finding an employer that’s either more in line with her views or at the least tries to be politically neutral in the workplace.

And really I’m no Duck Dynasty fan (never seen the show), but when I actually looked into the controversy it seemed way overblown in my opinion. Yes, the guy holds some beliefs that are traditional/not modern/outdated, but he didn’t seem like a hateful kind of guy, certainly not on the level of a Westboro Baptist Church an the like. He expressed an opinion that is not popular in the entertainment industry and the media and since LGBT issues are THE social issue of the decade it blew up into a much bigger circus then his comments actually merited I think.

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S May 7, 2014 at 3:57 pm

True, but no matter what you think about his comments about gays, the things he said about race were absolutely abominable and totally inappropriate in the workplace.

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Adam May 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Are we talking about the Duck Dynasty guy? If so I somehow missed whatever racist thing he may have said and plead ignorance on that one.

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S May 7, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Yup. It’s not entirely your fault; the media focused almost entirely on his remarks about gays and ignored his racist comments *from the same interview* (much to my chagrin, even though personally I found the things he said about gays to be completely despicable as well). If I remember correctly, it was something about black people being “happy” as sharecroppers…

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Felicia May 7, 2014 at 4:25 pm

His racist comments had something to do with slavery being a good thing for black people, i think. Both were imo equally despicable.

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KrisL May 7, 2014 at 8:38 pm

I googled it, and apparently he said “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

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Charley May 7, 2014 at 9:42 pm

In no way are those “racist” comments. Read his book. In this statement, he was explaining how there WAS no racism because he grew up in a tiny, tiny, tiny little town. I repeat, THERE WAS NO RACISM! They were all considered equals. No one spoke of race, no one spoke of being either white or black.

I can’t even handle how politically correct North America has turned in to. Blows my mind.

If we do not support gay marriage we are automatically homophobic? None of Phil Robertson’s comments were out of line. Read the entire interview and not the edited version with pieces strung together to create a hateful image.

Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Charley, assuming you have some understanding of previous conditions for black people in the U.S., I’m not sure what you find okay about “Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 11:56 pm

Well, plus institutional racism (and classism) are at stake here. If TPTB really thought highly of blacks or lower-class whites, they wouldn’t offered the raw deal that was sharecropping.

Even if we do assume Robertson’s recollection is 100% true, his Gone with the Wind-esque description of blacks and implying welfare is an entitlement are both troubling.

A Cita May 8, 2014 at 11:03 am

Historically, slave owners deciding upon and extolling African American’s level of happiness, satisfaction, and emotional state was a very common justification for continued slavery. The statements plug into this larger historical (and current) narrative with the purpose to oppress.

Cat May 7, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Tangential side note: does it make more sense to set the social media page up as a page that people “like”/become “fans” of so that you’re not getting everyone’s personal posts?

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Laufey May 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm

At the very least, change his status to “acquaintance” (still a friend) or use custom settings to limit what shows up from him.

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 1:01 pm

I ended up adding it to one my “professional” Facebook accounts so, when I log in, the only things that pop up on my newsfeed are the things I’ve chosen to like. I’m trying to take responsibility for what I can control and not being surprised with information that upsets me is something totally in my control!

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Laufey May 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Good for you!

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Lily in NYC May 7, 2014 at 12:39 pm

The world is full of a-holes. Bringing it up would be a mistake. I agree he sounds like a complete jerk but saying something is not going to have the outcome you hope it will. Just get out of there and call it a day.

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Elizabeth West May 8, 2014 at 10:35 am

I agree with this. It won’t change the behavior or anybody’s views, since they’re obviously part of this environment. Personally, I’d be looking for another job because this work culture would be intolerable to me. And I would not want to work in a company where I was afraid to speak up if I found something offensive or if I had concerns about someone’s behavior around clients.

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Katie the Fed May 7, 2014 at 12:41 pm

OP, I feel you, I really do. I’m fairly liberal myself and I work with a lot of people who have very different political and social views.

But I really agree with Alison on this. I think you’re going to have to just ignore it. The patriarch guy isn’t so recognizable a symbol that most people are going to equate his image with homophobia. I mean, if it was the Westboro Baptist Church or something, that would be a different matter. But it’s not like he’s a leader of a movement.

Bear in mind too that homosexuality is not a federally protected class (but it may be depending on state laws) so even if he did have a big anti-gay statement up, you might not have grounds to complain. (but you could certainly tell people that you find it offensive and hostile).

I think this is one you’re just going to have to accept as the price of working where you work. Is this the hill you want to die on? I’d personally save the ire for something truly offensive. Otherwise you’re going to be branded as hypersensitive and a pain in the butt.

We had a similar issue at work involving a Chick Fil-A fundraiser. Many people were outraged.

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cuppa May 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm

As an aside (and I’m not saying that this is what’s going on here, OP), I totally had a Chick-Fil-A stuffed cow on top of my computer monitor for a year after their fiasco. I don’t agree with their views, but I just got so used to it being there I didn’t “see” it anymore. I was a little horrified when I noticed it a year later and took it down immediately, but still.

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ArtsNerd May 7, 2014 at 1:59 pm

My sister was distressed by that controversy because the more people talked about it, the more she craved their chicken. And the last thing she wanted to do was make a “statement” with her lunch choices. (And I know she’s not the only one who went through that.)

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Tinker May 7, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Yeah, I don’t have a lot of temptation regarding their chicken, because I’ve only had a couple samples years ago. It seemed like the sort of thing I would like, and I’m generally not hugely into boycotting businesses because of their advocacy programs.

However, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the unfortunateness, eating the stuff seemed to get transformed into sending a message that it’s all fair and indeed maybe admirable for skippy to have the opinion he does. Particularly as I’m fairly visibly a flaming queer, I’m not really all that keen on sending the resulting message.

I feel much the same way about Duck Dynasty, actually — there, I actually bought and watched a couple seasons of it, because I am in fact a bit of a redneck at heart sometimes. I’d kind of suspected, particularly with the role that the female family members had in that show, that if pressed they might prove problematic — but I’m also into focusing on common ground, such as love of explosions.

But again, they then went and set themselves up — and personally, I think it was quite deliberate — as the poster child for views that I don’t want to put up a poster for. So when it’s laid out that way… I kinda have to pass on them. It’s disappointing.

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thenoiseinspace May 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm

+1 I knew a bunch of people that were conflicted about the whole thing, particularly because Chick-fil-a had some views we wanted to support and some we definitely didn’t (my family previously lived at Berry College, where Chick-fil-a has its own dorms and scholarships for its employees. There aren’t many fast food places that make an effort to help their employees go to college, and since we value education, we had tried to support them. But then their less pleasant views came to light…)

It’s a tough call – how to you decide to patronize a group that you agree with so strongly on some issues and disagree with so strongly on others?

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HM in Atlanta May 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm

I’d love it if someone has guidance on this very question!

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Adam May 7, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Yeah, I’m kind of curious about this as well, as there seems no cut and dry answer.

I know last year there were many LGBT advocates calling for a boycott of the movie Enders Game because the book it was based off of was written by a guy who is very vocally anti-same-sex marriage. The book itself doesn’t seem to be; just the guy who wrote it.

I’m very much on the outside looking in with this issue since I’m not LGBT and never read any of the author’s books. I certainly couldn’t say it would be wrong for them to boycott the movie for that reason, but since it’s a movie rather than a book at this point there are a lot of people involved in it’s production. I highly doubt the hundreds of actors, producers, special effects artists, camera crew, etc. etc. etc. held the same beliefs as the original author. Most of them probably just needed a paycheck since Hollywood is a notoriously tough business to get by in if you’re just a regular person.

No matter what you do it seems there’s no clear “winning” choice.

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De Minimis May 7, 2014 at 3:51 pm

I know when the Chik-fil-a controversy started, the owner of the local franchise went out of her way to state that she didn’t share any of those views.

At the same time, I’ve been hesitant to eat there for reasons similar to Tinker.

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 3:56 pm

When there was the SB 1062 drama in Arizona (the bill that allowed business to refuse service based on religious (or other) beliefs), some business put up “Open for Business to Everyone” signs in their window.

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De Minimis May 7, 2014 at 4:02 pm

I thought they had a sign where they refused service to “Arizona Legislators.”

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 4:14 pm

IIRC, that was one business in Tucson making a joke/political statement. The sign I’m referencing I’ve seen in multiple businesses in the Phoenix area.

Felicia May 7, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Although I’m a little removed from the Chik-Fil-A controversy, I wouldn’t judge anyone who ate there, or assumed people who ate their shared the beliefs of the organization. Unless you ate there on that particular one day that they designated as “Chick-Fil-A appreciation day”, because that day was designed by and for people who support those homophobic views, and it’s easy to avoid somewhere for one day.

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Mallory May 7, 2014 at 4:37 pm

I accidentally went to Chik-Fil-A on what I did not know was an appreciation day. I walked in, and there was a huge crowd in there, including nearly everyone from my son’s boy scout troop and many others from my small, conservative town.

I walked up to the scout parents and was all, “What’s going on? What are y’all doing here?” and they said something to the effect that “we’re here to discriminate against gay people” (not exactly what they said, but it’s what I heard!). So I just turned around and walked back out and left.

I still do eat at Chik-Fil-A sometimes if I’m in the student union for lunch and have a craving for one of their sandwiches, but I don’t go out of my way to go to their off-campus locations anymore. And I feel kind of guilty when I buy the sandwich in the union . . .

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barking May 7, 2014 at 6:26 pm

My lesbian daughter insist on Chik Fil A.

Mallory May 8, 2014 at 9:35 am

So, all this talk about Chik-Fil-A made me really want a 4-piece chicken minis for breakfast this morning, so lo and behold, I went to Chik-Fil-A. I’ve given up feeling guilty about it.

Felicia May 8, 2014 at 10:25 am

I’ve never been to Chik Fil A because there aren’t any in Canada, so I don’t know if i’d like it or not, but I wouldn’t feel guilty of going there. I’ve gone / used a lot of businesses that support beliefs I strongly disagree with.

I’d only assume people agreed with the homophobic views expressed by Chick Fil A if they knowingly went there on that appreciation day. In fact I know someone who went there on appreciation day, and claimed she “just liked the food”…Well it was “let’s discriminate against gay people day” which they knew, so if they disagreed , they could have gone without the food for one day

Anon333 May 7, 2014 at 3:42 pm

It’s similar to politicians. . . I think you pick your issue and hold your nose for the rest.

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hellcat May 7, 2014 at 6:04 pm

This is more about media than restaurants, but may be useful: http://www.socialjusticeleague.net/2011/09/how-to-be-a-fan-of-problematic-things/

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Katie the Fed May 8, 2014 at 10:41 am

I love that!

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Elizabeth West May 8, 2014 at 10:39 am

I don’t patronize them because no matter how tasty their food is (and IMO it’s not that tasty), it’s still junk food. I’m trying not to eat that crap anymore.

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Anonymous May 7, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Just a question, but why does this make him a jerk? I don’t deny that he’s making an “interesting” decision that some won’t agree with and that others do agree with, but… a jerk?

This strikes me as one of those “you disagree with me therefore you’re a (fill in the blank).”

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MousyNon May 7, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Can’t we all agree that “jerk” is the appropriate term for someone who posts racist articles on their public-facing social media account (or anywhere, for that matter, but I digress)?

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Anonymous May 7, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m _not_ defending him. What I’m pointing out is that this seems as much as one of those things where someone is being offended by another person’s opinion.

I myself am conservative. I disagree with racist comments. I don’t make them myself. But the conservative side does NOT have a monopoly on racism. I also am not in favor of gay marriage, something that I rarely talk about because everyone labels me as a “jerk” for having strong feelings about something that is important to me and my family and my faith. Does that make me a jerk that I carry an opinion that differs from other people?

If so, we’re all jerks.

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Cat May 7, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Everyone has their own line about what makes someone a jerk. But politics isn’t in a vacuum – someone who advocates a particular political position is advocating that because they believe that position should be implemented in the real world in a way that will affect people. So it’s a subjective inquiry but it’s not a bloodless one. To take an obvious example that we all agree with, someone who advocates discrimination on the basis of race is a jerk (and that’s putting it mildly) because they are advocating that real people be oppressed.

Someone who advocates against same sex marriage? Well, yeah, that is going to fall into the “jerk” category for a lot of people too. It’s not just an academic issue having nothing to do with the real world.

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Anonymous May 7, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Right, but “jerk” is not an absolute. It’s opinion based more often than not and largely contextual. Someone espousing racist opinions may also lead a life of virtue and generosity in many other facets. Sure, he’s got issues and problems, but a jerk?

My beef here isn’t whether he’s right or wrong; it’s more with the idea that we are so very fast to label someone who we don’t even know and who we have exactly ONE person telling us their point of view.

Seems more than a little misguided, prejudicial, and biased in my opinion.

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MousyNon May 7, 2014 at 1:11 pm

“Someone espousing racist opinions may also lead a life of virtue and generosity in many other facets. Sure, he’s got issues and problems, but a jerk?”

Yes, racist opinions make someone a jerk. I don’t see why there needs to be caveats or qualifications here. And of course we’re going on one persons point of view–that’s the person who sent Alison in her letter.

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Cat May 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm

But as AAM always says, we don’t have much choice but to take the OP on face value. If her assessment (which is all we have) is correct, it’s reasonable to label him a jerk for purposes of this blog post. It’s anonymous; it won’t affect him. It would not be reasonable to convict him as jerk in a court of law based on this info, or even to personally denounce him, but we don’t know who he is; we’re just addressing an anonymous situation that’s presented to us.

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KellyK May 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Sure, people are complex and multifaceted. Someone can be a jerk about some things and not others. But that doesn’t make the jerky things they do any less jerky. It also doesn’t mean people who have seen them acting like a jerk are obliged to give them the benefit of the doubt, or view them as a wonderful human being.

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Colette May 7, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I think you’re saying that jerk equals “person with no redeeming values”, and I don’t think that’s the case.

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm

That’s what I was thinking, and I was talking about the other day (here? elsewhere?). As humans, we like to separate people into heroes and villains, and real life doesn’t work that way. None of the heroes are flawless, and none of the villains are all flaws, and which side you put somebody on can depend on where you’re standing.

“Jerk” isn’t exactly a scientific category with quantifiable entry metrics, and I can accept that the beneficiaries of somebody’s kindness are going to be less likely to put somebody in there than those who suffer from their lack thereof. Lots of people in the Depression loved Al Capone because he initiated soup kitchens, bringing them food before the government managed it. But the fact that he genuinely did get hungry people fed doesn’t mean that the rest of what he did stopped counting and that he’s not a jerk.

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Colette May 7, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I think it was here. :)

And I think many of us are jerks in some situations, even if we’re not in our day to day lives – it’s not a terminal condition.

fposte May 7, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Exactly. Let she who has never cut somebody off in traffic throw the first stone.

Shell May 7, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I get what you’re trying to say, but honestly, in real life we don’t have that perspective. We don’t have an omniscient camera to see what other good deeds you (general you) are doing. For example, as a regular person I wouldn’t know that Clark Kent or Peter Parker are secretly donning spandex costumes and saving the world, I’d just know them as well-meaning, flaky individuals who can’t be relied on and get plenty pissed at them blowing a date/deadline/what have you.

So yeah, we are all jerks from time-to-time. We judge an individual by the cluster of data points we have on them. My mother is a homophobe, kind of smothering, an excellent cook, generous and giving, and loves her kids a lot. I’m not going to carte-blanche write her off as a general jerk. But when my only data point on you (general you) is jerkish behaviour (whether that is being mean to reports because you can, screaming at the server who brought you the wrong drink, or espousing behaviour oppressive to other people), then yeah, I’m going to say you’re a jerk. Maybe you’re fostering kids or rescuing rain forests or some other saintly activity in your spare time, but I don’t know that, so my treatment of you will be based on what I do know.

Jerk is not an absolute that says you have no redeeming qualities. It is, however, a perception of you as another person sees it. So when someone says “you’re being a jerk”, they’re calling out (their perception of) your specific behaviour. That’s all it is.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:01 pm

It’s not jerky to have an opinion that differs from other people. But wanting to obstruct other adults from accessing the same legal benefits and government recognition of their marriage as straight people? Come on.

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Anonymous May 7, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I don’t want to make this into a legal argument, but you and I will have to agree to disagree on that one. I see a great deal of danger in the road we are on when it comes to this matter just as you see the opposite.

I hope that you can at least respect my opinions and why I have them as I will respect yours and why you have them.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:08 pm

We can agree to disagree :)

By the way, would you mind picking a user name? It’s hard to track comments with multiple Anonymous labels. Thanks!

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Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I actually am one of your common posters, but I knew I’d be getting a lot of grief on this one…. Sorry for the confusion.

How about we go with “Anonymous–Not a jerk” :-)

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:20 pm

I guess I’d encourage you — and everyone — to stand by their opinions and not take it underground.

Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:25 pm

If I thought I would be respected and able to have that conversation openly, I’d gladly do it. As you can see from other people, that’s not possible. Unfortunately.

Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:29 pm

I mean, it’s true that you can’t automatically expect respect no matter what you say. People will change their views of you based on what you say. That’s a normal part of life though. If you stand by what you believe, who cares?

If you want to engage in the conversation, it doesn’t quite feel in good faith to hide when others aren’t.

fposte May 7, 2014 at 1:31 pm

People are disagreeing with you, but I haven’t seen anybody be rude about it.

A Cita May 8, 2014 at 11:25 am

I think it’s interesting when a common poster posts anonymously.

I know exactly who you are. I’m sure others do as well. Comment styles can be pretty obvious. :)

KerryOwl May 7, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Why do we have to respect your opinions? I think your opinion is hateful. I don’t respect that. I respect your right to have that opinion, and your right to express it, but I don’t think I’m under any societal obligation to respect the opinion itself. This isn’t like saying “I like yellow more than green” – you want to keep some people from having rights that other people already have. I don’t respect that. I’ll be civil in discussing it, but I do, in fact, think that your opinion makes you a jerk.

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Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm

I’m sorry you feel that way. I can assure you I am indeed not a jerk despite what your opinion of me is.

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Puddin May 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm

I think I get what you are saying. The ‘jerk’ response is what contributes to our polarization as a community certainly. When we assign labels like that we are just as bad as the racists or whatever-ists themselves.

Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Puddin, I’m all for trying to welcome and understand other viewpoints, but I can’t let you say that calling a racist a jerk is as bad as racism itself. And I don’t think you really believe that either, if you stop and think about that again.

Christine May 7, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Not to speak for Puddin, but I think what she was saying is that it’s equally polarizing, not equally wrong. And I think that’s fair. You can’t change people if you define them by the one opinion you cannot accept. My mom is a fantastic cook, a loving grandparent, an ace software programmer, a terrible driver, a deeply religious person, and a homophobe. I’m never going to help her see things differently if I write her off as a jerk instead of respecting her as the decent person I know she is, with a completely wrong opinion that I know would change if she opened her mind a little. That doesn’t mean that I don’t voice disagreement with her or try to show her that she’s wrong, it just means that I don’t define her by it. We’re all flawed.

Zillah May 7, 2014 at 6:19 pm

@ Christine –

I understand what you mean, but for me, at least, a huge part of getting someone to understand that a viewpoint they hold is really problematic (and I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of this) is making it very, very clear that what the person is saying is unacceptable.

I would argue that for more nuanced issues, it can be a little different – there are a lot of reasons to be pro-choice and pro-life, for example, and many of them aren’t necessarily intuitive. I can see the value in discussing that.

When we’re talking about blatant racism/sexism/homophobia, though, especially when it’s directly linked to denying other human beings basic civil rights, I don’t actually think that it’s a problem to let the person know that yes, this affects your overall view of them.

Christine May 7, 2014 at 8:42 pm

@Zillah – I agree that it is not inherently wrong to do that, and indeed at certain times and places it is necessary, and with certain people it is necessary at all times in all places, because it’s the only way to deal with them, ha.

I also think, though, that the idea that one can simply write off anyone with different views as an idiot or a jerk is a social and political problem in our world. Most people don’t have conversations about these things anymore, they have shouting contests or they isolate themselves from people who don’t agree with them. Nobody ever learns anything or changes an opinion that way, they just get more entrenched in their personal beliefs, and they tend to dehumanize the other side, and often lose sight of the reasons and arguments behind their own side of things, because they never have to voice them. I have a lot of respect for people who are thoughtful about their beliefs, even if I don’t agree with them.

Enough of the tangent, though!

CanadianWriter May 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Exactly. Having the right to an opinion doesn’t stop other people from having the right to think you’re an awful human.

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Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

And what value does thinking that way about anyone add to the conversation?

Part of the reason I think this has turned into such a heated debate (the issue nationally, not just here) is because people assume hatred, bigotry, and oppression is a key element of the debate. I see that in KerryOwl’s response. Her primary opinion of me is that I’m a jerk.

That’s a great starting point for any conversation…. Definitely the right way to get to a point of understanding and a common goal.

Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:34 pm

People assume hatred, bigotry, and oppression when you want to treat another group in a bigoted and oppressive way, yes. That’s pretty straightforward.

Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Right, but you know the results of assuming. :-)

Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:59 pm

No, actually that does not apply here.

Wanting to treat another group in a bigoted and oppressive way = bigotry and oppression

Come on now.

Felicia May 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm

You have the right to believe that I deserve less rights than everyone else because of who I’m attracted to and would like to marry. I have the right to believe that that is a bigoted and oppressive opinion to have. I don’t need to respect the opinion of people who think less of me for my sexual orientation.

In my country same sex marriage has been legal at a federal level for nearly 10 years, so I don’t encounter such opinions often (such opinions are often treated as equivalent to racism among people I know around here), but I still get to share that I think these opinions result from bigotry.

Puddin May 7, 2014 at 2:25 pm

To Alison’s point above. You are right, I overstated the comparison.

CA Anon May 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm

@AAM

Exactly. Not all opinions are created equal. Anyone who expresses an opinion that does quantifiable damage to others is someone I’m not going to respect.

Are you anti-choice, anti-vaccine, anti-lgbt rights, etc.? Well, I’m going to think less of you and I’m sure as hell not going to respect your opinions. Why? Your opinions tell me that you want to strip rights from me and my family and put us at risk. You want to hurt us. So yeah, I don’t respect you.

Anon...for right now May 7, 2014 at 3:25 pm

“People assume hatred, bigotry, and oppression when you want to treat another group in a bigoted and oppressive way, yes. That’s pretty straightforward.”

Again…this works both ways!!! People assume that hatred, bigorty, and opression only works one way. I’m a Christian in a liberal state. I have not one issue with gay people, gay marriage, gay tendencies, etc. I harbor no hate in my heart against any race, creed, or sexuality. And yet, I walk into a room of liberals and am immediately villified for my religious beliefs. I have to hide who I am because people who feel opressed, bigoted, and hated feel that it’s somehow okay for them to unleash their hate on me.
And as for the Duck Dynasty bobble head…perhaps the gentleman in question just really likes the show???

Del May 7, 2014 at 3:39 pm

@Anon…for right now

Rather than hiding, why don’t you make a point to be the Christian who isn’t homophobic etc?

I’ve found that being situationally pointed and public about being Christian, lesbian, and very liberal can do wonders for disconnecting the “Christian = right-wing bigot” assumption.

You have to accept that there are people who have been very deeply hurt by elements of the greater Christian body, and there are times when it’s more important to respect that than to trumpet your own beliefs, but there’s also a place for standing up and being quietly but pointedly both Christian and liberal.

Anon...for right now May 7, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I think it works both ways. Personally I don’t support a lot of the things that a lot of people here are for. (Honestly, could care less about gay marriage but I have really strong opinions on subjects like abortion or female presidents/priests. And yes, I’m female!) However, I can manage to get through the comments without calling people jerks for having their opinion. I find the “you’re either with us or against us” attitude exhausting. I don’t have to support your opinions whether for political, religious, or personal reasons but I DO need to respect you as an individual because that’s the Golden Rule and so I may think you’re talking out of your rear-end with your opinion, but I will take the high road, agree to disagree, and not call you a jerk.

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CA Anon May 7, 2014 at 5:14 pm

How about this: I’ll respect you as an individual when you stop trying to take away my rights. Deal?

After all, if you’re trying to take away my rights, then you don’t really respect me as an individual. You have the right to think what you want, but I have the right to think you’re an asshole for it.

Felicia May 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm

+1. I respect your right to think same sex marriage is morally or religiously wrong. I don’t respect anyone who tries to take civil rights away from anyone else. It’s also perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay in most states, and no I don’t respect the opinion of anyone who thinks that’s ok.

And marriage is not solely a religious institution in the US, it is also a state sanctioned partnership that comes with many benefits, so you shouldn’t form arguments pretending like it isn’t. And if you must see marriage as a religious thing, then logically you’d be forbidding divorced people, atheists, people from not your religion, and adulterers from getting married to. All those people can currently get married, and following their own logic, the anti same sex marriage people should be rallying against that too. If you think it’s totally fine for atheists to get married, but you think gay people shouldn’t get married, well then it’s really not a religious thing for you.

Esra May 7, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Wait, you don’t want a female president?

I guess I’m wondering what makes someone a jerk then, if wanting to deny rights and freedoms to people based on their sex or sexual orientation doesn’t qualify.

Anonymous May 7, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Just curious, what do you think about polygamy? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe polygamy is illegal in all 50 states, but yet I’m sure there are people who see nothing wrong with it and would like to be married to multiple people. Why are marriages regulated at all?

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Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Well, actually I think marriages should be much less regulated! I don’t give a damn what other people do – for all I care, as long as they are consenting adults, they can get married regardless of sex, number, or anything else.

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AAA May 7, 2014 at 1:20 pm

+1
I don’t get why polygamy is illegal either. It sure isn’t for me, but between entirely consenting adults, it is none of my business what kind of family structure you choose.

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De Minimis May 7, 2014 at 1:32 pm

There are a lot of issues with polygamy that I think are tough to answer—who gets the tax benefit of the marriage, what happens when a marriage splits up, child support issues, what happens when a spouse dies, etc. These questions are fairly easy to answer with monogamous marriages, but it’s uncertain how they could be fairly addressed with legal plural marriage.

These questions are also a big reason why marriage has to be regulated.

Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm

De Minimis, this is a good point. I do think that most people object to polygamy on moral grounds, though…

Chinook May 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I think part of the reason polygamy is illegal also has to do with whether or not all parties involved are aware of all the relationships. sure, public cases of polygamy show everyone understanding what they are getting into, but what about the guy who has two families and one of those families isn’t aware there is another one? It is still technically polygamy if not done in the spirit it is meant.

AAA May 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Yep. I agree there are both legal and structural hurdles to polygamy. But that doesn’t mean they can’t (and shouldn’t) be overcome.

Just because someone can get into an abusive marriage under pretenses it will be otherwise doesn’t mean that all marriages should be illegal. (Although I agree that there are particular historical structures of inequality in many forms of polygamy that are problematic and must be addressed legally).

Regarding the legal issues: Yep–. We’d have to create new laws to sort out all of the things De Minimis has articulated so well. It would be hard. But I am sure we have enough great legal minds that would be able to figure out something fair and equitable.

fposte May 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm

@AAA–I’m with you. It’s like the old-school concern that adultery not being illegal will somehow legitimize rape. Underage/coercive issues are problems that can be addressed in their own right.

Kerry (Like The County In Ireland) May 7, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Chinook, what you describe would be bigamy, which would be marrying a person under fraudulent circumstances (saying you were single and unmarried and lying to your new spouse and the government) while maintaining another family where you were legally wed to the spouse.

Polygamy comes along with a particular social and cultural structure; but anybody can be a bigamous piece of shit.

A Cita May 8, 2014 at 11:33 am

@AAA — totally agree. Also, marriage has been a state affair in most places in the world for a long time. There’s a reason why the government is concerned with marriage, and if you look into that history of involvement, you’ll see it neatly tied up with things like citizens being viewed as a part of a state’s “population,” which makes them a resource (to be taxed–as labor–etc), the emergence of statistics (people and conditions to be counted, resources to be tallied), etc. It’s a part of becoming a State.

Cat May 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I believe polygamy should be legal.

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Felicia May 7, 2014 at 2:26 pm

I believe polygamy should be legal, and polygamy is not gay marriage, so it is a false equivalency. How does two people of the same sex marrying affect you in any way? Gay marriage is federally legal here and nothing horrible has happened other than any consenting adult who loves each other can get married.

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Arbynka May 7, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Really ? You allowed same sex marriage and your society is not falling apart ? You won’t say :) Sorry, could not help it on an account of the “anything goes” argument, aka, you allow gay people married, what will be next…

Felicia May 7, 2014 at 3:00 pm

I always use that to the “anything goes” argument….it’s been nearly 10 years (i’m in Canada, next year it will be 10 years, and in my province it’s been more than 10 years) and anything has yet to go ;)

Alex May 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I think this is veering into a tangent of debating personal beliefs and opinions, which isn’t helpful to the OP. Let’s not go there; this isn’t the appropriate forum for it.

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Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Well, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormon), so…. :-)

This is part of what I see coming. If there is no regulation at all, then anything goes, and that does concern me. I do believe that a child is best reared in a home with a committed father and mother. In my faith, polygamy was a temporary commandment given at a critical time in our history. I have polygamist ancestors.

I believe that marriage is a religious institution that has been co-opted by the government because of prior religious connections. I like how Brazil does it. Marriage is religious, civil unions are governmental.

I would also like to point out that neither I nor my faith have any issue with granting many of the benefits and legal protections that advocates of gay marriage want. I support that and think it is a great solution and opportunity. But marriage itself is something that my faith holds at the highest regard and believe to be instituted by God.

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Cat May 7, 2014 at 1:16 pm

But we do live in a society where the government recognizes marriage. You can advocate to get rid of that entirely, but I would strongly urge you to consider whether it’s reasonable to hold that the state should discriminate between gay and straight couples in the system as it stands.

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Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Reasonable or not for the state is not my concern, which is why I don’t have any issue with anti-discrimination laws, extension of benefits, and so on. But marriage in my mind is much more than a government issue.

On that note, however, the state regularly institutes laws that are discriminatory on some level or another. Licensing requirements, taxes, and other laws have at their core some element of segregation based on the attributes of the relevant party.

Cat May 7, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Yes, and many of us think sexual orientation shouldn’t be one of those things. Listen, to bring this back to the original point, “jerk” is reductive. I’m familiar with the fact that people who hold beliefs I find repellant (and yes, discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation is one of those) can be lovely, wonderful people in any number of ways. But you know? Sometimes it’s okay to call people out for those repellant beliefs without getting into all those nuances.

CA Anon May 7, 2014 at 2:30 pm

@Cat

Thank you.

Arbynka May 7, 2014 at 1:24 pm

I am sorry but I loathe the “anything goes” argument. When women were allowed to vote, did it lead to children voting, or hamsters voting or bathtubs voting ? Nope. Just because you give someone equal rights, aka allow CONSENTING ADULTS to marry, it won’t lead to all chaos and destruction. And that is all I am going to say about this.

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Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:30 pm

I feel that is an apples and oranges comparison.

We’ve seen evidence of the “anything goes” just here with the introduction of polygamy. I heard the term “throuple” just the other day for the first time.

Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Anonymous, other people’s relationships are not your business.

GigglyPuff May 7, 2014 at 1:58 pm

@Anonymous–Not a jerk

Just completely curious, and totally not on topic as Allison asked (sorry!)…if the relationship involved three people of both sexes, i.e. there was a committed father and mother, what would be the problem?

and can I just say “throuple” sounds hilarious! like some weird medical term

Eden May 7, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I’m enjoying the mental image of bathtubs lining up at the polls!

Callie May 7, 2014 at 7:12 pm

excellent comparison!

Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm

See, I kind of agree with Anon, assuming s/he defines marriage as “an union in front of God” and not a legal contract.

It is too late for society to split the meaning of marriage in two, but I would see no problem with having two things: one “marriage” that is defined by the church and has no legal meaning, and one “marriage” that is defined by the government and gives the people (of any sex, etc) certain rights. I *do* know that this is utopical and the church will never be happy with this word being used for a legal contract between same-sex people… so at least I can hope for civil unions? (Though my country has a whole lot to go before they can even be suggested.)

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Del May 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Which church do you mean? There are several which support same-sex marriage, and as I recall some of them have sued for the right to perform legally valid same-sex marriages recently.

Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Well, my personal experience is with the Orthodox church, but the Catholic church has similar opinions on the topic. I think it’s great that other denominations (is this the right word?) support same-sex rights, but I still think religious marriage and legal marriage should be two separate concepts. As an example, I would understand the reasoning if the Romanian government allowed same-sex marriages (civil unions), but the Orthodox church said “nope, not getting a religious wedding”. I wouldn’t think it’s a *good* thing, but it would be consistent with their mentality.

Felicia May 7, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Same sex marriage is federally legal here, and there are still plenty of churches that would never perform the ceremony or recognize the marriage, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The Catholic church for example would not marry a same sex couple, and no one is forcing them even if it’s legal. They can also choose to not marry divorced couples, or couples of another religion, or whoever they want. They can do that and it doesn’t effect the legality of the marriages they do perform. They can also believe same sex marriage is evil and wrong or whatever they want, and i’m glad that i live in a country where they can believe whatever, they just can’t use their religious beliefs to dictate the law.

Del May 7, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Yep, denominations is correct :)

And I’m not sure if it’s different overseas, but at least in the US churches as organizations and individual ordained clergy of whatever faith always have the right to refuse to perform a wedding they do not support, for whatever reasons they may have.

Callie May 7, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Except my church is in support of same-sex marriage. So whose church gets to decide? No one’s CHURCH should get to dictate any laws. No one’s.

Felicia May 8, 2014 at 12:33 am

My synagogue supports same sex marriage too, to get a non Christian , but religious perspective. When you live in a country with a separation between church and state, and no state religion, why should one church (or even several churches) get to decide on the law?

lachevious May 8, 2014 at 7:30 am

But marriage *is* a legal contract which affords certain federal rights to those fortunate enough to have their marriages acknowledged by the American government.

Yes, some religions believe it is a union cemented by god, but the very fact that divorce rates among these very religious groups that espouse the sanctity of marriage shows the hypocrisy. They hold up their faith as a way of preventing others whose sexual orientation is supposedly forbidden in their religions, yet continue to break the unions blessed by their god by getting divorced.

I’ve researched this topic so many times, written papers and given presentations in college (student). On my blog if anyone cares to read them.

Same-sex couples aren’t forcing their local churches to marry them, they just want access to the same federal benefits of marriage (over a thousand, by the way) that all of the other married couples get. How does that hurt you, as a religious person?

I heard a joke somewhere that 100% of all homosexuals are the direct result of heterosexual couplings. The original joke was funnier, but come on – homosexual people are the same as you and me. We all get our freak on, and consenting adults that love each other could never be bad. They just want to declare their love and have it acknowledged by our government.

Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Problem is, marriage isn’t purely religious. Marriage equality advocates are fighting for the basic legal and tax benefits that comes from being married. A marriage is also universally recognized in all jurisdictions, while a civil union/domestic partnership/etc isn’t universally recognized and often times has a second-class tinge to it.

States define civil unions differently. A civil union in New Jersey could be equivalent to marriage, but then not be recognized at all in Arizona, which could lead to lots of sticky situations. For example, Wakeen and Apollo (Wakeen is male, right?) could be New Jersey residents in a recognized same-sex marriage. They decide to take a vacation to the Grand Canyon and get in a horrible car accident on the way there. Wakeen ends up on a ventilator, but Apollo can’t make any decisions about his care because Arizona doesn’t recognize him as his same-sex spouse (and Apollo’s estranged father is in charge of all his medical decisions). Across-the-board marriage would simplify cases like that.

I live in a pretty Mormon area, actually, so I definitely understand the importance of marriage in the LDS church. I don’t think gay marriage advocates are necessarily trying to change the spiritual definition of marriage, they are just fighting for the same partnership rights as others. In the US, that’s gained through a marriage for all kinds of sociological and historical reasons (that could be far better explained by someone else). But I’d agree that in an ideal world, there’d be a different civil definition and phraseology.

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LQ May 7, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Great! Don’t marry someone your faith tells you not to.

My marriage/lack of/enspousement is really not relevant to yours. I promise I’ll never force you to marry someone you don’t want to.

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Felicia May 7, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Why should your religion have anything to do with government policy?You don’t live in a theocracy. If you don’t believe in gay marriage, or think it’s wrong or against God or whatever, then don’t marry someone of the same sex as you.

Other faiths (and atheists and agnostics) have a high regard for a concept of marriage that includes same sex couples, so what right do your religious beliefs have to supersede theirs on a legal level?

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some1 May 7, 2014 at 2:54 pm

“This is part of what I see coming. If there is no regulation at all, then anything goes”

The slippery slope argument holds no water for me. (That legalizing same sex marriage will result in polygamy or incest marriages or marriages with pets.)

When women got the right to vote, it didn’t result in hamsters voting. When the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18, it didn’t result in pre-schoolers voting.

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Felicia May 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Same sex marriage has been legal here for about 10 years, and no one has married their pets or their dads yet! Whenever I see this argument, I wonder why they don’t look at all the countries that have already legalized same sex marriage years ago to see that the “anything goes” theory never happened.

Felicia May 7, 2014 at 3:05 pm

If you want to stay American, Massachusetts just had their 10th anniversary of making same sex marriage legal, and I’m not American but I’m pretty sure Massachusetts still doesn’t allow hamster marriage :)

PM May 7, 2014 at 6:00 pm

But in the US, as far as I know, opposite to eg Brazil as you say yourself– marriage is governmental. So your argument that you think gay marriage is wrong for religious reasons is illogical. It would be valid only if the discussion was about marriage in your Mormon church. But it is not. Is is not about religion, is is about something governmental. religion has no place in that discussion. You can still follow your religion and your ideal of marriage as defined by the mormon church in a country where the government allows gay marriage. Two different things. Separate.

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Zillah May 7, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Agreed. If we were talking about forcing religious institutions to perform marriages they don’t agree with, that would be one thing – but citing religious sentiments as the sole reason for legislation in this country is absurd. It’s doubly absurd when it doesn’t even involve the people railing against it.

This country does not have a national religion, and there are people of many kinds of religious persuasions within it. People who advocate forcing the societal structures of their religion on people who have not signed up to participate in it make me sick.

And yes. I mean that.

I’d feel the same way if it was mandated by the government that everyone must keep kosher or wear a head scarf. No. Not in a country with freedom of religion.

Felicia May 8, 2014 at 12:50 am

There are Mormons in this Canada, where gay marriage is totally legal, who still follow their religious beliefs on what marriage is. No one is stopping them, and no one will stop them. And I know plenty of people here who are members of religions that believe gay marriage is wrong. So they don’t do gay marriage in their church. They don’t have the right to tell the government what to do and no one stops them from practicing their religion.

A Cita May 8, 2014 at 11:36 am

Marriage is a government institution. Legalizing gay marriage would actually create *more* regulation.

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dahllaz May 8, 2014 at 3:11 pm

But the United States governement regulates marriages. That’s the way it is here; the governement was set up to have a seperation of church and state and freedom of religion and all that stuff.
The US governement doesn’t care if you’re a Morman or Catholic or Buddhist or Aethist or whatever. You can still enter in a governement recognized marriage, whatever your faith.

I object that, because YOUR faith says it’s wrong, that I have to follow your faith. I am not Morman – but you are essentially saying that I should be following your religion in regards to who I am able to marry.

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Ann Furthermore May 7, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Personally, polygamy would not be for me, but if we’re talking about consenting adults who all make the choice to be in a polygamous relationship, then that should be just fine. Who cares, as long as no one is getting hurt?

Bill Maher put it really well on his show once. It was right before the premiere of that show “Big Love” on HBO, which broadcasts his show too. He does a bit at the end called “New Rules,” and on that show his new rule was that if you firmly believe that gay marriage should be legal, then you also had to support the legalization of polygamy, because you can’t support one type of “non-traditional” relationship and then turn your nose up at another type because you personally find it distasteful. If you do that, then you’re a hypocrite. And he was right.

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Cath in Canada May 7, 2014 at 1:08 pm

…and this is why I love Alison.

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EngineerGirl May 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I’m going to agree with Anonymous. I would love it if we had civil unions for all state ceremonies and left marriage to the place where it originated – a religious ceremony with a very different meaning than what the state says.
The problem started when the state stepped in and started to regulate a religious ceremony. I’m all for splitting the two and letting the state do what it wants.

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Matthew Soffen May 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm

You do realize that :
1) Marriage started as a means for the church to get property from couples that died without heirs.
2) They originally did perform same sex marriages (at least according to a Yale University processor).

When marriage became a “legal” status, they state needed to be involved (I mean, You never had to get your marriage license from the church you were going to, Right ? You don’t go to your priest do determine the distribution of property when you get divorced, right ?)

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LV May 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm

People were getting married long before the appearance of Christianity, so I really don’t understand the “marriage is an institution established by God” thing.

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Evan May 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Do you have any source for your second claim? I have never heard of the ancient Christian church performing same-sex marriages. They did have a blessing for same-sex friends, which some people claim was often used by homosexual relationships, but even that’s based on a controversial reading between the lines.

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Arbynka May 7, 2014 at 3:21 pm

If I am not mistaken, something was published out of Yale, as the poster above stated, but that notion right now is just an interesting hypothesis, nowhere close to proven historical fact.

AAA May 7, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I know we are getting a little off-topic here, but I have to say that marriage didn’t start out as a primarily religious institution. (I’m an anthropologist; I’ve done research in this area). It was primarily a contract to bind families, confirm paternity, and most importantly govern property. That’s not to say it wasn’t religious too–but if we are talking origin stories, that’s not really an accurate statement to say marriage began as only a religious ceremony.

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MousyNon May 7, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Yep. I was going to post this, but you beat me too it. Religion arguably co-opted state-sanctioned unions, not the other way around. Marriage began as a means to legitimize heirs and transfer property, that’s it.

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AAA May 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Exactly.
I like your phrasing: “religion co-opted state-sanctioned unions”. That’s pretty accurate.

Libertarian May 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Thank you for pointing this out.

There are some non-bigoted arguments, to why some people are against gay marriage – that argue from a legal, historical, etc. as opposed to a purely religious one.

I think the person who asked the question may be dealing with someone who may actually be a bigot as opposed to someone who can provide a respectful and thoughtful response.

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Contessa May 7, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Those contracts were private (i.e. between two entities/families/individuals) without “the state” being involved, right?

(I’m genuinely curious, as you’ve done this research and I haven’t–and I know I’m off-topic too, sorry…)

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AAA May 7, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Well it depends on what you mean by “the state” and how far back you want to go. Marriage pre-dates the modern nation-state by thousands and thousands of years. Generally, though, the institution of marriage is something that is externally and publicly recognized by some kind of governing authority.For example, often the ceremony would be held in front of a chief / council of elders / or, yes, a religious leader in order to consecrate the union. The governing authority might be more localized, but marriage is a fundamentally public acknowledgement of a private relationship.

Dulcinea May 7, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Isn’t it true, though, that in many cultures, the religion and state were one, or at least there was significant overlap? IE, religious leaders/elders had the power to set and enforce rules for everyone to follow. Hence, separation of church and state had to be specifically stated in our constitution? And the whole Henry-the-8th split from the Catholic church thing in England?

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AAA May 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Yep. In many cultures the state and the religious authority are one and the same, or have significant overlap. But definitely not all cultures. This is part of what makes it difficult to generalize about something as fundamental as marriage that cuts across human cultures around the world and is expressed differently in different places. (There are also plenty of places that uphold polyandry, or same-sex marriage, or prefer incestual marriages…but when engaging in this argument we tend to think about just the European and Christian history of marriage, and not to go back particularly far in history)
My point is more that the function of marriage was primarily non-religious in origin, focused instead on property and confirming parental obligations, though often (as I mention above) it also had a religious component, and it certainly has grown to have religious meaning for many people.

Apollo Warbucks May 7, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Henry the 8th only split from the Catholic Church because he wanted to get divorced and the pope wouldn’t let him.

Traveler May 7, 2014 at 4:57 pm

+ 1000

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Anon May 7, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Technically marriage was not a church institution at all – people have had partnerships since long, long before the church existed (although other prior religions may well have recognised it). In a Christian context, it became a sacrament in the 1100s, and in the 1500s they became invalid unless presided over by a priest. Before this (and to be honest, for a long time after) it was an agreement between two people, who usually made that agreement in public.
Of course, in a non-Christian context, the Old Testament has plenty of polygamous relationships.

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EngineerGirl May 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Uh, “the church” existed thousands of years before 1100 AD.

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Laufey May 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Well, “thousand” anyway. The “Church” in it’s meaning here – a Christian Church – by definition could not have existed before Christ. And it didn’t just pop into being upon his death – it evolved over time.

Felicia May 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Plenty of churches/synagogues etc. support gay marriage and will perform gay marriage ceremonies, including the reconstructionist synagogue I go to, and the United Church of Canada that I’ve gone to events at. Who’s to say one church’s view of marriage is more right? Marriage used to involve the woman becoming property of the man, should we go back to that “traditional” definition too?

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Joey May 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm

I sort of agree with anonymous. I think racist actions are jerky, but having racist beliefs in your head are I would say more close minded, ignornant. Being a jerk for me is acting on those beliefs, not necessarily having them.

But I do find it suspicious and a little bit of assign that he’s ashamed of his beliefs when he won’t own his comments

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BCW May 7, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Well, this is how I see it. I’m fine with gay marriage, but since marriage is more or less a religious institution as opposed to a legal one, if someone were to say they are against gay marriage for religious reasons, but that they support civil unions or whatever other legal definition that gives them the same rights, I think thats fine. However, some people would still say that person is a jerk for it. I think thats a bit unfair.

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Esra May 7, 2014 at 5:55 pm

But people who aren’t religious can get married. I think you would have to call all non-religious unions civil unions for this to be equitable.

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BCW May 7, 2014 at 8:30 pm

True, and thats fine too. Again, this isn’t MY personal belief. I’m all about marriage equality. However I do think if someone made that statement, personally I could respect that because they aren’t trying to deny people rights, just expressing certain religious beliefs

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Esra May 7, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Ah I see what you’re saying. I would still find it pretty hypocritical that they would be fine with straight, non-religious people getting married and not civil unioned.

Felicia May 8, 2014 at 12:29 am

If you’re against gay people getting married, because marriage is a religious thing for you, then logically you should also be against atheists getting married. If you’re not it sounds more homophobic than religion, or at least a little hypocritical. Either anyone not of your particular religion (because not all religions define marriage the same way), has to get a civil union and not a marriage, or none of them do. Or I guess as a third option, marriage being a religious thing isn’t your real reason.

JuliB May 8, 2014 at 8:56 am

This is for Felicia but there is no reply to her email.

If you aren’t religious, maybe you shouldn’t try to speak for what religious people think.

I’m a devout Catholic. We (formally) believe that homosexual marriage is disordered because it is against Natural Law (which is not a religious concept). I won’t go into Natural Law because I could type for days and it really isn’t the place. You can google for some simple explanations. We see atheist marriages (and any other non-Catholic marriages) as valid (civil recognition) but not Sacramental.

There are several religion based arguments that we believe against same-sex marriage, as well as ones that are based on civil repercussions for religious liberty.

So while you THINK you know how we think, you really don’t. There is a logic but you obviously haven’t looked into the reasons for why someone would be opposed but would rather apply your own ‘logic’. Please research a bit more because you show disrespect to your ideological opponents (and your own intellect) when you erect straw man instead.
~~
General statements:

I am appalled that because I express a belief about who should be able to be married I am called all sorts of names. If gay marriage becomes law throughout the country, so be it. I won’t be out protesting. But as a citizen, I have a right and duty to express my views on political things regardless of whether the views are based on religion.

If gay marriage becomes law of the land, then I am all for removing the restrictions based on family relationships. And no I am not being a troll. If 2 people who are closely related love each other in an eros love, what difference does it make? Between birth control and abortion it’s not like we need to worry about their offspring. The only other thing holding society back is the ICK factor, but that’s been shot down in the early arguments for gay marriage. And as we’ve seen in Canada and MA, the “2″ part of marriage is being attacked. I predict that will change next, as has been predicted since the beginning of the gay marriage discussion.

fposte May 8, 2014 at 10:06 am

@JuliB–I think Felicia gets to speak about religion when religion becomes a force in the laws that control her, which seems to be what you’re supporting.

If your church doesn’t want to marry some people to other people, that’s between your church and its members. It’s when your church decides that the *state* shouldn’t marry some people to other people that the rest of us are completely and utterly entitled to weigh in on it.

Felicia May 8, 2014 at 10:21 am

If the “2″ marriage is being attacked here in Canada, don’t you think it would have worked by now, especially in this province where gay marriage has been legal for over 10 years? I’m actually not against polygamy, but absolutely no major support for polygamy has happened since 2003 when gay marriage was legalized. It just hasn’t happened.

And I don’t pretend to know what people who are against gay marriage believe. I just know that even if you’re against gay marriage because of your religious beliefs, your religion shouldn’t inform civil law. Whether you like it or not , marriage is both civil and religious in the US, and religion is not a good argument for people not to have civil rights. So if civil marriage is none of your concern, 2 consenting adults should be allowed to have a civil marriage. People also used to use religion as their reason why they were against interracial marriage. Should everyone have tolerated them to and let interracial marriage remain illegal?

I’ve never heard any good argument against gay marriage that wasn’t religious. Gay marriage is legal at a federal level here, and it has not affected religious liberty one bit. It just hasn’t happened. No church has been forced to marry people they don’t want to Should people have shown respect to their ideological opponents that opposed interracial marriage? Because people who opposed interracial marriage in the US used religious arguments too, and no one really respects their view points anymore (at least not all that openly). Their arguments were just as based on their interpretation of religion.

If you believe that homosexual marriage is disordered and against Natural Law,, I’m glad that you have the right to believe that. While as a homosexual who had no choice in that fact of myself, it makes me uncomfortable, but I would never try to stop you. What you don’t have the right to do is try to force your religious beliefs on others through the law.

Felicia May 8, 2014 at 10:54 am

And thanks for the support fposte! I’m a big fan of all of your comments :)

I’ve posted far more about this topic because it’s about me. To people who don’t support gay marriage it might be a hypothetical or religion, but to me it’s people saying I shouldn’t be allowed to marry someone I love. I don’t want to have to tolerate people who are telling me that. And it’s not really about me because in my country I am allowed to marry a person I love. It’s about people who are just like me but were born in a country that is taking longer to recognize their civil rights than mine did. I don’t really care what other people believe religiously, it’s none of my business or concern. But when religion is the reason someone thinks laws should exist where people like me don’t have the same rights as others, that’s when religion becomes my business.

A Cita May 8, 2014 at 11:58 am

@Felicia–Thank you for all your strong, logical, comments here.

JuliB May 8, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Fposte – She should speak if she is being accurate. She isn’t. Natural Law is not a part of religion and had its place back in older philosophy.

My Church isn’t doing anything other than expressing its opinion, which is validly done by all organizations which are but collections of people in civil society.

My Church does not vote. I DO. “You” may not like that religion informs my opinions but that’s not relevant. So as you weigh in, so do I. There are other posters on here appear to wish to stifle my weighing in, diminishing my opinion because it is based in theology.

Of course, there will be no Catholic gay marriages (caveat – I’m sure some rogue ‘c’atholic groups will do so). But there are many who would punish by law people who act based on religious conscience such as the Christian baker who would create cakes for gays for any thing but a gay marriage. (Personally, I wouldn’t have a problem making the cake, but this truly is an issue of conscience since they would feel like they were in material cooperation with something they felt was sinful).

And to have people called bigots for their views which would deny “civil rights” to some whereas we still deny such rights based on things such as close family relationships is illogical in my view.
~~
Felicia – a lot of things are based on religious arguments but few can also claim Natural Law. Interracial is not something that can claim relationship to NL. I think that arguments against polygamy have no basis in anything beyond New Testament religious beliefs. So while I have many issues with it I couldn’t/wouldn’t use religion as a basis.

Finally – nearly all laws are based on shared morality which is intertwined with religious views. And you just said that you never heard anything other than religious arguments but ignore my statement that Natural Law is against is as well. I’m puzzled.

And really finally – I’d like to thank you and fposte for keeping it calm/civil and not calling me a bigot, which I am not.

Sydney May 8, 2014 at 3:56 pm

@Felicia: Agree with you on all counts. Thanks a ton for your contributions to this thread.

CA Anon May 8, 2014 at 5:42 pm

@JuliB

I think the reason we’re having trouble buying that “Natural Law” isn’t a religious argument is that it’s defined within a Catholic framework. So while you may say that it’s not religious, we disagree.

Natural Law (in the Catholic sense) is defined by the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, a man who lived 750 years ago. It’s not exactly a current understanding of science and what’s “natural”. It’s not a universal philosophy or even a universal interpretation of those who believe in Natural Law.

Pretty much the only people I know who follow Natural Law as Aquinas defined it are Catholics, which makes it a Catholic philosophy, which makes any arguments based off of it inherently religious.

Anonsie May 7, 2014 at 1:01 pm

The letter writer isn’t talking about his political views, though. She’s talking about the way he advertises racism with pride, which is the behavior of a jerk.

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Bryan May 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

You’re allowed to have a different opinion but you’re stripping away rights, benefits, and tax advantages to consenting adults. Or you can go the other route and if marriage is purely faith based then the government has no business creating laws that govern it in any way.

So having a different opinion doesn’t make you a jerk. But the opinion itself does.

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Elizabeth West May 8, 2014 at 10:49 am

You having your own opinion is not a problem, as far as I’m concerned. What is a problem is when people use religion as an excuse to legally treat other people like crap. Your right to believe ends where someone else’s human rights begin. We have separation of church and state for this very reason. Any couples, whether same-sex or not, going to the courthouse for a legal marriage license has nothing to do with religion. After all, two straight Satanists can get a marriage license; I would think if religious people wanted to make an issue out of anything, it could be that. But people choose to be Satanist; they don’t choose to be gay. They can also choose to believe the earth is flat. That doesn’t make it so. If I took you to the International Space Station, perhaps your view would change. That’s the beauty of opinions: they can change.

I’m not saying you do that–don’t get me wrong. It’s just that the belief and the discrimination have become fused in many people’s minds because of ridiculously unconstitutional, fundie-funded s*** laws.

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Maria May 9, 2014 at 4:58 pm

+1 For this.

The OP also didn’t point out exactly what “racist” things he said (remember Chris Matthews saying you’re racist if you didn’t vote for Obama…). Kind of disheartening to see that people are siding with OP that her coworker is ‘racist’ when we don’t even know what he said or did.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 12:53 pm

It makes him a jerk because he’s displaying a figurine of someone who is now best known for making hateful comments about large groups of people.

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Anonymous May 7, 2014 at 12:58 pm

So if I put up a picture of Malcolm X, I’m a jerk, right?

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Ehhh, I don’t think so. Malcolm X has entered the realm of acceptability at this point and the average person thinks of him favorably at this point.

Plus, he did leave the Nation of Islam, convert to mainstream Islam, and shun many of his old viewpoints.

Louis Farrakhan would be a different story.

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businesslady May 7, 2014 at 2:15 pm

of course not! Malcolm X harbored some justified anger against racism & those who perpetuated it, but he didn’t advocate stripping white people of their rights or committing senseless acts of violence. (“by any means necessary” is a rhetorical device, not a blanket endorsement of any & all retaliation.)

…sorry, off-topic I know, but the whole “MLK=good; Malcolm X=bad” thing really bothers me.

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Bothers me, too! Plus, MLK has been deified and turned into this milquetoast moderate.

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Turanga Leela May 7, 2014 at 2:39 pm

YES. Don’t get me started on the erasure of MLK’s radicalism. I feel similarly about Rosa Parks.

Love your photo, btw.

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Mints May 7, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I’m getting real off topic but I want to share one of my favorite MLK quotes:

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

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businesslady May 7, 2014 at 4:14 pm

yay, I’m glad at least a few other people didn’t mind my threadjacking. :) I was definitely raised to believe in the false Martin/Malcolm dichotomy, & once I finally read The Autobiography of Malcolm X I wanted to go back & yell at all my elementary- & middle-school teachers.

Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 5:03 pm

@businesslady

You should check out Manning Marable’s biography of Malcolm X. Good stuff.

Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Thank you! I like yours, too. I always thought Futurama was underrated.

I agree on Rosa Parks. She had been actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the bus sit-in was a deliberate act. Plus, she and her husband both ended up losing their jobs and having to leave the state to find new work.

I blame my grade school teachers. Too often, Civil Rights icons were taught in history class as these near-deities without much context aside from “discrimination was bad and they decided to sit on a bus/give a speech/etc. And this is why we get a Monday in January off.”

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 6:53 pm

There’s a great fake Rosa Parks kids’ biography that’s pointing out how reductively Parks gets treated in Herbert Kohl’s Should We Burn Babar? It’s called “Rosa Was Tired.”

Victoria Nonprofit (USA) May 7, 2014 at 6:31 pm

yes yes yes

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Traveler May 7, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I’ve also heard it theorized that if they had both lived longer they probably would have crossed one another – and ended up being labeled just the opposite of how the general public remembers them (meaning Malcolm X – good, MLK bad), since Malcolm X seemed to be moderating some of his views and there are people who believe MLK was set to become more radical.

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The IT Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I’m going to disagree here. I think Duck Dynasty is ridiculous; although, it is certainly not the worst of the reality tv shows. But that family/company has done an amazing job of marketing. I see books, t-shirts, hats, stuff with their faces for sale at many places. It is mistake to say that they are best known everywhere for making hateful comments. In places where hunting is big or with certain groups, they were very popular well before that.

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Anonsie May 7, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Agreed.

At the same time, though, if someone got merchandise and stuck it in a prominent spot right after the big blowup about racist comments, that’s gonna look a lot different to me.

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Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Exactly. I think timing is very important here. I very much doubt that all people will recognize the character, but if the manager brought the bobble-head in right after the scandal, then I *would* read that as an F you.

By the way, Duck Dynasty is on right now, and I will watch it while I eat dinner – I’m not a big fan, but even if I were, it wouldn’t mean I am a racist or that I endorse any racist views. It’s just a reality show.

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Traveler May 7, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I’m not even sure its a “reality” show – I think most things on the show, and that interview were drummed up to sell more stuff and get more viewers.

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Kelly L. May 7, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Yeah, I decided the whole thing was trumped up to boost sales during the Christmas season–he made the comments right before the holiday, people who agreed with him rushed out to buy the merch, and then he and the network made up right after the holiday.

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De Minimis May 7, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I tend to agree, I think it was at least partially a manufactured controversy.

Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Definitely – but aren’t all “reality” shows like that? (Except “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”. I’m sure Kim naturally wakes up with a full face of makeup.)

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Traveler May 7, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Yep. For sure – Kim occasionally looks pretty rough on that show though. I’ve seen a few clips where I surprised she didn’t force someone to edit it out.

Arbynka May 7, 2014 at 3:25 pm

That’s just it. “Reality” shows are scripted, just as any other show.

Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Those guys are way savvier than portrayed. I know at least one of them has an advanced degree (yeah, I know that’s not always an indicator of intelligence). Plus, no way they created a business that successful without being somewhat smart.

Something tells me they’ll shave off the beards and lose the camo once the show goes off the air.

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Traveler May 7, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Agreed – Have you googled “duck dynasty before pictures? They look like ads for the Gap.

Elizabeth West May 8, 2014 at 10:55 am

Reality shows are scripted. None of what you see is real. It’s all script and editing. And marketing.

Networks like them because they’re cheap to produce. That’s why every formerly good channel–Discovery, TLC, even National Geographic (arrgghh)–has been taken over by them.

When I watch Cosmos, I feel my brain healing.

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GigglyPuff May 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm

What makes it clearly an offensive move, is he bought the bobble-head AFTER the controversy, if it had been there before, it would be an entirely different thing, but, by the way the letter is worded, it was a very deliberate move made by the boss.

But seriously I feel for you, majority of extended family, very religious, racist, and republican, by the time I was twelve, I just learned to leave the room. I barely ever engage any of them in conversation because it always turns disgusting.

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Kelly L. May 7, 2014 at 3:06 pm

This. The timing makes it look like a deliberate statement rather than just “he liked the show and bought the bobblehead a long time ago.”

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Maria May 9, 2014 at 5:01 pm

“very religious, racist, and republican”

One of these things is not like the other…

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Joey May 7, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Would it still be a jerk if he doesn’t know about those comments

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Celeste May 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Because he is doing more than “disagreeing” with homosexuality, he is posting things that are unkind and lacking in any kind of virtue toward his fellow man out of an agenda against people he probably doesn’t even know.

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Anonymous May 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm

If I may point out, we are told by the OP that they offensive, but we have no evidence to actually prove that.

And isn’t labeling this largely unknown director a jerk also “posting things that are unkind and lacking in any kind of virtue toward his fellow man … [you] probably don’t even know?”

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Celeste May 7, 2014 at 1:06 pm

No, she didn’t post this on a Facebook account representing her company. He did.

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm

It doesn’t sound like he did either, though–it sounds like the social media account is problematically linked to the employees’ personal accounts, and therefore it’s showing stuff that he’s posting on his personal account.

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GigglyPuff May 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm

But was it the company’s page? I wasn’t to clear on that, it seemed more like the OP could see what he posted in his own FB account, and it was popping up on the account the OP used to control the company’s FB account.

Honestly the guy sucks, it sounds like your company sucks, I would be seriously bothered by the entire trying to convert me aspect. I’d just try to let it go, start looking for a new job/school, and in a few years it can be your “omg work horror” story, that you really worked for people who wanted to “save” coworkers, and it was totally allowed.

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Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Like I pointed out, we were told that he did those things, and no I don’t think it was the company site but that his profile linked to it….

That’s my point, though, we don’t really know. We are only relying on the evidence of the OP. I’m not doubting what she’s saying, just pointing out that you are guilty of the same argument you made against the director. You don’t know him. You have only a limited amount of information. You’ve judged him a jerk.

Seems… judgmental.

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Mike C. May 7, 2014 at 1:25 pm

It would be useful if you could take a moment to understand why people are upset rather than holding up an arbitrary standard to be met before someone can become upset with someone else.

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Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm

I think you misunderstand me. I have never said that I supported the director, I agree that his actions aren’t great, and that racism is bad.

What I think would be useful is if we started conversations without labels and pejorative statements of someone’s attitude, character, and intent.

This was really as much a call out on AAM that saying “he’s a jerk” isn’t necessarily a productive way of handling the situation. Saying he’s making a poor choice in displaying that or whatever, great. But we don’t know this man. We don’t know anything other than what was presented here (which I do trust, by the way). But to label him a jerk of such a small amount of information?

Yes, that seems quite judgmental.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I call people out in letters here all the time for being jerks or asses or whatever. And yeah, it’s judging behavior. That’s inherent in being able to assess situations and give advice.

LBK May 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I’ll be completely honest, as wonderful and virtuous and kind as a person might be in their rest of their life and with their opinions, if they are actively against same-sex marriage then I will think they are not a good person.

I think this is only even something viable to discuss because homophobia is still so widely accepted in the US. Would you honestly feel totally fine being around someone who was generous and friendly and kind except to Jewish people, who he believed were inferior and shouldn’t be allowed to have rights?

That strikes me as serious cognitive dissonance. A person’s beliefs like that are such an integral part of who they are that I can’t see myself separating it out and allowing the other “good” parts of their personality to outweigh it.

LBK May 7, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Here’s the tl;dr version of my comment:

But to label him a jerk of such a small amount of information?

I do not consider known homophobia to be a “small amount of information” when it comes to judging a person’s character.

pizzagrl May 7, 2014 at 4:56 pm

I think some are quick to call those who are anti-abortion or anti gay marriage/rights etc whatever “jerks” because they’re trying to govern the choices people make in their own personal lives. Choices that have next to nothing to do with those espousing these views. I can understand why you may have them (where you grew up, how you were raised, your religion etc), and while those reasons may mitigate the jerkiness it doesn’t erase it. I don’t believe in god. Period. At all. And while you do, your belief doesn’t mean for a single second that I should live my life according to your religion.

TL May 7, 2014 at 5:57 pm

The thing is, everyone has a “jerk” line. Or a “bad person” line, whereon after, not amount of “but X” will balance out the first part of the statement.
Imagine, “She’s a serial killer, but she gives so much to charity!”
Or: “She beats her wife every now and then, but she’s so charming and always willing to help out her neighbors!”
Most of society would agree that those aren’t good people, regardless of what good qualities they have.

And a lot of people think that being bigoted or racist, regardless of what other qualities you have, makes you a jerk.

I don’t think that’s an unfair way for people to feel, especially the people who are directly affected by your brand of bigotry or racism.

fposte May 7, 2014 at 1:35 pm

As does most of AAM, though, yes? And any advice column?

Sure, sometimes we think an OP’s account may be missing something, or sometimes we disagree with an OP’s take on a situation. But mostly we take the OPs on faith, and since we’re not trying anyone or firing anyone, it doesn’t matter and is no more judgmental than having opinions about Congress.

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GigglyPuff May 7, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I get where you are coming from, really I do, I think maybe there should be clearer examples of other issues that have occurred.

But at the same time, there’s clearly enough evidence to form an opinion of the guy, and yes we’re being judgmental with a small amount of evidence, that is usually what happens.

Here is why I think the guy is a jerk (definition: “an unlikable person; especially : one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded”)

-he clearly bought the bobblehead after the anti-gay comments
-the OP has been told by several coworkers the guy can turn cruel
-and yes, the OP should not be using this information when considering how a person acts at work, but she saw it, so the knowledge is there: he regularly posts racist articles on his social media account

so in my opinion, because that’s all this is, is the guy is a jerk. And maybe I feel that way because most of the conservatives I know, turn disgusting and won’t hold a civil conversation about any other viewpoint, and just become mean. But experiences shape our opinions.

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Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm

And that’s a fair assessment of the known facts, and not one I disagree with.

What I disagree with (and yes, I’m realizing that this is so far off base that I’m just going to drop the whole thing in a moment) is the name calling and labeling and what have you.

I myself have been labeled a jerk, a bigot, a harrasser, an awful person, and… let’s see, I think that’s it… all because I stated that we have very little information about this guy and very little to go off of. I have been open in my comments and my opinions through out. Yes, I changed my normal user name because I knew I’d be heavily attacked, and I value the reputation I have in this community. Yes, I knew that standing by my opinions using my original user name would cause a number of people (maybe even substantial number) to then reject me out of hand because I’m now a “jerk.”

And I guess the question I have for this entire community is how is that helpful? I find it interesting that many who call for these restrictions to be abolished have no patience to have an honest discussion of the why on the other side. For me it has very little to do with bigotry and racism and what have. Rather, it has to do with a genuine feeling of love and respect for the institution of marriage as instituted by God. I am deeply troubled that so many people feel that this attitude represents bigotry and hatred (though I can certainly see why given so much of the vitriol that has been spewed by both sides). I myself have a great deal of respect for the gay community. They have gone through a great deal of misfortune and trial because of their orientation, and that is not right. No one should be persecuted for their opinions, beliefs, or choices (and yes, that includes people who stand on my side of the issue).

My point in all of this (poorly stated in my first post admittedly) is that understanding comes from finding common ground, hearing and listening, and being open to the opinions of others. It doesn’t start with labels of jerk or bigot or so on.

And with that, I sign off on this particular thread. I wish you all well.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm

As someone who regularly espouses opinions that others disagree with and does so with my name attached, I’d strongly encourage you to rethink the “hiding my identity here” choice. You have a much better chance of people seeing your point of view if they hear it coming from someone they know to be generally reasonable and kind. Hiding behind anonymity does your viewpoint a disservice (you’re now a complete stranger spouting opinions many find unpleasant, and have made clear you’re intentionally hiding your identity to do so), versus someone whose intentions and thinking they have a better understanding of.

GigglyPuff May 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm

I find it interesting that many who call for these restrictions to be abolished have no patience to have an honest discussion of the why on the other side.

See for me, it’s the complete opposite. Where I am, where I was raised, who my family is, are completely irrational when it comes to having discussions like this. I do think name calling serves no point other than fueling the fire (and yes, I’m aware I used jerk for the coworker). And I think you laid out your opinion nicely, and I wish I could have civil conversations about topics like this with people like you, who stay calm. But unfortunately for many, on both sides, have encountered uncivil discussions on the topics, which shape how they react now.

KJR May 7, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Homosexuality is no more a belief, opinion or choice than heterosexuality is. How old were you you when you made the “choice” to be straight?

some1 May 7, 2014 at 3:13 pm

The point is, marriage is not “instituted by God”. People get married all the time in ceremonies that have nothing to do with God.

The issue with I have with people who are against same-sex marriage is they don’t seem to want to make divorce or adultery illegal, which are also big time no-nos in every faith I know of. (If I remember back to Catholic school, adultery is in the Top Ten)

Felicia May 7, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Also no one is talking about banning atheists from getting married, which would be the logical step if marriages are religious only

Libertarian May 7, 2014 at 1:52 pm

And the same things can be said about everyone else along the political spectrum.

We have become a heavily divided society, where everything is black and white, when it’s usually a shade of gray.

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thenoiseinspace May 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm

One of my favorite sayings, from my favorite tv show, Babylon 5: “Understanding is a 3-edged sword – your side, their side, and the truth.”

Kelly L. May 7, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I have never understood why some people make this false equivalence between bigotry and disliking bigots.

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CA Anon May 7, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Thank you. All opinions are not created equal–if you’re hurting people with yours, hell yes I’m going to judge you for it.

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Maria May 9, 2014 at 5:09 pm

It is a false equivalency insofar as “bigoted” has become, in our society, a highly subjective term.

Racists are bigots, no? So when Chris Matthews says people who didn’t vote for Obama did so because they’re racist, then that means everyone who didn’t vote for him is a bigot?

Racist, sexist, bigot, offensive (look at the title of this article) and the like are thrown around with much less care and discretion than they should be.

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Mike C. May 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm

There’s a huge difference between personally disliking someone, and supporting racist and hom0phobic figures.

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Sarah May 7, 2014 at 1:29 pm

What a surprise, a bigot who wants to remain anonymous, and who keeps attacking the OP in the comments. Alison, why don’t you block this person? They won’t even use their real name, and they are continually harassing the OP.

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Anonymous--Not a jerk May 7, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I’d love to know where I’ve attacked the OP. I’d also love to know where I’ve been a bigot. And it’s comments like this why I went anonymous.

And just to point out, how much do you really know about me? You seem quite confident in your labels, so I assume you know me very well.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I don’t read this as attacks on or harassment of the OP, although I agree with you that changing the user name is problematic.

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The Editor May 7, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Jumping in finally…

I guess I see both sides of this one. Obviously long-named Anon (great name fposte!) has stated reasons for doing what she did (fear of reprisal, loss of respect in a community, etc), and as I look over the comments, it sure seems justified.

I don’t know that I see how not using her usual username makes the comments less valid considering how we are all anonymous already (with the exception of the view that have their names linked out to emails and so forth). Anonymous is anonymous whether you go by your usual screen name or an assumed name for a topic.

At the same time, it would be nice to tie it back to prior knowledge of Anon to get an understanding of who and what she stood for.

But I hope the irony of that statement is not lost on us! It seems that is one of the primary points of Anon–That we are making judgdement calls with limited information.

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I’m going to agree with long-named Anon in that this isn’t an accurate characterization of her posts. I think she wants a discussion that’s not really on topic here, but she’s not being harassing or rude.

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Apollo Warbucks May 7, 2014 at 4:09 pm

All I’ve seen anonymous– not a jerk do is present a different point of view, one I disagree with but none the less polite and well considered.

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Fish Microwaver May 8, 2014 at 12:39 am

Well said Apollo.

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Apollo Warbucks May 7, 2014 at 1:21 pm

+1

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Elysian May 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm

This is a really long tread now, and its possible that no one will see this, but I want you to know that I agree with your premise that just because someone holds views different from mine, doesn’t automatically make them a jerk.

I feel very strongly that intelligent, kind people can hold differing views on complex social issues, and I would never label someone a ‘jerk’ just because their view is different from mine. They can be a jerk for a lot of reasons – they follow the party line and haven’t given the issue any real thought, they express themselves poorly and offensively, they actively espouse that inalienable traits make one person better than another – but just having a different viewpoint does not make someone a jerk.

I’ve heard so, so many people say things like “If only X was more educated or informed, she would know that voting Republican is doing her more harm than good” and “There’s a reason that the college-educated population votes mostly Democratic” and other such things. I am deeply distressed by those sentiments. I believe that they undermine our democracy in a very real way.

So yeah. Intelligent people can hold differing viewpoints on controversial issues. I’m with you on that one.

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Liz T May 7, 2014 at 6:01 pm

But this isn’t about political parties; this isn’t about us condemning a group. We’re condemning racist and homophobic actions and views. We’re not talking about any groups this person might belong to.

Alison has said, “Your boss is an ass” in response to many letters; this Anon has not (in my memory) come forward to call that label counterproductive.

The funny thing: this conversation hasn’t actually been particularly heated. Vigorous, yes, but not angry. I think it’s because these homophobic views in particular are getting less and less prevalent, with support for marriage equality stronger every time a poll asks. So, fret all you want about traditional marriage, Temporary Anon–your opinion matters less every day. Soon you won’t even have to worry about it.

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The Editor May 7, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Perhaps the writer is new-ish? Maybe she got tired of the labels or found this one particular offensive? Who knows?

I know for me, I’ve found this discussion more than a little disappointing from several aspects, and yes, the labeling is a big part of that. Regardless of the side, starting (or ending) any discussion with “jerk” is going to be bothersome in my book. It’s just not necessary, and the point of “bad boss” can be clearly and cleanly made without saying he’s a jerk or whatever else someone might say. That goes for any situation.

I might say, AAM, that putting “come on” after many of the previous replies seemed pretty dismissive and petty as well. It felt pretty different compared to your normal even-headedness. I’m sure plenty see it differently than I do, but that was my first thought.

Oh well, tomorrow is a new day. Back to work!

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 7:58 pm

“Come on,” to me, says “I would hope people engaging here would use a more thoughtful argument than what I’m responding to here.” I stand by my uses of it in this discussion.

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The Editor May 7, 2014 at 8:03 pm

I guess I can see that. To me it felt much more closer to saying something like “grow up.”

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Maria May 9, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Conservative female college student here. You are absolutely right.

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Celeste May 7, 2014 at 12:49 pm

OP, I understand your discomfort. But there is no “win” for you here, and you are doing everything right to move yourself out of there.

Use your time there to get a good reference, and some experience tolerating difficult people.

Finally, the Duck Dynasty worship only has the power that you give to it. Stop feeding that fire. It’s a show about some equally flawed people who have a little bit of fame right now. Be your awesome liberal self, and don’t think about this stuff just because it doesn’t help you do your job better to fret about the bobblehead.

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 1:03 pm

+1!

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Victoria Nonprofit (USA) May 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

It seriously took all my willpower to keep out of the off-topic thread about bigotry above. Your post was my reward for doing so. Perfect response. Thank you!

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Celeste May 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm

That is a lovely compliment, and I thank you for it!

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Lanya May 7, 2014 at 12:49 pm

I have a hermit crab paper weight on my desk. It probably freaks some people out, but I think it’s cool and it’s not going anywhere.

If someone asked me to put it out of sight because they didn’t agree with hermit crabs being cute, I would tell them to simply not look at it. It’s on my desk and it’s for me to enjoy and it’s not harming anyone.

It’s not an erotic sculpture or something really crazy like that!

I wouldn’t say anything if I were you.

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Cat May 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm

People don’t like hermit crabs? That said, I do think having a taxidermied tarantula or snake or rat would be kind of out of line since those are such common phobias.

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Lanya May 7, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I agree, those would be in a more sensitive category. My paper weight is sterling silver, so it’s kind of an art piece. But taxidermied anything is probably out of line. Even if it’s a squirrel riding a horse bareback!

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Apollo Warbucks May 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm

A horse riding squirrel would be really cool I’d live to see that

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A Bug! May 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Well, that would be just silly. A horse is way too big for a paperweight.

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JamieG May 7, 2014 at 1:19 pm

If you had a sterling silver tarantula paperweight on your desk, it’d still freak me out – art or not. I’d not demand you remove it as a coworker (well, I might try to convince you), but I’d definitely avoid the hell out of your desk.

And yes, animal is way different from homophobic figurehead.

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Jamie May 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Using JamieG’s tarantula example, so many of these things can and are worked out peaceably everyday. Sometimes I think if an alien dropped down from another planet and read the comments about some things they’d think all we did was refuse to change little things unless forced to by management or the law. And in practice that’s pretty rare – people make compromises for each other’s comfort all the time.

I had an Ace Frehely (KISS) action figure on my desk at a former job and one of my coworkers said in conversation that it freaked her out because she has a thing about clowns. (non KISS fans tend not to differentiate the make up from Ringling Bros.)

So I tossed it in my drawer for the day and took it home. It’s wasn’t my magic talisman and certainly didn’t give me so much pleasure to have it near that it was worth another’s discomfort.

I have a weird aversion to a certain food, so they make sure not to order from the place where it’s an issue for lunch meetings I have to attend. They can order from there any other time, so to have the lunch selection narrowed by one option 2-3 times a year isn’t a big sacrifice to them and it means a lot to me. That said, I didn’t request it*, certainly didn’t demand it…people who know and like you are happy to take this stuff into consideration when they can.

* Okay, once I bribed someone $20 to steer lunch in another direction but that years ago. Different people.

Just wanted to point out that people getting embroiled over inconsequential stuff happens a lot less than reasonable people making small concessions for each other.

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BCW May 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

See, even that I think is crossing a line. I hate spiders, but kind of like snakes. If someone had a tarantula paper weight, I don’t think its my place to tell them they have to remove it.

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Cat May 7, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Work isn’t a place to express all your personal tastes no matter what; sometimes you just need to suck it up and keep things minimally offensive until you get home.

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BCW May 7, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I’d hardly call an animal “offensive”. If someone hates dogs, can people not have a picture of a dog? Whats on my desk is on MY desk. Unless people MUST pass my desk and I have something somewhere where they can’t help but see it, its fine. People have all kinds of random stuff on their desks, and unless I’m specifically at their desk, I rarely see it. People need to kind of get over themselves and stop thinking that their happiness trumps all.

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Cat May 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Well, if you’re in a job where other people rarely see what’s on your desk, fine. But in a lot of jobs other people are constantly having to come up to your desk and, in fact, part of your job is encouraging people to come up to your desks. In that case, it’s reasonable to expect that you don’t make it unduly unpleasant for other people if you can avoid it with little or no effort or poor affect on your work (and seriously, the amount of effort and affect on your work in not having, say, a taxadermied tarantula on your desk is at the very highest, zero).

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Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 1:43 pm

But why would he have to do that? Where do you draw the line? If Suzy has a photo of her kids on her desk, but Marjorie is battling with infertility, should Suzy have to hide her picture?

I had a very religious coworker who had a small icon on his desk. I’m atheist. I didn’t care one bit about what he had on his desk – as long as he didn’t try to push his views on me, he could have had an entire church there.

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Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm

As an aside, because I think most AAM readers haven’t been exposed to Orthodox customs, this is what I am talking about: http://assets.crafty.ro/produs_39055/img.G8rwazJiRE.jpg

Cat May 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm

It’s a rule of reason, not a bright line standard. Kids and families are an intimate part of people’s lives, and one we view as important to protect. They’re also relatively unlikely to upset most people. So you don’t ban family pictures, no. Tarantulas are highly likely to be upsetting and usually not an important part of people’s lives, so you probably do ban them. (And sure, if someone really, truly believes that their tarantula is their most important relationship and it doesn’t bother anyone in the office, by all means, make an exception!)

Life isn’t black and white, but sometimes you do actually have to make determinations. I mean, do you think it would be okay for someone to display porn at their desk? What about snuff porn? What if they really, really love porn? There are lines.

Lanya May 7, 2014 at 3:01 pm

I work in the U.S. and I have kept a small Orthodox icon on my desk in plain sight for the last 8 years. Nobody has ever had a problem with it or asked me to move it. I have had some people ask me what it was or why I have it there, but I’m pretty sure those questions were out of genuine curiosity, not because they felt uncomfortable.

fposte May 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm

I’m with BCW–unless this is a closely shared space or a client-facing spot, you can have a dead tarantula if you want it, and that’s not offensive.

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Cat May 7, 2014 at 1:49 pm

I think it’s “offensive” in the sense that it’s highly likely to make the space unpleasant for a lot of people and outweigh it’s benefit to the owner. But I’m willing to accept that there are workplaces where this isn’t true. In general, it strikes me as an insane thing to have in an open space though.

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A Cita May 8, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Agreed. I have a severe spider phobia (even have nightmares about them), and I don’t have a say in whether someone has a stuffed spider, a real live pet spider in a box, etc at their desk. And I’d feel like an awful ass if I did try to have a say.

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Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm

How is a snake offensive? Or a cat, or a spider, or a butterfly? I think butterflies are disgusting (those hairy bodies, ugh), but I just look the other way if someone has one of those horrible butterfly cases. Policing the world is a non-stop job and it doesn’t help anyone.

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Del May 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Spiders are a fairly common subject of phobias — and I don’t mean “eeew that’s icky” phobias but full blown panic attack level phobias.

If you had someone in the office dealing with that, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say “Hey, can you not have that on display?” It would be part of reasonable accommodation.

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Cat May 7, 2014 at 2:13 pm

And even if it just makes people avoid the space, like JamieG said she’d do above, that’s a problem if part of your job is having other people come to your space. Sure, you have every right to just not hire/fire people who have problems with tarantulas, but if you’re not a tarantula-focused organization, why?

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KJR May 7, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Arachnophobe here, and “tarantula focused organization” just made me shiver!!! They had a spider category on Jeopardy! The other night and I had to close my eyes every time they read a clue in case they showed a picture!

Jessica (the celt) May 10, 2014 at 1:08 am

@KJR I’m glad I didn’t see that Jeopardy!, or I’d have been right there with you. If there’s something on TV where a spider is likely, I make my husband watch for me and I will only look if it’s safe. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have spider nightmares tonight from all the spider reading I’m doing on here right now. *shivers*

fposte May 7, 2014 at 2:14 pm

“Reasonable accommodation” has a specific legal meaning, though, and this isn’t it.

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Del May 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Removing a non-essential item that is triggering panic attacks for an employee does seem like it would fall under reasonable accommodation in the legal sense, yes.

Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 2:28 pm

The panic attacks would have to be covered under the ADA though. (They might be; I’m not sure, but am not assuming it.)

fposte May 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm

But it doesn’t. There’s no automatic qualification under the ADA for anything but HIV, so merely having panic attacks doesn’t invoke it, and the accommodation process is not between the employee and her co-worker but the employee and the job.

The law is not going to say that your co-worker has to remove a tarantula if you ask her. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask her; most such arrangements are worked out between humans without regard to the law.

fposte May 7, 2014 at 2:32 pm

To clarify, I’m not saying panic attacks *don’t* qualify, either, it’s just that the mere existence of a medical term for a problem doesn’t mean the person dealing with it reaches the standard of the ADA.

BCW May 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Well, that is the responsibility of the person to tell the tarantula owner that it will cause a panic attack. It shouldn’t be a blanket statement that you can’t have those things. People have a lot of random phobias. One can’t be expected to just be aware of all of them.

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Cat May 7, 2014 at 3:25 pm

In any group of more than, oh, 10 people you’re reasonably assured of having someone who’s terrified of spiders. That’s why I think it’s a pretty reasonable automatic exclusion.

BCW May 7, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Scared of spiders and would cause a legitimate panic attack are very different.

Cat May 7, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Yeah, I don’t think “causes a panic attack” is the line here. May be a legal one (or not), but from a workplace perspective, I think the bar is a lot lower.

BCW May 8, 2014 at 7:53 am

Again though, thats on the person to ask to remove it, not me to just assume that people have this phobia.

JamieG May 7, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Offensive isn’t the right word for the hypothetical dead animal conversation, though. I mean, it’s not like the reason I’d go as far as necessary out of my way to avoid the desk with a spider on it is because one killed my family, or because spiders have a long history of oppressing humans or something. It’s because I have a thus-far uncontrollable physiological and psychological reaction to spiders. Seeing one, at a bare minimum, puts me on edge for literally hours. If there was any way of doing my job without having to go near the spider, I would. If there wasn’t, I’d very pointedly not look anywhere near it while trying to do my job and also trying not to cry. It wouldn’t be pretty.

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BCW May 8, 2014 at 7:55 am

“An uncontrollable physiological reaction”? Really? For a creature that most people get in their homes fairly often, I would guess that would make it hard to live. I get not liking them. I really don’t like them at all myself. But I mean if you saw one, could you really not just compose yourself and walk away?

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KJR May 8, 2014 at 8:55 am

I do as well BCW! It’s horrible and embarrassing. I’ve got stories…I honestly can’t help it. That’s the nature of a phobia. I’d love to get rid of it, but frankly, I don’t have the time or money for systematic desensitization, which is a proven treatment. You should be very grateful you don’t have a phobia, they are no fun at all…especially since as you point out spiders are fairly common. It would be much more convenient if I were kangaroo-phobic or something!

Jamie May 8, 2014 at 10:33 am

@BCW phobias are irrational fears.

Like you spiders squick me out and if I can wrangle someone else into doing the squishing I will, but if not I can deal.

But for people who have phobias, and this is a common one, it’s an entirely different story. If you could logic yourself out of a phobia or aversion none would exist.

A Cita May 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Yeah, phobia is different and I have a phobia. And like KJR says, it’s soooooo inconvenient to living a regular normal life! Add on top that I don’t kill them (I can only kill flies, mosquitoes, fleas, and cockroaches without guilt–don’t ask; I’m weird), I sometimes feel held hostage if one gets into my bedroom (nope, not going in there….no sleeping that night, I guess). That said, I agree with you. If it was an issue, I’d take it up with the coworker directly (although I actually wouldn’t because I’d feel ridiculous). But blanket policy? No.

Jamie May 8, 2014 at 12:48 pm

If it were me (although in a million years you won’t find decor containing them in my office) I’d feel bad if you didn’t mention it.

As I posted elsewhere, I had an KISS action figure on my desk and a co-worker mentioned it freaked her out because of the makeup and her clown phobia. I tossed it in a drawer and took it home.

It certainly wasn’t more important to me than the comfort of someone I liked and worked with and I was glad she told me. People make little concessions for each other all the time.

Oh and I just thought of another thing – I had wallpaper of a pigmy octopus because it was totally adorable, to me, freaked out one of my coworkers so I changed it. She didn’t have a phobia, just squicked her out – no skin of my back and guess what I found on my desk about a week later? A toy octopus from Finding Nemo wrapped in a ribbon. :)

Little reasonable concessions make life so much easier for everyone.

Jenna May 9, 2014 at 11:11 am

If I had something decorative and personal on my desk that was making a coworker uncomfortable, phobia or not, I’d remove it. I’d remove it even if I disliked that coworker, or thought the request was silly. I’m at work to work, and I can decorate my home any way that I please, instead.

Also, phobias aren’t just “not liking” something. I have problems with heights. I cannot get above the level of about two steps up on a ladder, and even at that height I require something to hold on to. I don’t tend to be the one in my house who changes lightbulbs. I get dizzy, my stomach feels like it drops, and my sight starts to waver(best description I have).
There are people with physical reactions to critters, too.
I’ll take care of relocating the spiders or bugs for them, if they will do all the high place stuff for me, and it all works.

Mike C. May 7, 2014 at 1:11 pm

I don’t think this is a good comparison until hermit crabs start being used as symbols of larger, more contentious issues.

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Lanya May 7, 2014 at 2:39 pm

I agree, but the point I was trying to make is that what I choose to have on my desk is my business, whether it’s a hermit crab or the Duck Dynasty guy. Don’t like it? Don’t look at it.

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Mike C. May 8, 2014 at 10:11 am

That sort of reasoning means I should be allowed to hang pornographic posters in my cubicle.

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A Cita May 8, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Crabs can be creepy little buggers, though.

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Sunflower May 7, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I went to a university that had a giant scandal involved with the cover up of child abuse and there was a lot of blame thrown around. One particular person, who was not abusing any children, got a lot of flack for what happened but many people still respect him. If I had a bobblehead of him on my desk and someone told me to remove it, I’d tell them to shove it. And yes I would go to HR and make sure I was able to keep it.

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Victoria Nonprofit (USA) May 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm

One of my favorite things about leaving Philadelphia was escaping from the Penn State Joe Pa apologists.

I love Philly, but it was infuriating to be surrounded by so many people who refused to acknowledge that their hero had flaws.

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Celeste May 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Oh, you’ll love this, then. I had plans to stay with a friend from childhood when the scandal broke. Her husband is the king of the Joe Pa apologists.

It was a much longer weekend than I had ever expected it to be.

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CA Anon May 7, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Seriously. How is a man’s football career more important than the fact that he covered up and facilitated the rape of dozens of children? I really don’t get it.

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Sunflower May 7, 2014 at 3:10 pm

And I am entitled to my opinion and you to yours. If I had one(I don’t have anything on my desk), I would choose to put it there to represent the good things he stood for. But basically, point being, you can’t ask someone to remove something because you associate negative connotations with it. And if it’s interfering with your ability to work, you might have bigger problems to worry about

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CA Anon May 7, 2014 at 4:44 pm

I wasn’t really commenting on the presence of a theoretical bobble head or whether you should be required to remove it. I was just expressing frustration and incredulity at the larger question of why/how anyone still supports that man, given everything he did and allowed to happen under his tenure. It boggles the mind.

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Forrest May 7, 2014 at 6:09 pm

Sure you can ask. There’s no law against it

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C Average May 7, 2014 at 1:27 pm

. . . and I have a Barack Obama action figure on my desk!

I am a shameless fangirl of our president, and I don’t care who knows it; however, those who know me well enough to know my politics know I’m actually the elusive purple voter, thought by many to be extinct.

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Katie the Fed May 7, 2014 at 1:41 pm

You know, I get what you’re trying to do here, but this really delegitimizes the OP’s concerns. A bobblehead of a person whose views you find offensive is not a hermit crab. Comparing the two really says “I find your complaint silly and not worthy of discussion” The fact is – it’s something that’s offensive to the OP. Whether or not we agree that we would also be offended, we can certainly empathize that TO HER it’s offensive for the reasons she stated, and advise from there.

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Victoria Nonprofit (USA) May 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Agreed.

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Lanya May 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm

I understand your viewpoint. I think where we differ is that I think it’s inappropriate for the OP to be taking someone else’s decorating choice so personally. Yes, it’s a volatile issue, and she has every right to not agree with her boss’s values…but I think it’s going too far to ask him to remove the bobblehead because it makes her feel uncomfortable. Life is uncomfortable!

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Sunflower May 7, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing here OP. Like Allison said, you’re in a hostile work environment and the hostility sounds like it’s coming from a lot of different places- preferential treatment to men, bosses lashing out at you. Do you know other’s who feel the same way as you? Maybe a group of you could address HR as a group but since it sounds like you’re already on your way out of here, I’d advise you deal with this the same way I deal with people with differing views in real life: just ignore it.

Also, maybe it’s just me, but unless the bobblehead is wearing a shirt that says ‘I hate gay people.’ it’s not exactly putting his views on display.

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Taking a step back from the situation, I think a lot of my knowledge about his personal viewpoints stem from what co-workers have shared with me, some articles that have popped up on Facebook (“Homosexuality is threatening the sacred institution of marriage!” “The secular is ruining our Christian nation!” Etc). I agree with most everyone on this thread: I am taking this waaay too personally and seeing The Bobble Head as more as it should be. What can be accomplished by me raising concerns about it? Nothing. It’s not worth the effort to report it. When I wrote the question, I even doubted that it was worth addressing and, looking back on it, I feel like I should have just written this as an email to myself and called it a day. :P

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lachevious May 7, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Your letter inspired quite the discussion, I’m glad you sent it in – and I am sure everyone else is, too :)

I have nothing to add except that I am sorry that your boss makes your working life so unpleasant. I hope your situation improves quickly!

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The OP May 8, 2014 at 9:42 am

Leaving out bad cultural fit, I think most people would say this company is awesome. The majority of my co-workers are wonderfully friendly people and management champion a work life balance. I take personal issue with this guy for his viewpoints, but that’s just it- it’s personal. I can absolutely work with him on a professional level and make suggestions in a professional manner if I feel something has been neglected (example: “I noticed in the marketing personas, there isn’t an X person. As a majority of our target demographic is X, I think it would be beneficial for us to include them in the document”). I think I made a mountain out of a mole hill with the bobble head because, as we’ve all noted, it really wasn’t the bobble head that bothered me- it was my decision to use it as a sort symbol for view point I find problematic. #notcool

Which leads me to ask myself why I sent this question in to Alison because even I’m laughing at myself- I asked her about a bobble head? Really? I think what I really wanted to happen was an attempt to recognize their bigotry: 1) really, really not okay and 2) WTH- this is not the environment or my place to do that and I’m somewhat bothered that I thought it might be.

I can’t believe so many have commented on this(!) an I really appreciated the discussion on both sides of the argument. As I stated before, until classes start, I need to do the following: be friendly, be courteous, be professional, focus on doing the best work possible, take responsibility for what I can, and only react/address to things presented directly towards me in the workplace.

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lachevious May 8, 2014 at 4:53 pm

From your comments, you sound like an awesome coworker :) I hope everything works out for you!

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KarenT May 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Alison didn’t say the OP is in a hostile environment, presumably because that has specific legal standards and implications. I think Alison was just pointing out that the OPs bigger concern is her overall environment, not just the doll.

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Victoria Nonprofit (USA) May 7, 2014 at 1:50 pm

I actually think the OP’s coming departure gives her more of an opportunity to raise objections than she otherwise would have.

I agree with everyone else that the bobblehead is probably not the hill the OP wants to die on, but preferential treatment for men could be (it surely would be for me).

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Barbara in Swampeast May 7, 2014 at 12:53 pm

OP, please realize your reaction to the bobble-head is 100% controlled by you. You don’t have to like it, but when you become upset every time you see it, you are giving away your power. You are allowing something that someone else does to affect you negatively. Please learn not to give away your power. You can control how you react. Really think about why the bobble-head bothers you so much. Maybe it is just the focus for all the negative vibes in the office. You seem to be a fish out of water there and maybe need to look for a place where you fit in better.

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Kay May 7, 2014 at 1:11 pm

This is such a great point. My mother used to give me the same thought line in elementary school when other kids would tease me. “If you feel bad about what they’re saying, then you’re giving them power over your emotions. People that act that way do not deserve that kind of power. Don’t *let* them affect your feelings”.

And my personal favorite quote on the topic:
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

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Del May 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm

I tend to look at that viewpoint with a great deal of caution. While it’s fine for minor things like schoolyard teasing, it really breaks down when you start getting into behaviors that are actually harmful (hostile environments at work, abusive situations, etc.)

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the invisible one May 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm

I despise those lines. They enable bullying and blame the victim for being hurt by somebody’s deliberately hurtful actions.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words … will make me believe I deserved it.”

Verbal abuse and emotional abuse hurt. They just don’t have visible bruises, so a lot of people think they’re not “real” somehow.

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Del May 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Yes, thank you. This is very well worded.

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Jamie May 7, 2014 at 2:57 pm

I agree with this to a point. I don’t like the “he made me angry” because it seems to imply I’m at the mercy of other people’s actions, but as Mike mentioned below – if people do stuff to hurt you it hurts. Humans react to things and feelings are valid.

What I won’t tolerate is the line of thinking that goes with giving up power. “I wouldn’t have yelled, hit, stomped if you didn’t make me so angry.” We all need to control actions regardless of how valid the emotion is.

I also hate “he makes me feel stupid, worthless, etc.”. I know it’s hard when being bullied or abused, but we cannot let anyone else determine our worth or make us less than. That is a dangerous abdication of personal power. And I know it’s easier said than done and it’s extremely complex, but I just hate to see anyone put their self esteem in the hands of another.

The idea of not giving people power over our emotions is good, as long as it’s not used to absolve people of abusive actions.

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the invisible one May 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

If you hear something repeated often enough, it becomes true. There’s also the faux-compliment side of repetition, where somebody goes on about how they like you/love you/will be your friend, despite [list of flaws]/if you change something about your personality/if you do something you’re not comfortable with. That’ll leave a person thinking they’ll never find somebody else who could possibly like them, because look at all those flaws or things they need to change to be worth friendship with; they must be a horrible, difficult person. Or, contradicting your own observations: no, they don’t actually like you, they’re just pretending they do to be polite because you’re part of this group, actually you are the most socially awkward and stupid person ever, and if you ask them about it they’ll deny it because they’re pretending they like you to be polite. That’ll leave a person unwilling to reach out to a friend who might be able to help them.

“Girls just aren’t good at math. Look at how few there are.”

“Girls just don’t have what it takes to be a programmer. Look at how few there are.”

“Girls aren’t strong enough to be leaders. Look at how few there are.”

“Why aren’t any women applying for these jobs? There aren’t enough women in technical or leadership positions.”

It’s so easy to tell somebody to not put their self-esteem in somebody else’s hands. It’s so hard to resist the constant wearing-down of being repeatedly told you are “less than”, or being repeatedly told that you’re delusional or overreacting for insisting that you are not “less than”.

Repeated words, especially repeated words from many sources, and most especially repeated words that are nowhere near as direct as the above but contain those underlying assumptions, can make a huge difference in someone’s internalized attitude.

Bullying isn’t an isolated incident of somebody being a jerk. That’s easy enough to ignore. It’s a pattern, and the more skilled bullies know how to make each individual instance look minor when considered in isolation, so the victim has a much harder time getting support and is instead told to not overreact, to not let the bully get to them, that it’s their fault for being hurt by that one little incident.

“I wouldn’t have yelled, hit, stomped if you didn’t make me so angry.” — that is a classic abuser’s way of blaming the victim and controlling their behaviour. They’re usually not actually out of control angry. If it’s a kid and they’re acting out due to real anger, they need to learn to deal constructively with their anger.

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KrisL May 7, 2014 at 8:51 pm

As a woman, if I hear something like the above statements about girls, I’m more likely to roll my eyes and think “Seriously? Whatever.” Then again, I was raised to believe I could do just about anything I set my mind to (within reason), so I guess it’s not a sore spot for me. If I was spending time with people who said this type of thing a lot, I’d probably have to say something like “Really? I’ve always been good at math.” or something similar.

I guess I tend to think of people like that (those who act like females aren’t perfectly capable of getting things done) as being a little backward in some ways.

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the invisible one May 7, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Yeah, the direct statements are obvious enough that a lot of people notice them and they’re a pretty clear marker of backward thinking. They can still be damaging if you don’t know (and believe) how wrong they are. The more subtle ones are also very damaging. Male programmer does something: no comment, because it’s assumed that they’d be able to do that. I do the same something: “wow, you’re good at programming!” Implication: male programmers are nothing special, female programmers are exceptional, therefore (most) women aren’t good programmers.

And yes, I’ve had people tell me I’m looking for something to get offended by for finding what is presented as a compliment to be demeaning. How about if you compliment somebody whose first language is English on how well they speak English? That has been known to happen to people with non-white skin. It’s a compliment! But it’s built on toxic assumptions. And stuff like that gets even more damaging when people tell you that the icing on that lump of toxic sludge makes it all good and you should eat it with a smile and pretend it’s a cupcake. Because after all, it’s a compliment, and if you object to the toxic sludge of assumptions underlying the icing of the compliment, you’re overreacting, looking for something to get offended about, shrill, and your opinions are not worth listening to. And so the toxic sludge doesn’t get cleaned up, and it festers.

And, for a sufficiently unconscious and unexamined level of *-ism, it was probably genuinely intended as a compliment.

Anyhow, to bring it back to “he makes me feel worthless”, it’s no one blatant statement or action that does the job. It’s thousands of them, each individually “not worth getting upset over”, that can make a person start to doubt their own self-assessment. It sneaks up on you, and each little step is no big deal on its own.

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Your programmer comment reminds me of this article: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/01/programmer_privilege_as_an_asian_male_computer_science_major_everyone_gave.html

The author argues that there is a technical privilege to overrepresnted groups in CS (ie, Asian and white males) and that competence is assumed because they look the part of a programmer.

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the invisible one May 8, 2014 at 1:24 am

Yup, that’s exactly the opposite side of the coin.

S May 8, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I know this is very off-topic (and late!) but I have to say, thank you thank you thank you for this comment. I think it’s the same concept as cat-calling – people have this “lighten up, it’s a compliment” attitude, especially if it’s something like “hey, beautiful” rather than something super aggressive/overtly sexual. But it’s all built on the same assumptions – that because I’m a woman in public, my body is open for discussion, that I owe this person my time to listen to them, that I would care about a stranger’s opinion of my looks (I guess because women’s value lies in their looks…?), etc.

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Mike C. May 7, 2014 at 1:14 pm

I’m always confused about these posts – if someone punches me in the gut, it’s going to hurt and I have no control over that.

Are you trying to say that outward emotions/reactions are to be repressed regardless of what is being felt inside, or that you need to repress what is inside as well?

I see posts like these from time to time, so I’m seriously just curious.

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BCW May 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Yes and no. I think a physical reaction and an “offended” or “annoyed” reaction are very different. I can’t choose the fact that getting punched will bother me. I can choose how much I let stupid comments bother me. Its like this. Im a black guy. Some racial comments bother me. Some racist jokes don’t. That line isn’t the same for everyone, but I know that I could choose to get all high and mighty and offended over everything, but I don’t.

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MousyNon May 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm

But I think the key point you made here is “some racial comments bother me,” the point being that that line does indeed exist somewhere for everyone. I agree that we don’t know where that line is for someone all of the time (though I’d argue there are reasonable lines to draw more generally), but there does exist a point where you CAN’T control your emotional reaction (i.e. you’re upset/offended/angry) and that I think is Mike’s point. Maybe the bobble-head doll is over the OP’s line (or maybe that, in combination of all with all of the other behaviors), but either way, I’ve always found it a bit unfair to blame the offended person for their reaction than focusing instead on the offense.

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Mints May 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Yeah that’s what I was thinking too. You could choose to be more offended by reacting more strongly. But I don’t think you can feel less, offended if the thing is over the line (wherever that personal line is). You can choose how to act on those feelings though

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A Cita May 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm

My guess is reaction (vs feelings) is actually the crux of “don’t give away your power.” Although I think some people misunderstand that as an attitude of shrugging it off. I don’t think you give away your power when you feel hurt or upset. I think how you decide to act on it (including inaction) might though. For the OP, giving away power might be not looking for another job, not blocking the director’s posts from her feed, etc. But feeling upset by something that is upsetting is not giving power away. And in fact, I’d argue that for some issues, it’s very important to get riled up (in a positive way).

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JAX May 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Well said.

We live in an age where people let themselves be controlled by their emotions. The same self-control that keeps you from going off on your boss when they are overly harsh about a mistake you made can be extended to every other of life.

Every reaction we have is rooted in a choice. We may make a foolish choice (like punching a wall when angry) but it’s not a pure emotional reaction that we have no control over. Somewhere in your head you said, “I’m going to punch this wall!” and you chose to do it.

So when someone says something offensive, we’re all making choices to either become offended or to roll our eyes and let it go. Sure, we’re feeling an emotional response to it, but we’re choosing how we’re going to handle that emotion.

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Mike C. May 7, 2014 at 2:25 pm

We live in an age where people let themselves be controlled by their emotions? What age has this never been the case?

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JAX May 7, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Umm…much of history. Having the time, freedom, and luxury to work oneself into a frenzy over things like word choice is a modern thing.

Also most religions focus on perfecting oneself to a higher state that is in control of base emotions. Historically, it’s been a goal of humanity to not rage and act like animals.

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Kelly L. May 7, 2014 at 3:12 pm

There were whole bloody religious wars over minor differences in textual interpretation.

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Esra May 7, 2014 at 6:11 pm

That’s not true at all, as Kelly L points out below. If anything, it’s less condoned than ever before to react to slights and word choice with violence.

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Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 1:19 pm

I don’t think it’s possible to 100% repress your feelings, but I do think they can be controlled to some extent.

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Jillociraptor May 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Ehhh…I’m going to go the other way on this one. OP, you do control your own reaction, but in my opinion there’s no particular virtue in seeing something you view as fundamentally unjust and staying silent about it. Deciding that this isn’t the hill you want to die on is a totally legitimate choice, especially if you think the guy is displaying it specifically to get a rise out of others. But not speaking up doesn’t make you “above it,” it just makes you silent.

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Mints May 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm

+1
I don’t actually think I can control how I feel. There are hateful things that make me feel physically ill, and I react personally to a lot of discrimination because it affects me personally. There are news articles that literally make me feel like crying because the discrimination is personal to me.

That said, I can control my actions in reaction to those things. I can think that my coworker is a racist and call him in asshole in my head without doing anything. In real life, I call people out sometimes, not every time, depending on the situation and whether it might be helpful. I don’t think it’d be helpful to OP confront the guy about the bobble head. But I’d suggest working on the exit plan

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MousyNon May 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Right, exactly. We can’t control being offended, upset, or angry, and I don’t think those feelings mean we’re giving our power away or anything like that–they’re feelings, and they’re legitimate. We can, however, control how we choose to act on those feelings.

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 2:13 pm

I think you (the general you) can *influence* how you feel, though, and that’s pretty rooted in scientific research–talking yourself up into a frenzy of indignation (not that I did that yesterday, nooo) is going to affect your feelings, just as talking yourself down from them will.

I think there’s a lurking secondary question here of whether you *should* decide to manage your feelings in some situations. I think there are a lot of situations where talking yourself down would be minimizing something (we see it in letters here), so I would say that the appropriateness is situational.

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Mints May 7, 2014 at 3:12 pm

That’s true; I’ve definitely tried minimizing my outrage when I don’t feel comfortable expressing it. I think that trying to keep feelings measured is reasonable to advise, but I take issue with the “you’re choosing to be offended” line. I think it’s like walking into a warm room, I can try to deal with it, or try to get used to the temperature, but I still felt the heat

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Jack the Brit May 7, 2014 at 12:53 pm

As a non-US reader, I would LOVE for someone to fill me in with some backstory on this. “Duck Dynasty” sounds intriguing!

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Sunflower May 7, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Just google ‘duck dynasty scandal’ or ‘duck dynasty anti-gay comments’

FWIW- I was thinking while reading this question that there are more than a few people who won’t have any idea what the LW is talking about

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Well, and I heard about the scandal (not even sure it merits the word, really), but I still mistake Duck Dynasty family images for ZZ Top.

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AAA May 7, 2014 at 1:31 pm

+1!
I don’t think I’d recognize a Duck Dynasty bobblehead. i might easily also thing ZZ Top. or Redneck Dumbledore.

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Victoria Nonprofit (USA) May 7, 2014 at 1:56 pm

If I ever decide to go anonymous on here I’m pretty sure I’m going to choose Redneck Dumbledore as my screen name. That’s amazing.

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AAA May 7, 2014 at 2:48 pm

:) It’s all yours, Victoria!

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Elysian May 7, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Now you’ve given it away, noooooo!

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A Cita May 8, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Well you could be Emo Snape.

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KimmieSue May 7, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Love love love “Redneck Dumbledore”. I will be stealing.

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Kelly L. May 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Redneck Dumbledore! LOL!

OP, there’s your angle. Try picturing the bobblehead as Redneck Dumbledore instead.

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Apollo Warbucks May 7, 2014 at 1:11 pm

The duck dynasty thing made the papers in the UK

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 1:32 pm

In case you don’t have time to end up in a Google rabbit hole, Duck Dynasty is a reality show in the US. This family lives in rural Louisiana and runs a very profitable business that sells duck hunting calls. The males in the family also look like ZZ Top background performers and wear a lot of camouflage. On the show, they push this very folksy, down-home, conservative Christian vibe and denigrate “yuppies.” The family’s very good at marketing itself and its products. There was a while where I couldn’t go to Walmart without seeing an entire section of Duck Dynasty memorabilia. It was (is?) a huge hit for A&E (the network that runs it).

The controversy was that the patriarch made a lot of controversial comments in an interview, including comparing homosexuality to bestiality, saying he never saw any discrimination against blacks in the South, and that blacks were happier under slavery and Jim Crow laws.

There was lots of outrage, sponsors pulled themselves from the network, the show was put on hiatus, etc. I think it’s mostly blown over at this point and the show’s back on the air.

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KarenT May 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm

This show is very popular in Canada. I was at the grocery store yesterday and there was a cardboard cut out of one of the Duck Dynasty guys with the face missing, so you could put your face in the hole and have your picture taken.

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Laufey May 7, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Did they leave the beards in?

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KarenT May 7, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Yeah it was a long beard and a hunting cap. I’m not familiar with the show, so I don’t know which guy it was. I did wonder how people would feel seeing this in the grocery store, due to the controversy.

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Laufey May 7, 2014 at 6:55 pm

To be honest, I think a surprising number of people either shrugged it off/didn’t care or didn’t know about it. I know a lot of my FB friends disregarded it as a publicity stunt, and many others were shocked that it was scandal (along the lines of “You people really didn’t know he already thought this? What were you expecting?”). My family talked about it briefly over the holidays, and while we are, in general, not big TV watchers but avid followers of current events due to jobs, there was a lot of “Who in Dante’s seventh circle are they?” or “They’re reality TV stars, what do you expect?”

I know there was a lot of media coverage and the internet was really outspoken about it, but it was just a blip on the radar for a lot of people (rightly or wrongly), six months down the road.

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 7:26 pm

Yeah, I had never heard of Duck Dynasty until the controversy.

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Vancouver Reader May 7, 2014 at 11:48 pm

It is? I guess I don’t get out from under my rock enough, but I can’t say I’ve seen any Duck Dyntasty paraphernalia here.

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Felicia May 8, 2014 at 12:37 am

I think it depends what part of Canada you’re talking. I’ve never seen any here, though people are aware of the show, even more so after the controversy

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Cath in Canada May 8, 2014 at 12:53 pm

My nephews (in North Van and Kamloops) absolutely love the show, and a couple of them have t-shirts. It seems to be huge in that early teens demographic. I’ve asked them why they like it so much, and they say “it’s funny!”, but they can’t explain why!

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Vancouver Reader May 8, 2014 at 8:06 pm

I’m in Greater Vancouver (hence the name), but I only know the show through my US FB friends, and they only mention the show as a “bang your head against the wall” thing.

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KarenT May 8, 2014 at 4:52 pm

I’m in Toronto, not Vancouver, so maybe that’s why.

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Felicia May 8, 2014 at 6:18 pm

I’m in Toronto too @KarenT. It’s always nice to “meet” a fellow Torontonian. I’m sure there are fans of the show here and people who agree to with what that guy said, but I’ve never seen merchandize

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EngineerGirl May 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm

All I hear is the OP’s opinion of the subject. They use the term “racist”, “homophobic”, “pro-life” without giving a single solitary example of it. How can I believe what you are saying? Are these things really what they are, or are you so intolerant that anything that isn’t the way you like it considered bad? Is it possible that **you** are the intolerant one? I can’t tell, because not a single example has any details / facts to it. That said, if you are so wound up about a bobble head does tell me that you are hyper-sensitive and trying to impose **your** standards on the whole office. Yes, I’d label you as difficult.
I’d take a bigger lead with how he treats people (not mentioned), how he treats others different than him (not mentioned). That’s where the heart lies and is a bigger indicator of how the office works.
There are a lot of different opinions in the world, and people are free to express them. Your willingness to slap negative labels on everything is concerning.
How about a dialogue instead?

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 12:58 pm

We generally take OPs pretty much at face value unless there’s reason not to. I don’t think we need her to list out specific racist, homophobic, or anti-choice statements in order to have that be believed.

(I do agree with you that her reaction to the doll is more intense than is warranted, but I read that as a reaction to the context the doll appeared in, not as an inability to judge what is and isn’t racist.)

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EngineerGirl May 7, 2014 at 1:03 pm

All I see is her opinion, not a single fact. That would make any HR person nervous. An here “context” is all opinions.

If she wants to go to HR, she needs to bring **facts** not her opinions of what things do and do not represent.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Yes, of course. But we’re not HR and she’s not filling a formal complaint with us. She gave a general lay of the land, which is reasonable.

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KJR May 7, 2014 at 3:59 pm

So we are lumping pro-life beliefs in with racism & homophobia?? Did I read that correctly?

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 4:25 pm

No, we’re not. More on this below, but I also don’t want to open up a discussion of abortion here.

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KJR May 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I don’t either. I see the context now, thanks.

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EngineerGirl May 7, 2014 at 1:01 pm

an environment that’s notorious for showing preferential treatment towards men

Again, no examples, only labels.

OP, can you give us some examples for perspective?

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Anonsie May 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

This irks me. If she said the company was known for nepotism and favored family/their friends, or they favored people from the same part of the country, or they favored a specific type of educational background, people wouldn’t be asking for evidence and examples to prove it. People might ask what they do specifically, but they still take it to be at least mostly true.

But once it’s sex or race, folks refuse to believe it until they see evidence. Then if you give examples, those are met with “well maybe that person really wasn’t as good and didn’t really deserve it.”

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EngineerGirl May 7, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Your examples are slightly more specific than just labels, but yes, I’d ask for more data. As Eric states below, many times people slap labels on things they don’t agree with. The charges are very serious and therefore deserve to be looked at a closer level.

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A Non May 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm

What charges? This is a post asking for advice about dealing with a work environment where stuff’s going on that makes the OP uncomfortable. No-one’s on trial, and there’s no need to cross-examine the witness in order to have a conversation about dealing with this kind of situation.

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EngineerGirl May 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm

“homophobic”, “racist” “pro-life”

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A Non May 7, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Statements that “I work with people who are thus-and-such” are not “charges that need to be looked at on a close level” unless you’re somehow in a position of authority and need to resolve the problem. We’re neither. We’re a blog community that is (trying!) to have a conversation about how to deal with these types of issues in general, when and where they arise. And they do arise.

I see down-thread that you’ve had bad experiences with people who throw accusations around to try to get away with bad behavior, and I’m sorry you encountered that. I’m also going to take your word for it that that’s how it happened, and not say “well maybe you really were being ____.” Because a) that would be rude and b) it serves no useful purpose here. Do you follow me?

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Elsajeni May 7, 2014 at 2:14 pm

If we were convicting this guy in a court of law, or if we knew his name and were planning to print a big ol’ full-page ad in his hometown newspaper saying what a racist, homophobic jerk he is, then yeah, I agree with you that we’d want to know more details and look more carefully at the situation before taking action. But when the only action anyone is taking is to say, “OP, your boss sounds like a jerk, that sucks, sorry you have to deal with it,” why do we need ironclad evidence?

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Anonsie May 7, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I was pretty sure this would be the response, actually, I debated addressing it initially. Because these aren’t charges– the letter writer isn’t going to the EEOC or otherwise trying to get compensation or leverage penalties against her employer, she is merely stating that she has observed a trend in the office that does not favor her. We wouldn’t start talking about burden of proof in this situation if she cited other causes, so I don’t get why she suddenly needs it now. It’s neither necessary nor possible to determine whether or not a company has a pervasive culture of favoritism on here anyway– you can either believe the letter writer or not.

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A Cita May 8, 2014 at 1:11 pm

The thing is, some OPs serve as metonym for broader issues. So since the advice for this specific OP is fairly general (as opposed to when an intervention needs to happen), then it really doesn’t matter if the claims are true or not. The post serves to answer the general question, so others who may be a similar situation can also receive advice.

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Jess May 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Well because in this case it seems like the OP’s description mixed in labels such as conservative and pro-life with terms like racist and homophobic. It’s hard to tell if she’s simply labeling his views as racist and homophobic because he actually is a racist and homophobe or simply because he espouses conservative opinions and OP assumes that conservatism = racism + homophobia.

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm

- According to his Facebook profile, he is conservative politically.
- He has shared articles expressing issues that have been categorized as conservative (pro-life, anti gay marriage, etc.)
- I realize the examples I provided seem to have no context to the bobble head. I think I listed them as a way to show my bias: I know he is conservative and somewhat outspoken about his views as I’ve seen it on the Facebook account’s newsfeed I’m instructed to use while at work.
- According to several co-workers, he’s expressed homophobic views in meetings.
- I did not say I believed the director to be racist. I stated he shared racist articles about Obama and described the bobble-head figurine as a “racist patriarch.”
- I think I meant to ask Alison if I should address the bobble head with HR because of the backlash Phil Robertson’s comments during his GQ interview as I personally find it upsetting and feared clients might as well.
- Unfortunately, my knowledge (and obvious frustration- #nogood) of his other conservative viewpoints definitely colored the question and made it waaaaay more tangled than it should have been (sorry Alison!).

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Anonsie May 7, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I’m just talking about the office culture comment.

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Aisling May 7, 2014 at 3:55 pm

If she said the company was known for nepotism and favored family/their friends, or they favored people from the same part of the country, or they favored a specific type of educational background, people wouldn’t be asking for evidence and examples to prove it.

I would. Are those “rumors” floating around, or are they actually backed up by fact? If they aren’t backed up by facts, I don’t believe them. This is why rumors are so damaging: so many people are willing to believe what they’ve “heard” without thinking about the telephone game – the one where the same info passes through 10 different people, and by the time it gets to the 11th person, the info has been changed because people didn’t hear it right, assumed something else, expounded with their own opinions, etc. It’s very dangerous to believe something like this without fact.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Rumors are not dangerous here. We don’t know this guy. We have no ability to harm his reputation by a single iota.

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Aisling May 7, 2014 at 8:50 pm

I was speaking generally, not about the topic at hand. But point taken.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm

EngineerGirl, I’m going to ask you to stop with this particular argument. Demanding that someone prove that their feelings are justified, calling them hypersensitive and difficult for having those feelings, and implying they’re intolerant for not wanting to be around ___ist stuff are all classic tactics used to silence people. You probably don’t intend it that way, but given the history of this type demand in contexts where people are dealing with bigotry, and given that we don’t typically make those demands of letter-writers writing in about less charged issues, I can’t welcome it here.

Thanks for understanding that.

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Victoria Nonprofit (USA) May 7, 2014 at 1:59 pm

This is a great, quick, kind summary of why these kinds of responses are frustrating. Thank you both for drawing a line and explaining it clearly and with generosity.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I borrowed that wording heavily from someone who emailed me to make a similar point, since I thought it was so well put :)

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EngineerGirl May 7, 2014 at 2:01 pm

I’m not intending that. But I’ve also had to live with someone that used this to gaslight. I was “intolerant” because I refused to help them with their own religion (by violating my own). I was “ageist” because I wanted to give closer review to someone with less work experience than someone with more experience. I was “racist” because I expected someone to speak the common language while in a group instead of using their own countries language with her two friends (not in private, but in front of everyone).

So yes, I look at these things hard because of that.

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Joey May 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Any truth to those things?

Are you arguing that you were tolerant?

Or that asking people to not speak their native language around non speakers isn’t problematic?

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EngineerGirl May 7, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Fair question. First, I shouldn’t ever be expected to violate my own religious beliefs to promote the beliefs of someone else. Second, a junior engineer requires more oversight because they lack experience. In this case, the engineer made several significant mistakes that required rework by me. Oh, and we missed schedule because of these mistakes. Third, in a group discussion it’s rude to speak to others in a language most don’t understand. It’s the equivalent of carrying on a whispered conversation in the presence of others. The labeling was just a diversion tactic to validate bad behavior. In the end, some of these problem employees were fired (not by me). Glad you asked for clarification.

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EngineerGirl May 7, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Oh, and I had to go through a full fledged HR investigation because these people filed charges against me. It was traumatic because the HR person mishandled it. She broadcast the charges to the entire upper management (but later when the results came it didn’t bother to update them that I had actually behaved appropriately). It permanently harmed my career.

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KimmieSue May 7, 2014 at 3:40 pm

EngineerGirl – I’m sorry, but I’ve worked at several global companies with tons of diversity. Its quite common for employees that share a common first language to speak to each other in that language. Business meetings, project updates, work-related emails – all are done in American English but certainly not all conversations. I’ve never felt insulted when I was in a room with others speaking a language I didn’t know or understand.

Zillah May 8, 2014 at 7:59 am

@ KimmieSue – Sorry, I’ve only just seen this subthread, but I’ve experienced this in a workplace before and I do think that there are times when it is inappropriate.

All conversations absolutely don’t need to be in English, but I do think that there’s a huge difference between two people having a conversation in Mandarin (for example) in a cubicle and having a conversation in Mandarin when they’re supposed to be communicating with someone who doesn’t speak it.

I think it really depends on the culture. I once worked in a school where people had conversations in Spanish during school hours so they could knock the non-Spanish speakers around them or gossip about their weekends without the kids or non-Spanish speakers understanding. (Yes, really.) I knew someone who spoke Spanish who got put in a room one day where people assumed she couldn’t understand them, and she came back to her normal room in tears because they were pretty vicious.

It happens in some work environments. I’m really glad that you haven’t experienced it, but there are situations where saying “No, you cannot speak in a language not everyone understands when you’re on the clock” makes a lot of sense.

Joey May 7, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Hmm I can’t tell if you are saying you were tolerant or that you shouldn’t be called intolerant when there’s a religious reason for it.

You do know that those types of language policies are frequently found to be illegal. I don’t know if this applies to you or not, but the only way that you wouldn’t run afoul of title VII is if theres a business necessity for it. It can’t be based on just rudeness.

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EngineerGirl May 7, 2014 at 3:28 pm

They are free to speak their own language outside of a group meeting. But when we are in a group meeting, and one person points to a non-speaker, makes a comment in their own language, and the others that speak that language giggle, that’s pretty pointed. It was making the non-speakers feel excluded (because they were excluded from the conversation). In this case it was causing divisions in the team based on language spoken (and race).

Arbynka May 7, 2014 at 3:41 pm

As someone who is on occasion guilty of speaking a language to another speaker in a group of non-speakers, I want to say I am not trying to be rude. This is gonna sound weird but often I would not realize I switched to Czech because I was still thinking and processing in English and vice versa. It is hard to explain.

Joey May 7, 2014 at 4:37 pm

I know what you mean. Switching languages is not always a conscious decision.

Although I do think telling someone not to speak their native tongue when its not a necessity is culturally insensitive and problematic since it assumes ill intent.

TFTF May 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Thank you. You are awesome.

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 1:06 pm

While some of what you’re discussing may be going on under the surface, her stated concern was that his postings on hot-button topics were appearing in the company feed, which is presumably not what the company intended its feed to be doing.

As noted, that’s on the social media settings rather than the guy posting stuff on his Facebook, but the OP’s concern seems to be less about the viability of, say, his pro-life stance than its inclusion in the company feed.

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Sunflower May 7, 2014 at 1:20 pm

I think the OP is operating the company’s page from a profile. The guy is friends with the profile. So his content isn’t getting generated to a large audience- only the person on the profile

It’s the same thing as running your side business fb page from your personal account. Only you can see your friends posts, people who ‘like’ your business page can not.

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Jen RO May 7, 2014 at 1:22 pm

I don’t think that’s the case. How is that even possible? Even if the FB profile is set up as a “person” and not a page, nothing that is not posted by the social media person (the OP) would appear there. I think the OP only *sees* those posts when using FB.

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Ah, I bet you’re right and I misunderstood (and revealed my FB naivete as well.)

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Eric May 7, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I don’t think you need specific examples. However, many people use the terms racist and hateful onto speech they simply disagree with.

The issue could be that the OP is having trouble working with people of an opposite political persuasion. That makes it more her problem and less a company problem.

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Mike C. May 7, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Many people also use the terms racist and hateful onto speech that is racist and hateful. Many people are also unable to recognize why particular speech is racist or hateful, or don’t understand the historical significance of particular symbols.

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CA Anon May 7, 2014 at 1:58 pm

+1

I can’t believe how many people showed up to attack the OP for this. “We don’t know if he’s **actually** racist or homophobic”–bullsh*t. This is an office that allows its employees to try and “save” unwilling coworkers. I’m pretty sure that the OP’s right.

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KimmieSue May 7, 2014 at 3:41 pm

+one million

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De Minimis May 7, 2014 at 2:16 pm

If the political persuasion is that in-your-face, it’s a company problem. The exception would be if the employer was an actual political/lobbying organization.

I’ve worked numerous places over the years and only have had a vague idea at best of the political leanings of some of my co-workers. And even then a lot of it was speculation on my part.

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 2:26 pm

It can be a company problem, or it can be a company choice. There’s no shortage of businesses that wear their hearts on their sleeves and on what they sponsor, and that’s true of anywhere on the political spectrum. It sounds like this business may very well be fine with not being politically neutral.

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BCW May 7, 2014 at 1:22 pm

I *kind of* agree with you. I have friends who post things on facebook about things, including President Obama that some would say are racist. As someone who has known the guy for a long time, I don’t think he is racist at all, but I do understand how to someone who doesn’t know him, it could seem like that. Thats why when you throw those words out there, it is hard to say what it really is, especially without specific examples.

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Alex May 7, 2014 at 1:50 pm

I interpreted this at first as you saying you’ve known Barack Obama for quite awhile, heh :)

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CA Anon May 7, 2014 at 2:13 pm

That’s why it’s helpful to differentiate between “someone who’s making racist comments” and “someone’s who’s a racist”–that way you can confront the problematic behavior without causing people to get defensive.

I’d argue that someone making racist comments about President Obama is a racist, but that label wouldn’t help me convince you to help your friend clean up his Facebook page. You’re emotionally invested in your friend and the cognitive dissonance between what he says online and the way he treats you means that you justify or explain away the problematic elements.

This is a really common psychological phenomenon (see any famous, popular person who gets caught doing something they shouldn’t: there are always supporters who try to explain away the event or ignore it because they don’t want to be wrong about a person they’re emotionally invested in).

Popular examples: Bill Clinton (liberals slut-shaming Monica Lewinsky, like it was her fault that he couldn’t keep it in his pants), Al Gore (pretending he never assaulted his massage therapist), Joe Paterno (as if his football career is more important that he covered up and facilitated the rape of dozens of children), etc.

This happens to everyone. The key is to recognize it, so that we can help those around us (or at the very least, stop making excuses for him), rather than burying our heads in the sand.

It helps us stop the “I know he seems like a sexist/racist/bigot, but he’s actually really nice” comments to others who’re offended by what they’ve said. It stops us putting the blame on those who are offended and lets us hold accountable those who do the offending.

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MousyNon May 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Why should we demand that level of specificity in this instance, when we don’t in most others? Why should this OP risk her job by providing “hard facts/examples” instead of the general lay of the land, just to satisfy your need to vet her point of view?

We’re not the OP’s HR department.

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Jamie May 7, 2014 at 3:06 pm

I agree with this. If I wrote in about how to manage a user who keeps making errors in their data I wouldn’t need examples, people would take my word that in my estimation the data is erroneous and that’s my problem.

If I were discussing it with said employee, or with my erp vendor to correct the mistakes, I’d provide specifics.

Every letter to Alison can’t be a dissertation with sourced facts and footnotes.

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LBK May 7, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Agreed completely. We don’t ever grill the OP about specifics and proof for any other situation or description of a coworker. It seems really weird to ask for it here.

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Chinook May 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm

“They use the term “racist”, “homophobic”, “pro-life” without giving a single solitary example of it”

Actually, this trio of words has been bothering me a lot. To me, it is a case of “one of these things is not like the others.” I would hope no one would mistake me for racist or homophoic (though maybe naive, ill-informed or culturally insensitive could apply), but I am most definitely pro-life. I come at that belief from a scientific as well as religious perspective based on when I understand life to begin and what makes a human a human and not an animal or vegetable. I also recognize that this belief then causes one person’s rights with another person’s rights and that it is a complicated issue (and support groups that support single mothers and those who have had an aborotion as a result).

The fact that people out there would then assume that I am a hateful jerk who should be lumped into the same category as racists, bigots, and others who espouse hatred actually hurts more than I could ever explain. It also makes it difficult to have a true conversation about the issue at hand for fear of having any opinion or fact I put forward ridiculed or outright dismissed because of beliefs.

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 2:34 pm

I referenced his pro-life stance as way to demonstrate his proclivity to being vocal about hot button issues that could be problematic as not everyone who works with him shares these views. I did not intend it to be a blanket statement that everyone holds this view is hateful jerk. I may not agree with it, but I do respect your opinion and I especially respect that you have obviously taken the time to really think about the issue as well and form your opinion. (I hope that doesn’t read as sarcastic- I do mean it in all sincerity.)

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some1 May 7, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Fwiw, this is how I took it, that you were putting some context in, not judging people who are against abortion.

I’m very liberal. A few years ago, I got a chain email from a client at work urging people to call their representatives and ask them to vote for the ACA. I agreed with the position, but I didn’t think it was appropriate to send political emails like that to professional contacts.

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CA Anon May 7, 2014 at 2:57 pm

You get lumped in the same category as racists because you’re actively trying to take away other people’s rights. You being anti-choice actively harms me and those I care about.

How would you feel if you were required by the state to complete a 24/7, 40 week long tissue donation to another human being? If doing so would compromise your health, job, family, and future?

Believe a fetus is a person? Fine. But I am a separate human being who shouldn’t be legally required to donate my time, tissue, and health. If it can live outside my body, then great. But you can’t force me to donate my kidney, blood, liver, or lungs to another person without my consent–so why is this different?

I am not an incubator–taking away my right to terminate a pregnancy turns me into a forced organ donor.

That’s why people lump you in with other bigots: you fundamentally believe they don’t have the same right to bodily autonomy as a man.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 3:01 pm

To be fair, I think it’s a little different — if you truly believe abortion is murder, it’s understandable that you’d oppose it. It’s different than racism or sexism in that you believe it’s about stopping a death. (To be clear, that’s not my stance, far from it. But I understand why people feel passionately when it’s theirs.)

However — unsurprisingly — I fear this has the potential to take us truly off track, so I’m going to suggest that we not get into an abortion discussion here, as difficult as I understand that it can be on both sides to resist engaging on.

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Chinook May 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm

AAM – thank you for articulating my point. I didn’t want to start a debate but just to make the point that it is a false equivalency but one that is often made. In any other forum, I wouuld have seen the OP’s comment and walked away because I would have not seen it as lumping together political hot button issues but as lumping those who hold those ideas into one group. But, because I know how civilized the conversations are here, I was hoping that the OP was making a point that I couldn’t see (which I didn’t until she clarified it. thank you – I never thought of them that way).

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BCW May 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm

While I completely disagree with the Duck Dynasty guy’s views, I don’t think that the bobblehead itself is offensive. I thought it would be something blatantly offensive. Its a popular TV show, and he is a character on it. I mean, if I had a Kramer bobblehead, would I have had to remove it after his comments came out? Unless you are going to ban bobbleheads in general, I don’t know that you have much of a leg to stand on here.

I get your issues with the newsfeed (although I don’t quite understand how you presented it), so why not just block his posts?

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JAX May 7, 2014 at 2:39 pm

I like the Kramer comparison.

Unless the director slammed the bobble head down on his desk and loudly announced, “That’s a damn fine man! I fully support everything he is saying!” all we can do is make assumptions about the deeper meaning (if any) behind the bobble head.

When the GQ article came out, Duck Dynasty was at the height of it’s popularity. It means a range of things to different people. Some people love it as a family show, some watch it just to laugh at it, hunters rally around it, and some latch onto it for Conservative Christian views. The director could have bought it for any of those reasons.

It’s not a swastika, a Confederate flag, or a recognized symbol of hatred and intolerance. HR (probably also Christian Conservative) would just raise their eyebrows and wonder why/how the OP thinks this is worth reporting.

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Abradee May 7, 2014 at 9:22 pm

I think this was mentioned above, but it’s the fact that this guy only prominently displayed the bobblehead after his insensitive remarks were publicized. If any of my coworkers had a Kramer bobble head (or even better, the beloved Kramer portrait) in their office, I wouldn’t think anything of it. However, if that same coworker didn’t have any Kramer merchandise in their office but suddenly went out of their way to put some on display the day after the guy who played Kramer went on that tirade several years ago, I would find that unsettling.

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Abradee May 7, 2014 at 9:27 pm

*I think this was mentioned above, but it’s the fact that this guy only prominently displayed the bobblehead after *the Duck Dynasty cast member’s* insensitive remarks were publicized.

Wanted to rewrite that first sentence after posting for clarity’s sake.

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klaygenie May 7, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Maybe you can find a similarly pro-LGBT bobblehead to put on your desk? :)

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C Average May 7, 2014 at 1:29 pm

One vote for Neil Patrick Harris or George Takei bobblehead. Or maybe Rachel Maddow.

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Moe May 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm
Moe May 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm
The OP May 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm

+1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1

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Turanga Leela May 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm

I actually love this idea. This could be a way of feeling like you’re responding without actually causing a fuss. It’s not obnoxious or passive-aggressive, just kind of cheeky. But be prepared to talk about it, since it might come up.

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Liz T May 7, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Or an Obama bobble-head, if you REALLY want to piss people off :)

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GirlEli May 7, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Regarding the Facebook part of the OP’s comment, I think that there is a misunderstanding here. What she wrote was:
“I manage our clients’ pages through a profile created by the employee before me. As the profile is ‘friends’ with him, every now and then, articles expressing hot button topics (anti gay marriage, pro-life, racist articles about Obama, etc.) pop up on the newsfeed.”
I am taking this to mean that the FB account she uses to log in to admin the company page, let’s say Jane Doe’s account, is “friends” with this coworker so she can see the things he posted in his own personal non-company FB profile and those posts show up in the newsfeed for the Jane Doe account. This wouldn’t mean that he’s posting things things on the company page, or in any way that’s directly tied with the company.
OP, is this accurate?

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Yes. Our company has once central account for all social media analysts. This profile appears as person”Jane Doe” and given access to clients’ pages as a manager. When you log into the account, you operate it as Jane Doe before selecting the page you wish to manage. The co-worker who created Jane Doe’s profile added some co-workers as friends, including the director. Director posted a few articles and they appeared in Jane Doe’s newsfeed. To be fair, Director has every right to share the content he wants on his personal page and I never would have been the wiser about the content if I didn’t log-into my client’s Facebook page using this method.

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Jess May 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I read it the same way you did. If that’s indeed accurate, OP, could you just go into the FB settings and block his posts from showing up in the profile’s feed? You don’t even have to go so far as to unfriend him; you can pick which friends’ updates you want or don’t want to appear in the feed.

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PM May 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Apparently tolerance ends with different views.

It’s sad that a thought criminal is at large.

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Mike C. May 7, 2014 at 1:34 pm

This is an incredibly lazy reading of the discussion at hand.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I understand what you mean here. Can you explain?

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PM May 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm

The self proclaimed “tolerant” segment can’t seem to stomach views other than their own.

One would think that tolerance was a little more inclusive and sturdy. But alas a wrongly placed bubble head and the witch hunt is on.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I want to better understand what you’re saying here. Do you advocate being tolerant of people who want to discriminate against Jews? What about people who don’t want to hire black people?

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PM May 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I want to better understand what you’re saying here. Do you advocate being intolerant of people who want to own duck dynasty bubble heads? What about other dissidents?

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Oh please. As it said in the post, it’s not about the doll.

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm

PM, I respect his rights to hold an opinion and to display the bobble head. However, I do have issues with his viewpoints as they impact work for clients (won’t include a person of color in a marketing persona, intolerance towards gay people, etc).

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PM May 7, 2014 at 2:28 pm

His own private views are irrelevant regarding his job assuming that he acts in a professional manner when he is at work.

Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm

The reason the OP knows about his private views are because he has discussed them at work. It is not due to mind-reading.

Anonalicious May 7, 2014 at 2:52 pm

@PM – I would say he’s not conducting himself professionally if he’s doing things that could hurt his company and cause them to lose clients.

S May 7, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Hold up – I’ve been reading AAM long enough to know the answer to “is it legal” is almost always yes, but doesn’t “won’t include a person of color in a marketing persona” clearly fall under the definition of illegal hiring discrimination?

Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 4:31 pm

It’s illegal if he won’t hire people of color. It’s legal to not include them in marketing materials though (which I think is what the OP meant here). It is, however, despicable, and something that could be used as part of painting a picture of his views and character.

KrisL May 7, 2014 at 8:59 pm

He won’t include a person of color in a marketing persona? I would have started with that. That’s so clearly wrong, that I hope there wouldn’t be much (or any) argument about that.

S May 8, 2014 at 10:11 am

If it’s more along the lines of not including POC’s in marketing materials, that makes way more sense (even though it’s obviously still really gross) – thanks for clearing that up. Either way, I agree with KrisL on this!

SerfinUSA May 7, 2014 at 3:12 pm

+1

I’ll never understand why we “tolerant” types are expected to tolerate bigotry and discrimination and the like.

“You keep using that word…I do not think it means what you think it means…”

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Katie the Fed May 7, 2014 at 1:58 pm

What witch hunt?

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BostonBaby May 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Well when you want me to tolerate what I view as intolerant, yeah my tolerance has reached its end and I’m okay with that. You can have your opposing opinions all you want, scream them from rooftops if you so desire. But once you decide you can keep something from someone else because of your opinion, you are intolerant and I am done tolerating you.

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Turanga Leela May 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm

This is well said. False equivalence is one of my pet peeves.

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm

You’re talking as if disagreement were the same thing as silencing. It’s not.

And so far, I haven’t read a single person say that this guy should have to remove his bobble head, so we’re apparently stomaching it pretty well.

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm

+1!

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Traveler May 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm

+ 2

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Mike C. May 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Oh, is this the “please be tolerant of other people’s intolerance” thing, or what?

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LBK May 7, 2014 at 4:19 pm

The self proclaimed “tolerant” segment can’t seem to stomach views other than their own.

Being gay or black is not a “view”. I think it’s pretty reasonable for me to think that I shouldn’t get rights taken from me.

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LBK May 7, 2014 at 4:21 pm

And furthermore I don’t think it’s “intolerant” of me when you look me in the eye and say “You are inferior to me” based on knowing exactly 1 piece of information about me, which is irrelevant to my character or overall worth. I don’t “tolerate” people who are condescending, rude, cruel, mean, or otherwise negative towards me, and I’m assuming you don’t either because you’re a human.

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Felicia May 7, 2014 at 4:26 pm

+1. It is not a “view” that I am a lesbian. I just am, the same way I have blue eyes, or curly hair. It is also not a “lifestyle”. I think being intollerant of the idea that I should have rights taken away is perfectly reasonable.

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KellyK May 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Yep, a witch hunt. Thinking something is inappropriate and asking whether it’s worth bringing to HR is *exactly* like falsely accusing someone of witchcraft so that they’ll be hanged, or like accusing someone of communism in order to destroy their career. Totally in the same ballpark.

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Annie O May 7, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I don’t fully understand the comment, but yay for a 1984 reference.

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Sam May 7, 2014 at 2:48 pm

I respectfully disagree. I think everyone has their own line drawn between “appropriate” and “inappropriate” or “jerk” and “not a jerk” and where we put those lines is all over the place and for some people it is as small as “I’m struggling with infertility and I’m upset by looking at other people’s baby pictures” while for other people the tolerance is much higher.
But that said, there are some pretty general things that fall on the “inappropriate” and “jerk” sides of pretty much everyone’s lines. Think about a giant swastika at a desk. We’d probably agree that that’s inappropriate and jerky at best, right? A Confederate flag would probably also fall on the inappropriate side for most people (albeit possibly fewer than a swastika).
I’m not comparing a Duck Dynasty bobble-head to these symbols, but making the argument that when a group of people are agreeing that certain symbols are generally (even if not universally) recognized as inappropriate, they’re not necessarily being intolerant thought police. It’s OK to judge racism as unacceptable. Racism is, in fact, generally (even if not universally) viewed as unacceptable, and it’s OK to say that and make judgments and decisions based on that.

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Liz T May 7, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Why are you being so intolerant of my intolerance for people’s intolerance? That’s really intolerant!

Oh no, now I’m being intolerant of your intolerant intolerance intolerance. Sorry about that?

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Also PM (changing my screen from above name from PM to not be confused with PM) May 7, 2014 at 7:27 pm

@PM the definition of tolerance does not include that tolerance needs to be absolutley endless. It has limits. Especially when confronted with highly intolerant views or people. “Tolerant” does not equal “push over with no limits”.

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Vanilla Bean May 7, 2014 at 1:32 pm

I’m kind of surprised no one else has brought this up, but this situation sounds like it’s a bad culture fit for the OP. If the OP is fairly liberal (just reading into what they wrote),then working in a really conservative workplace maybe isn’t the best fit for them because it could be pretty tense at times.

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 1:34 pm

+1

My friend worked in a very conservative office that had an annual company quail hunt. She hightailed it out of there as soon as she realized there was no way the culture was changing.

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fposte May 7, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Ooh. I don’t hunt, but I *love* quail. I would have overlooked a lot of difference to get the birds from there.

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Cody C May 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Fposte
I love quail too ( I prefer to walk through fields after mine – you haven’t been scared until a covey flushes right out from under your feet!!!) and I think in your post was an excellent message of why can’t we all pursue different roads to the same destination heck we get to hung up on words and their assigned meanings we need to have a new word created for “an agreement between two consenting adults to spend time together for financial and emotional support and comfort for a period of time up to and including death.”

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Cody C May 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Vanilla bean
I was just getting ready to say something similar. I think that is the state of our world today everybody needs to change for me ! Somewhere there is a balance between Rosa Parks and just finding another coffee house because you don’t like the way Starbucks does their frap.

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Vanilla Bean May 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Amen!

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KrisL May 7, 2014 at 9:02 pm

I don’t eat meat, and I wouldn’t hunt, but I’m not sure why the quail hunt was a deal breaker here, unless she was expected to hunt.

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 11:20 pm

It was just a cultural mismatch, overall. I don’t think she had any moral qualms against eating meat or hunting. From what she told me, it was just difficult fit in with her coworkers.

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Katie the Fed May 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Word. I’d be looking for a new job because this workplace sounds like every terrible conversation I’ve ever had with my awful uncle. I can tolerate that once a year at a wedding or funeral, but beyond that it exhausts me.

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Del May 7, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Sometimes you have to put up with unpleasant or poorly-fitting environments (ah, job shortage, how we all loathe you) because it is better than not having a job at all, but yeah, I hope the OP is looking for something better.

Been there and dealt with that, it was pretty unpleasant.

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Sanonymous May 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm

I have a very conservative friend that is pretty unhappy working in my generally liberal field. While she’s certainly not the only conservative around, I can see how it is isolating. I don’t think I would want to go into a field that was generally conservative – but then I’ve never been drawn to any, so I lucked out in terms of fit and culture.

Then again, I’m a liberal who watches Duck Dynasty when I can. I guess that makes me a fool, but I’d rather be judged by my voting than my ridiculous tchotches.

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Anonalicious May 7, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I think it’s fine for you to watch Duck Dynasty and still be liberal. We can all enjoy things that have problematic components, or people involved, and recognize they are problematic even as we enjoy the other parts.

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Kelly L. May 7, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Ayup.

/GameofThronesfan

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Nerdling May 7, 2014 at 5:30 pm

I work in a pretty conservative field, although I’m more liberal-slash-libertarian-slash-I don’t even know, exactly. In the larger offices I’ve worked in, there was a lot of diversity in people’s personal opinions, so everyone kept them fairly close to the vest.

Now, however, I work in a very small satellite office with some folks who have been here their entire careers, and it’s an EEO/OPR nightmare waiting to happen. I’ve been told how I should vote, that women’s sports aren’t real sports, been a captive audience (literally) to hours of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh despite the driver of the car knowing my feelings about them, had to listen to a tirade about how discriminated against white male Christians are (without a hint of irony)…

I keep my mouth shut almost all the time. Sometimes I go for walks to get away before I explode. Why? Because I know that I have thirty years or so until I’m eligible to retire. These guys? Have less than ten years until they’re *mandatory*. And it’s a small office. And I love my job — but it’s always going to tilt more conservative than liberal, so I just have to deal with that.

So, all that is to say, good luck, OP. I hope you’re able to find a new job in a more compatible environment soon!

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Liz T May 7, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Now I’m just imagining liberal/libertarian slash fiction.

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BethRA May 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Given the work environment and some of the behavior described (gender discrimination? Religious proselytizing? Racist and generally inappropriate social media posts linking to company pages?)
honestly I think the bobble-head would be the least of my worries if I were stuck in this place. I think it’s stupid, but unless he did something like place it facing the OP (which could be seen as a deliberate attempt to antagonize), it seems to me an odd thing to focus on.

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Virginian May 7, 2014 at 1:49 pm

I can understand being disturbed if someone had an obvious symbol of hate on their desk (e.g. swastikas), but to get offended over a Duck Dynasty figurine is like getting offended because someone has a figurine of Kim Kardashian or any of the other ridiculous reality stars on their desk. I think it’s easier to ignore the bobblehead, move on, and fix the Facebook’s page news feed if necessary.

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Cath in Canada May 7, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I just went to make a cup of tea after reading this thread, and spotted the exact same bobble head doll on a co-worker’s desk! I’d never seen it before, so I don’t know how long it’s been there.

The difference is that this is in a workplace that goes out of its way to promote respect for diversity, and also in pinko liberal commie Canada (and in academia, which often trends more liberal than the population average). So I agree with the others who say the doll on its own is not the problem – the environment is the problem.

Good luck, OP. Keep thinking about your exit plan – you WILL survive the next few weeks, and find an environment where you’re a better fit.

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Katie the Fed May 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm

This whole thing just made me remember I time I brought in a bunch of Girl Scout Cookies to the office. There is one guy who was constantly trying to bait people on political topics and he immediately said “how can you support the girl scouts knowing they support Planned Parenthood?” and I just shrugged and said “ok, more cookies for everyone else then.”

Like everyone’s been saying – people can only upset them if you let them. Just roll your eyes, laugh at them, and move on.

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Mints May 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm

I used to buy girl scout cookies because they’re delicious and I wanted to support girls camping. But now I’m happy to support lesbian witch orgies in the woods too
Just kidding, of course, but I am buying more cookies now than I was before

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 2:19 pm

The nearest source (as in a block from my old apartment) of Girl Scout cookies was through the local Nation of Islam’s troop. I felt all kinds of conflicting emotions while trying to get my cookie supply (“Well, they didn’t choose to be involved in the group and just want to go camping” vs. “Er, but am I indirectly supporting the NOI, though?”).

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Vanilla Bean May 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm

On a similiar note, I once worked with someone who had a major issue with us having a catered meal from a particular restaurant. I won’t go into too many details, but let’s just say they went as far to say that if the committee chose to order food from this particular place that they would “refuse to eat and tell everyone why, and make us (the committee) look bad.” I will mention that this particular employee always complains about what food is chosen for our catered meals.

Now, I’m all for having an opinion/personal convictions, but there’s no need to throw a tantrum and behave like a child about it, especially in the workplace. Personally, if I had such strong opinions about the food being offered, I would either 1.) bring my own food that day or b.) arrange to be out of the office during this time.

In the end, we went with a different restaurant that was cheaper and wasn’t as controversial.

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Adam May 7, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Agreed. I don’t think work is the place to stage a protest (about things not directly related to your work I mean). If I believed that strongly about something to the point of not wanting to give money to a certain business then I don’t have to involve myself and quietly do whatever is necessary to get along, in this case bring my own lunch. It may not be “fair” that you don’t get to fully take part in the office luncheon by having to make your own food, but protesting is not inherently a comfortable activity to engage in. It’s pretty rude of me to make everyone else uncomfortable when they were just trying to have lunch.

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Elysian May 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm

I think that what you say goes both ways – “Protesting is not inherently a comfortable activity to engage in.” The protester is putting themselves out there as the difficult one, and that’s uncomfortable. But presumably they have strong convictions. It isn’t much of a protest if you’re quiet and polite about it and take the day off just so you’re not causing a commotion. Protests need an audience, pretty much by definition.

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Adam May 7, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Certainly this is true. And really protesting by nature is meant to make others feel uncomfortable, namely the people you disagree with and/or the people with the ability to actually change things. But I do believe there is a time and a place for things and I don’t think work is it a lot of the time. If I felt strongly enough about a certain issue to boycott a caterer because of it, I would bring my own lunch and engage with my coworkers without disrupting the natural workflow. If people asked me why I wasn’t eating the food I would explain my position and leave it at that. I don’t see any reason to make my coworkers uncomfortable over something I believe in since they probably aren’t the ones I’m protesting.

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KellyK May 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm

I have at least one restaurant I won’t support, but I definitely wouldn’t go so far as to make a stink about it at work if I were in Vanilla Bean’s coworker’s shoes.

If options were being discussed, I might ask if we could do a different place instead, but that’s about it. It’s the company’s money, not mine, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask my employer to join me in a boycott.

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Elysian May 7, 2014 at 3:31 pm

The Girl Scouts also have a pretty poor record as far as individuals with disabilities are concerned, if its of any consequence.

But yeah. Nothing is without its problems.

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Kerry (Like The County In Ireland) May 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I flat out told the Girl Scouts that the only reason I bought their cookies (didn’t really want them, gave them to a coworker) was to support feminism.

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MR May 7, 2014 at 1:59 pm

This article will probably get 1,000 plus comments, but basically, OP, you will need to find a new position with a new company.

If you make any objections to this, you will likely find yourself marginalized and soon to be out of a job.

So I’d keep quiet, start applying to new jobs and make your exit as soon as possible. This company won’t change and they will likely continue business with similar, likeminded companies. You can’t change things and to think you can do so, is foolish and a waste of your time and energy. Get out while you can!

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 2:16 pm
Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm

+1 for the Archer reference

(I was pushed toward playing cello or string bass in elementary school orchestra because of my large hands.)

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Eden May 7, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I agree with this. I think long-term, the OP will find herself unhappy in an environment where she does not share the majority view. It would be one thing if it was confined to bobbleheads on desks, but it sounds like a prevailing attitude that will also prevent her advancement.

My feeling is, we spend such a large a percentage of our lives in the social group at work, who wants to spend it walking on eggshells with people you don’t share common philosophical ground with?

I should mention that of course, you aren’t going to agree with everyone all the time, but IME there seems to be a general zeitgeist in workplaces, and this isn’t one I’d be comfy with.

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Victoria Nonprofit (USA) May 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Alison: Just a quick thank you for your management of this thread. I really appreciate how deftly you are balancing the work of keeping the conversation focused on the OP’s question and addressing problematic responses.

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Katie the Fed May 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Yes! I agree. This thing could go off the rails so easily.

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Diet Coke Addict May 7, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I also really appreciate Alison’s consistent management of threads like this, while carefully balanced with an attitude that racism, sexism, and homophobia are not welcome here. This is excellent.

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Kelly L. May 7, 2014 at 3:25 pm

+1

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Del May 7, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Agreed! This is very well handled.

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GigglyPuff May 7, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Who else totally thinks this is going to move to Friday’s open thread?

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Jamie May 7, 2014 at 3:13 pm

I thought about this last week, and this reinforces it for me. Open threads are huge and with nothing off topic you’d think they’d be more contentious, but this kind of thing doesn’t happen. I may have missed some posts, so maybe I’m wrong, but overall it’s a really congenial mood in those.

I wonder why that is?

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Kelly L. May 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Kittehs.

That and I think they’re just so huge that people tend to skim past things they might latch onto in a smaller thread, and maybe also the understanding that a big kerfuffle would make the thread an unwieldy mess.

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AAA May 7, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Just one more instance of what an excellent manager Alison is!

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Tinker May 7, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Yes, I’m very impressed with how well this thread has been handled — some of the things I’ve seen here (in this thread specifically, I mean) reflect a pattern I’ve seen before that is very difficult to deal with, and Alison has been very on point in setting boundaries with sensitivity.

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Traveler May 7, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Agreed. This could have really gotten ugly.

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Abradee May 7, 2014 at 9:54 pm

I lurk on many a forum, but AAM is the first where I’ve ever been brave enough to actively participate, and this is why. Not only are the conversations fascinating, but then Alison also puts forth the extra effort to promote a constructive dialogue. One of the many reasons why I come back day after day!

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S May 8, 2014 at 10:25 am

Absolutely seconded. In general, really, but especially on this thread.

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Anonalicious May 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm

This workplace sounds like what happens after spending too much time at my parents’ house. OP, keep your head down, and start looking for a new job.

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Tinker May 7, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Heh.

That was actually a minor feature of last Christmas for me, unfortunately — the pointed Duck Dynasty references, that is. And not, shall we say, generally directed ones either — it was more the “Make sure not to put on Duck Dynasty because it’s ooooooo so offensive now” with reference to me. (I’d not brought the subject up.)

It was about as fun as it sounds.

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Lora May 7, 2014 at 3:18 pm

I don’t think you can win this one. Just grit your teeth and get out of there ASAP. I deal with such people by resorting to the passive-aggressive Southern insults (“Bless your heart!” “Isn’t that nice!” “that’s interesting“) or using the barely-contained-cussword snarling (“shut the ffff…front door!” “GOD…bless America!”).

If it’s just one or two people, you might have half a chance, but given that it’s everyone and the guy is a senior manager, I think you’re hosed. I totally feel for you, I have been there many a time, but really, you canNOT win these things. If they cared an awful lot about not offending people, they would make a concerted effort not to.

I have lots of very conservative relatives, colleagues and friends. In the name of keeping things friendly, there are certain things we just do not discuss, ever. That is because we care about maintaining decent, respectful relationships with each other. I think if the manager cared about not offending people, he would find himself perfectly capable of getting a sportsball bobble-head doll and making public Facebook comments like, “just saw Frozen with my kids this weekend” and similar neutral comments.

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I completely agree, Lora. And I do think my email was written from a place of frustration as I watch what I say so I don’t offend my conservative co-workers, but I don’t see it reflected in my co-workers. Had I known this was the culture before I accepted the job, I never would have taken it. However, for the time being, I agree with so many people: there’s no reason for me to rock the boat. I’ll just keep rocking my job instead. :)

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Chinook May 7, 2014 at 5:26 pm

“Had I known this was the culture before I accepted the job, I never would have taken it. ”

I had this happen to me when I was a temp in Ottawa. I started it one office at the beginnign of November and had the local union rep come up to me and say I wasn’t required to take November 11th off. He was wearing a white poppy at the time. I looked him in the eye and said I had somewhere I had to be that day, thank you very much. And I did – the national war memorial for the ceremony DH was marching in uniform in so we oculd remember our friends who had died and family and friends who had fought. If I had known about the leanings of the office, I would have refused the position on principle. Instead, I was professional and finished it until the contract was up. I will admit to taking an extra effort to ensure I didn’t loose my (red) poppy during that month, though, to show them not everyone beleived as they did.

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Lora May 8, 2014 at 10:14 am

I had to look up that a white poppy is a symbol for pacifism outside the US–here, it’s doves mostly. I knew about In Flanders Fields, with the red poppies, but not the white. I learn something new every day! Thanks!

Not sure why anyone would say, “you are right, I shall diligently work through the holiday!” unless they were trying to save up some comp time for a vacation or whatever, but if my employer wants to give me the day off for Arbor Day, Flag Day, or Talk Like A Pirate Day, I am all for it.

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Traveler May 7, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I just wanted to join in the chorus, and something it seems like you’ve already recognized yourself OP – it’s not about the bobblehead so much as the other issues coming up. I think the bobblehead is just a convenient symbol to point to – but maybe not the most concrete. I would definitely just hit your paces to get out of this company in three months, and make note of times when the manager(s) make comments that are offensive in case you ever need it for your defense/if an issue arises.

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 3:31 pm

+1!

On that note, does anyone have any tips or tricks they have to help them step back from a situation? I think it’s obvious I have a tendency to get embroiled about an issue and then, 3 days later, want to bang my head against a wall because I can’t believe I took it so seriously.

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De Minimis May 7, 2014 at 3:34 pm

I think I’d just try and remind myself of that…”Is this another one of those times where in a few days I’m going to wish I had just let it go?”

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Malissa May 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Ask yourself, will it matter in 5 years? Or, What do I hope to get out of raising X issue? If it won’t matter…let it pass. If the only thing you’ll get is personal satisfaction….is it really worth it? Can you eat off of personal satisfaction?
I’ve had a situation this week where I’ve actually had to ask myself these questions. Honestly I”m still on the fence. But I won’t act until I’ve thought it through and made a decision. Weighing all of the possible consequences of the outcomes.

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Traveler May 7, 2014 at 4:11 pm

I think what Malissa said is great. It’s pretty much what I do – I try to decide if looking back in a few years, if it would really be worth it. Would it really make the change I was hoping for, and would it really be worth whatever sacrifice I was making (in this case I would say the potential to burn a bridge/reference)? I know its hard because you don’t want to feel like you’re condoning this behavior, but I think without a united front from coworkers and actual complaints from clients you might end up on the losing end of this one.

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Chinook May 7, 2014 at 5:36 pm

I like the way you phrased it Malissa – personal satisfaction never put a roof over my head. I too have had problems in the past with others and had to bite my tongue until it bled because I was powerless to change the person’s opinion, who I got to interact or just leave the job/organization. It was my choice to stay but learnign how to compartamentalize and let it go saved me some ulcers.

I also have to remind myself of the advice my grandfather gave me when I had to deal with somethign like this – just because you can’t stand the person, don’t forget that you have to respect the position. After all, you may not be able to stand your national leader but he is the national leader and that position carries some weight. You don’t want to see the position disappear, just the person currently holding it. It helps me to put it into perspective.

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PJ May 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm

This IS a serious issue, and should be taken seriously. It clearly means a lot to you. However, it might help to separate your personal views from your paycheck. Play nice while at work, collect the money you’ve earned from them, and then find kindred souls to share your frustration with.

I love what Malissa said — “Can you eat off of personal satisfaction?”

Keep your head in the game while at work. Take your heart elsewhere.

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Joey May 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Yes. You step back and reevaluate what the priorities of your job as they pertain to you are and how you prioritize them. What’s most important to you? Most people can at least for the short term put up with quite a bit in order to pay their bills until they find something better.

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Joey May 7, 2014 at 4:58 pm

In other words you disengage emotionally from the people/things that bother you if at all possible until they no longer bother you or until you find a better environment.

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Chinook May 7, 2014 at 5:38 pm

And if you can’t disengage yourself, ask yourself if you are willing to starve or live on the street over this issue. If you are willing to go that far, then take that hill because you prepared to die on it!

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KrisL May 7, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Can you try to think about how a Vulcan would deal with this? Just go into total logic mode?

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Not So NewReader May 7, 2014 at 9:52 pm

This has actually worked for me in some tight situations. Focus on the factual/logical aspects of the situation. There have been a few times when others were upset, that I have forced myself to remain detached. It is amazing what I observed and have been able to deduce. It’s a good way to build up a good reputation for yourself, too.

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Not So NewReader May 7, 2014 at 9:38 pm

I have to hit myself with one liners. Because I need a mental version of some emergency chocolate.
In addition to some of the above, I have told myself:

“It’s not up to me to fix this.”
“I can’t fix this, it’s too big.”
“If this still bothers me tomorrow, I will think about saying something.”
“I need to think about this when I am at home, because I have a more balance perspective there.”
“I am having a strong reaction because I am failing to see the overarching issues- and I am mad at ME for that failure.”
“In my life, who can I talk this over with that will give me ideas on how to handle it?”
“I can only fix me. What part of me will I fix because of what I experienced just now?”

Traveler is absolutely correct. And I believe that is the answer to your question. This will happen again, OP. It happens to all of us, some little thing triggers a strong response in us. Why? Usually because it is a symbol or it is tangent to much larger issues that we have failed to address.

So this is just plain good life advice. I try to remember to question myself when I have a strong reaction to something. Why is this little thing giving me such a strong reaction?

I was robbed one time. The robber wore a Halloween mask. Years later, I thought I was over it. One day someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see that MASK. In my mind, I was right back there on the wrong end of a weapon. Strong reaction. That reaction served to remind me, that I need to work at healing myself after the robbery. I needed to remember to use good sense and good safety precautions. (I had gotten a little sloppy about some stuff.) Once I reconnected to these practices my jumpiness about masks went away for good.

See, it’s not a bad thing when little stuff provokes us. It reminds us of where we want to be in life versus our current reality. It can encourage us to grow or move forward.

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Ruffingit May 8, 2014 at 8:21 am

You have a short time left there and that is a huge help! I find it very helpful when that is the case to remind myself that I don’t have to be there that long so what is happening there isn’t worth my emotional energy. You’re at a point now where you should be beginning an emotional separation from the place anyway since you don’t have long to stay there.

Some workplaces are MUCH more difficult than others. Been there so I know how you feel, truly. At the same time, there’s a ton of power in realizing that it is what it is and you only have to be there for a short time. When something bothers you in the moment, repeat a mantra (pick something that works for you). For me, that mantra is sometimes “Let it go, it’s all good….”

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Malissa May 7, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Here’s my take on this: Let it go!
In this life a person doesn’t always get to work around people who believe and think the same things they do. How boring would life be if everybody thought the same thing on every issue? Nothing would ever change. Different thoughts and viewpoints are what leads to our progress as humans.
Now that facts of life are that unless you work for yourself (and some times not even then) you could work for a jerk. Often you will work around people who will hold different views than you. Learn to appreciate the differences and learn to accept that people are well…people. There’s not much you can control.
I can certainly sympathize with the OP, being somebody who voted for legal gay marriage while working in an office of conservatives. Did I think less of my coworkers because of their views? Not really. I already knew who they were. Did it affect my working relationship with any of them? Not one bit, because that comes with being a professional.

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The OP May 7, 2014 at 3:29 pm

+1!

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Comment Anonymous May 7, 2014 at 8:12 pm

I agree with what you are saying – that we all are going to work with or for someone who has a different political perspective.

I work in an industry that is mostly liberal, and I am a conservative. Knowing this I still choose to work in my industry and keep my mouth shut. I do not believe my coworkers know which way I lean as I have not told them. However, one day, a colleague and I were talking, and somehow the conversation rolled around to the presidential election (this was in 2012). She kept going on about it, and finally came out with the statement, very seriously, “Anyone who doesn’t vote for Obama is a racist!” I felt stunned. While I have heard that line used many times in various types of media, I never expected my own colleague to say it. I was really tempted to ask her if she thought I was a racist, but I did not because I suddenly felt uncomfortable around her making such generalized statements like that of a group of people (nearly half of this country). I tried to say to her that it’s not fair to group a small few who do fall into that category with the rest who honestly dislike him for his policies and record, not the color of his skin. She disagreed, and said being black was the only reason why people would vote against him, those racists!

I didn’t go to HR. I let the conversation dropped, switched it to some small talk, and then excused myself to continue on with my day. I really didn’t know if I should have pushed back.

Yes, I am conservative on quite a few things, but as for same-sex rights and marriage, I believe the LGBT community should be equal and have the same rights under the law as all individuals.

My point here, though, is that the OP has to learn you will work with people who have different views from yourself, and you have to decide for yourself if you want to continue to work for/with them. And it happens on both sides of the aisle.

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KrisL May 7, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Colleagues like this one of yours is why people have been asking for instances other than the bobblehead of the manager’s issues.

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Ruffingit May 8, 2014 at 8:30 am

Oh geeze, how ridiculous. I fall on the liberal side of things myself, but the statement that anyone who didn’t vote for Obama is racist is totally insane.

I had a similar experience, but on the other side. A very conservative and unfortunately extremely uneducated (as in she believes all of those email forwards that get passed around and shares them) person I know said to me that I only voted for Obama because he’s half black. WHAT THE HELL?? I voted for the person I felt most comfortable with politically and ideologically. Race had less than nothing to do with my choice.

It’s sad your colleague decided to make a stupid and ridiculous comment like that. What is doubly sad is that you likely lost respect for that colleague. It’s hard to find out people you work with or know have viewpoints like that.

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Comment Anonymous May 8, 2014 at 11:47 am

You know, I was real tempted to give back to her the very thing you said your acquaintance told you! I wouldn’t mean it, but I would hope it would show her the stupidity of her comment.

My colleague is typically very nice. But I just stay away from her when political conversations come up or I just yes her to death, voting for whomever I want when it comes to the actual vote.

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JuliB May 7, 2014 at 4:16 pm

As a consultant who is very conservative and religious, I would like to point out that I frequently work in places that are quite liberal. Some of my colleagues are quite liberal, others conservative, etc. I have been exposed to a variety of views I feel are offensive.

What I’ve found is that the best approach to take is the high road. Let things roll over you. Or if I was to be harsh, grow up and stop being so sensitive. The world is a big place with a variety of people and YOU need to get along in the world. I try to avoid offending people but not everyone thinks that way. You will always run into people you consider jerks for a variety of reasons. Don’t expect them to change.

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Tea May 7, 2014 at 5:31 pm

On one hand, yes– everyone has their own views, and in a professional setting one must absolutely learn to adapt, be polite, and work alongside all sorts of people. On the other hand, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. etc. are still rampant today in both overt and subtle ways. To say that the only professional thing is to ~let them roll over you~ speaks from a place of privilege. Offensive differing views are one thing, but there are many, many people who are personally impacted by discrimination in a material way, and to suggest that they’re being oversensitive and should stay silent in the name of being professional and not offending bigots only furthers that discrimination.

(For example, OP herself said that there is preferential treatment toward men in her workplace– whether or not this has manifested in obvious physical or work-related impacts on her wasn’t stated, but she would be clearly in the right to stand up for her rights, because going against bigotry and inequality isn’t just a matter of jerks being jerks and just taking the high road.)

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CA Anon May 7, 2014 at 8:36 pm

This.

It’s easy to say “suck it up” when you’re not the one dealing with that kind systematic oppression. Calling someone oversensitive for pointing out bigotry is a typical silencing tactic used by the privileged to disenfranchise the oppressed.

It’s not about what offends you, it’s about what hurts others.

If you’re offended by something largely hypothetical that has no real impact on your life (or the lives of others)–telling someone to suck it up and make do is reasonable. If you’re offended by something that prevents others from accessing tangible social benefits (like legal protections, medical access, political representation, etc.) then you have every right to say something.

You see how those things aren’t the same?

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hayling May 7, 2014 at 4:49 pm

This is a bit tangential, but I am confused about the Facebook thing. I am guessing that you guys created a fake “user” to manage the “pages” so they’re not associated on the back-end with your personal FB accounts, is that right? Why not just un-friend all the “friends” of this fake user?

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Lora May 7, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Also, idle thought:

Some companies, including ExJob, have started doing what is called “hoteling”: You mostly work from home or on the road, and when you do come in to work, you don’t have Your Desk. You get to pick A Desk from a large open area where there are many, and unless you get there mad early it probably won’t be your favorite desk. You dock your laptop, sign in to your phone extension, and that is where you are today. Tomorrow you may be elsewhere.

Then we shall all have to confine our self-expression to our laptop bags.

Although, honestly? Since so many companies are using temps and contractors rather than full-time employees, I wonder how long it will be before all of us have carefully crafted neutral professional personalities, in an effort to be as inoffensive to as many people as possible. I know as a consultant I am pretty careful about that stuff. If someone asks how my weekend was, the answer is the most boring thing I can think of: yard work, took dogs to the park, babysat for a friend. It’s just easier than the alternative.

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KrisL May 7, 2014 at 9:09 pm

I know I try to keep my facebook profile as non-political as I can for the same reason. I have a few friends on facebook that if they ever connected with each other – well, let’s just say they seriously don’t agree with each other’s views.

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Ruffingit May 8, 2014 at 8:52 am

I don’t do politics or controversial issues on Facebook. I use it as a vehicle to keep in touch with friends and family and that’s pretty much it. For me, there are enough places to get negative or argumentative over things. I don’t care for my Facebook page to be one of those. Have no problem with others who want to get into that, but I try to keep things relatively positive on my page especially since I work in a very difficult and emotionally draining job at the moment, I don’t need that in my personal life.

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Maria May 9, 2014 at 1:47 pm

“I wonder how long it will be before all of us have carefully crafted neutral professional personalities, in an effort to be as inoffensive to as many people as possible.”

It’s already happened, I fear.

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 8:05 pm

I’m putting this down here rather than in reply to a specific comment because I don’t want to call the commenter out publicly, but: I am really, really not a fan of posting in the same discussion as both Anonymous and by a regular user name.

As I said above, I think going anonymous for a discussion like this makes you less credible, because it says “I’m not willing to associate my identity with the viewpoints I’m espousing” — but ultimately that’s your prerogative.

However, then leaving other comments in the same discussion with your normal user name seems … well, like bad faith to me. Others are engaging in discussion without obscuring the normal identities they use here or presenting themselves as two different commenters within the same discussion, and I believe they deserve the same courtesy.

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A Teacher May 7, 2014 at 11:25 pm

I have a couple of guesses as to who the poster is based on reading the entire thread, being a regular reader, and occasional commenter, and the person’s vernacular kind of gives them away. It is pretty disingenuous that you posted what you posted and then still posted under your user name. This specific blog community thrives because people get to be themselves, there have been a few times when I’ve removed myself because one or two commenters have come at me and I’ve learned to not comment on or reply to those comments but they still have something to add to the conversation even if I don’t personally care for them in anonymous blog world. You didn’t give us the benefit of the doubt which is unfortunate.

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Joy May 7, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Yes, this. I very rarely post, but if I was a regular poster and thought that the AAM community would attack/shun me for posting my opinions honestly, under my regular name, I don’t see why I’d bother to try to keep a “good name” to begin with. Do you really value having a good reputation among a group of com mentors you assume will treat you badly?

Sock-puppets are not allowed on most blogs and forums, for lots of reasons.

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Sarah May 8, 2014 at 12:38 am

That’s in really poor taste, leaving two comments under two names. Were the replies made to themselves, and did any of the comments interact with each other? If so, that signals something even more disturbing.

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Ask a Manager May 8, 2014 at 12:47 am

No, they didn’t.

I don’t want to dwell on this or beat the person up over it, and I realize the ground rules for this kind of thing aren’t explicitly stated anywhere, but hopefully we can all be on the same page about it going forward!

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Headachey May 8, 2014 at 1:07 am

Thanks for this, Alison, though I’m sorry it wad necessary to post this even after specifically asking the poster in question two (three?) times to comment under their regular handle. To use the blog-as-living-room analogy, it’s as if a regular visitor to your home decided to attend a party in disguise, raise a fuss and leave, then come back undisguised as if nothing had happened.

Like A Teacher, I have a guess or two about who this poster (usually) is, and wonder if I’ll care to engage with or credit their contributions in the future.

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Stephanie May 8, 2014 at 1:34 am

Y’all are way better at picking up commenter vernacular than I am. :)

Considering this is a workplace advice blog, I can disagree with someone’s views on gay marriage, but still take stock in his views on dealing with a fish microwaver.

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Ask a Manager May 8, 2014 at 2:03 am

For what it’s worth, I don’t think speculating on it is a useful exercise anyway (and I’d imagine far more likely to steer people wrong than right).

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A Teacher May 8, 2014 at 7:42 am

Which is why I didn’t make my guesses public, I guess my main point is the regular poster didn’t even give us the benefit of the doubt yet was able to anonymously respond twosome of the regular posters, which is a but shady, but that’s JMO.

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Jamie May 8, 2014 at 8:25 am

The speculating makes me uncomfortable, because it puts all regular commenters under the umbrella of suspicion.

I’m not in lockstep with all the opinions of any group, most people aren’t – but if I feel strongly about something I’ll stick my name on it (as opposed to going anon for personal anecdotes or more specific information.)

Anyway, just mentioning in general that when people post that they are a regular commenter but…and the but is cringe worthy there is an impulse for others to want to remove themselves from speculation.

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BCW May 8, 2014 at 7:51 am

I’ll be honest, I’ve done that a couple of times. Reason being is that there are SOME people on here who see BCW as the commentor, and I feel like they look for a reason to disagree with me, or just write me off. I’ve even seen comments like “I was just waiting for your sexist comment” when I write something. Shockingly, if I write the same thing under a different name, I’m not attacked nearly as much and more intelligent conversation can happen. People may disagree, but its done in a much more civil way. I think before anonymous out for his actions, we should look at why someone would do that.

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Ruffingit May 8, 2014 at 8:38 am

I’ve done this and the reason is because I recommend this site to a lot of people in my professional and personal lives. It would be quite easy for someone who wanted to do so to piece together who I am under my regular user name, just by using things I’ve said in past conversations. There are times where I go anonymous in comments because people I know IRL read here and there are some things that may get me in trouble professionally were they to know I’m the one who said it. Hate for that to be the case, but it is and I try to be careful online because of that.

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Ruffingit May 8, 2014 at 8:43 am

Oh and BCW, I agree with you that people sometimes post anonymously because people associate traits and characteristics with their regular usernames and therefore give the person short shrift or more leeway than is necessarily deserved. For better or for worse, we do associate traits, quirks, and characteristics with usernames and we do act upon those in how we think of and reply to that person.

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Sanonymous May 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I apologize for suggesting it. I felt posters may not have realized how their anonymity was slipping. Obviously I didn’t think that advice through, but there was no malice intended.

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A Cita May 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Wow. So good to know I was right in my guess (and of course I wouldn’t say). I had a moment of doubt when they commented using their regular name, then questioned if they were engaged in sock puppetry.

And I’ve sometimes done anonymous, but for the reasons others had mentioned: people in my RL work world would recognize me because I recommend the blog so much, and sometimes I want to vent about work.

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Ask a Manager May 8, 2014 at 2:20 pm

For what it’s worth, I really wouldn’t assume you know who it is. I do know, and I’d be surprised if anyone figured it out — but it also really doesn’t matter.

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A Cita May 8, 2014 at 2:26 pm

You’re right. It really doesn’t matter. Maybe because I read more than post and never really wonder into the open threads (and often avoid the tangent discussions in other threads) because of time constraints, I don’t have any sort of attachment to any particular poster like some regulars might have, so I doubt I’d be surprised. :)

And this isn’t the first time it’s happened (thinking back to the Halloween costume thread). (But I also have a proven ability for sussing out online “voices.”)

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darqmommy May 8, 2014 at 8:55 am

First. World. Problems.

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Grey May 8, 2014 at 9:29 am

This is a blog that deals with first world problems. Are you suggesting this question was off-topic?

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darqmommy May 8, 2014 at 9:44 am

You’ve got a point, Grey.
Perhaps if I feel this way, moving on is the best choice for me.

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Ask a Manager May 8, 2014 at 10:21 am

Yeah, we deal with nothing but first world problems here. I’m not sure how that’s any more objectionable than spending time on books or sports or fashion or recipes or…

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Sarah May 8, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Yeah, can’t imagine anything weirder than if someone wrote into AAM asking for advice on how to get their child the Polio vaccine in Syria now that the country is in such turmoil.

I mean… that’s not what this blog is about, right? Why are you here?

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Katie the Fed May 8, 2014 at 6:18 pm

The other day my friend in Delhi posted on FB about how she couldn’t get in her apartment because there were some monkeys camped out in the stairwell and I really wanted to post #thirdworldproblems but didn’t want to offend her friends. She would have laughed.

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Ruffingit May 8, 2014 at 11:22 pm

HA! That’s awesome and it’s great your friend has a good sense of humor about such things. The first, third, and rest of the world could do with more laughter and less bitterness.

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Cath in Canada May 8, 2014 at 1:07 pm

People don’t have work-related problems outside the first world?

(sorry, off topic, I know, but this is a genuine problem with that particular meme: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-firstworldproblems/248829/

I have used the term myself, but I’ve managed to train myself not to…)

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Stephanie May 8, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Exactly. There are white-collar jobs in developing countries as well.

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Alano May 8, 2014 at 12:58 pm

This is an interesting topic because there are lots gray areas. A bobble head of Hitler or David Duke? Probably too offensive, and I think an employee would be in the right if they were offended.

On the other extreme, I could have a bobble head of, say, Condi Rice or George Bush and some person with far left views could claim that I’m glorifying war criminals or some nonsense. I would tell that person that they’re being overly sensitve and that they need to acknowledge that not everyone veiws the world the same as they do. So I don’t think there can be a blank and white rule with bobble heads.

So where does OP fit on the spectrum? Overall, I have to say that I think he’s over-reacting. Duck Dynasty is a very high rated show, and the views expressed by the people on that show are relatively mainstream. Although Phil Robertson expressed (in rather colorful terms) that he was grossed out by gay sex, he didn’t say anything that could be reasonably construed as calling for violence or oppression of gay people.

I also don’t think that it’s “hateful” to say that certain types of sex gross you out. I’m gay. Me and my gay friends talk all the time about how the thought of straight sex grosses us out. Does that mean we “hate” straight people? Does that mean we would treat straight people differently in an employment context? No.

I would say that unless this guy is treating you differently based on sexual orientation or your views on sexual orientation, that you’d be wise to deflate your ego a little bit and just accept that some people view the world differently than you do, and it’s not your job to fix other people’s worldviews.

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The OP May 8, 2014 at 4:55 pm

“[I]t’s not your job to fix other people’s world views.” EXACTLY. I’m really sort of appalled and ashamed of myself now because, uh, that’s exactly what I was trying to do. What the heck, self? Not cool, self.

Also, I feel like a quote from Alison’s Smarty Cents interview hits the nail on the head, “People often expect things to be fair, and they assume that if they’re not fair, there must be recourse. But there often isn’t, and that’s just the way it is.”

This thread has been a great wake-up call in helping me recognize some not too great characteristics about myself. What bothered me was the fact this guy’s viewpoints and I saw those represented by a bobble head. I clearly read way too much into a situation and made it far more dramatic than it should have been. I need to work on taking things at face values and finding some sort of outlet to vent off my extra energy productively.

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Katie the Fed May 8, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Ah I love it when the OP comes back with an update like this!

I’m glad we talked you off the ledge without scaring you away (some of the comments were a little harsh).

Remember, you can always judge the crap out of people like this :) Just keep that monologue internal.

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The OP May 9, 2014 at 9:49 am

Aw, thanks Katie! Yeah, some of the comments were harsh, but others were extremely helpful. I typically pride myself on being open to criticism and I think when writing a letter to AskAManager, you should be open to the idea that you could (also) be the ass in the situation. I also realized that, as I absorb so much information on a daily basis, I become slightly frustrated by each dramatic headline/story (plane crash! fight this! fight that! this is an outrage!). So, when something that would normally upset me presents itself, I have a truly overblown reaction.

Now, I’m still going to shake my head at the bobble head the evil eye should I see it and would probably address any blatantly awful comments made in my presence, but other than that, he’s still a human being and deserves to be treated with the same respect I know I’d like to be treated with.

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Ruffingit May 8, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Good for you for being open to the lessons available for you from this situation. Taking things at face value is helpful as is recognizing “it is what it is” and the likelihood of making solid, lasting chance is pretty much less than zero. Once you do that, things get easier.

I wrestled for years with thinking that I was doing a disservice to my morals and values if I didn’t speak up in the face of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. I finally realized that in some cases doing so resolves nothing and in some cases makes it worse. There are just some people who refuse to move away from such views and that is their cross to bear. It’s not my job to convince them they need to change. Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it and get the heck out of dodge as soon as possible.

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The OP May 9, 2014 at 9:52 am

I want to +1 all over this. I am totally saving tons of these comments in an email to myself so I have them on hand to read them should I find myself in another “I AM OUTRAGED!” situation. I think that will help me take a step back and make me think, “Now, did something really bad just happen? Or are you just mad that a situation isn’t fair?”

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Maria May 9, 2014 at 1:45 pm

All the applause to this comment.

I do not support gay marriage or homosexuality, in all and perfect honesty, but it’s your life – and your office desk. I can think of a dozen people whose bobbleheads I would disagree with, but it’s rather a stretch to say these bobbleheads are “offensive”, and I can always…you know…make the choice not to look at the desk.

Kudos to you. I bet you’re a fantastic person to work for and with.

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Jen May 8, 2014 at 1:28 pm

It’s a shame that in a country with free speech and freedom of religion that any of us are forced into feeling we have to justify our beliefs or more importantly told that our beliefs are wrong.

As a conservative Christian, I share some, but definitely not all, of the same views that the Duck Dynasty patriarch expressed. If he is a hateful figure, then God must be a hateful figure–Phil Robertson was quoting from the Bible.

Yes, we Christians and conservatives do get upset when we are slammed. It’s when we don’t stand up for our rights that they become infringed. Case in point is Subway removing pork from its menus in England and introducing halal food. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2616576/Subway-removes-ham-pork-nearly-200-stores-strong-demand-Muslims-eat-Halal-meat.html). Why is it that those of us who love a good ham sandwich can’t buy one just because a few religions don’t eat pork?

This world is made up of some very unique and diverse people. Some of those people I may have common views with, some I will be forever at odds with, but as long as we’re not trying to kill each other or infringe upon the rights of the other, we should be entitled to have and express our beliefs without being bashed for having them.

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Ask a Manager May 10, 2014 at 1:06 am

Freedom of speech is a concept that refers to what the government can and can’t restrict. It doesn’t mean freedom from consequences of your speech with other people.

Nor is it infringing on your rights to have a private business like Subway choose to remove pork from its menu. That’s a private business making the decisions it decides make the most business sense. You have no right to anything from a private business, let alone a menu that caters to your specific preferences.

As for being entitled to express your beliefs without being criticized for them, no. That’s not how it works. You, like everyone else, have the right to express your views, and there will be consequences to that — people will form opinions of you based on what you say and what you believe. There’s no right to freedom from that.

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Maria May 9, 2014 at 2:08 pm

When I clicked into this thread, I expected to find a bobblehead doll of a naked person, or something related to bodily functions, or anything that could remotely be considered…offensive.

Regardless of your political views, I would think that people would be able to agree that calling a female politician the c-word is offensive – no? (See: Bill Maher on Sarah Palin). So if I found a Bill Maher bobblehead on my coworker’s desk, I would…dun dun dun…do nothing, because it’s my coworker’s desk and he’s allowed to have whatever he wants on it. When something is truly offensive, or inherently promotes a certain point of view, that’s when it may become inappropriate. But to say that a bobblehead representing a certain person – a businessman and reality star no less – is “offensive” is to be a little oversensitive, which it seems the OP has realized.

Alano made some EXCELLENT points below, and I very much agree with his comment – this coming from a conservative.

As a final note, here’s a request: can we please, pretty please, save “offensive” for things that actually, really are?

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