Once upon a time I was a twenty-something woman-in-tech, and I had a poster of a buxom beer wench in my cubicle. It wasn’t my poster (or at least not at first). But it was in my cubicle (or what had become my cubicle) until it wasn’t.
It was the 90s, and I was working as a programmer. One of the guys on my team had a poster of a buxom beer wench in his cubicle. She was kind of like the St. Pauli girl but unbranded and less-covered. It was something like the one below (although I recall her having a head).Embed from Getty Images
It always bothered me when I had to go to that coworker’s cubicle and talk to him with a pin up poster behind him, but I never said anything about it. Like so much casual sexism back then, I just tried to ignore it.
Then that particular coworker got a new job and left the company. When he packed up, he left his poster behind, still pinned to wall of his now vacant cubicle.
As in many companies, when a desk empties out the next person in seniority can move in. The now vacant cubicle had a window. Mine did not. I was next in line, so I moved in.
I was not yet the vocal feminist I am now, but I was a prodigy of passive aggressiveness. I moved into that cubicle, but I left the poster up.
You see, now the poster was behind my desk. I barely had to look at it. It was easy for me to ignore. But when my coworkers came to talk to me they had to see it. Strangely, something about seeing the poster behind their young female coworker seemed different than when it was in a guy’s cube.
(Note: I was a lowly COBOL programmer. No one came to my cube other than the people on our team, so they all knew the original owner of the poster.)
I don’t remember how long I had the poster up. It was probably only a few days, but one day our team lead was talking to me about something then said, “Here. Let me take that down for you.” When he took down the poster I didn’t even try to stop him.
But that wasn’t the last I saw of her.
A week or two later my team lead and I were on a call in his office. We were using the speaker phone, so I closed the door to block out noise from the hall. Guess who was behind the door? By busty, beer-serving, former cubemate.