Mackenzi Guptill is a receptionist at a hotel in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and an English major at a nearby college. While she says she generally loves her job, she's soured on it during the past month or so because she's been getting some unwelcome attention from an older man. At first, he just came by once in a while to chat about books. But then, he asked her if she had a boyfriend (which she does) and insisting that "You should call me if things go bad" and to "keep him in mind." He started hanging around her for uncomfortably long periods of time.
That wasn't the only time she felt unsafe around male customers in the hotel. Recently, a few guys came in and, after asking her for bar recommendations, kept bugging her to go out with them even though she was clearly at work and said she had no interest in doing so. Later, they offered her coworker $1,500 (£1,165) to come to their room in the middle of the night and "just come sit with" them. Her coworker got so freaked out that she called their boss, who kicked them out.
To keep away the creepers, Guptill has resorted to an unfortunately all too common tactic: wearing a fake engagement ring in hopes that her marital status will at least keep people from asking her out. Her coworker wears one, too. She told her story in a Facebook post that has since gone viral.
Guptill says she hasn't seen the older man in a while, but that she still looks for his truck in the parking lot just in case before she clocks out and goes home. "Sometimes if I get off late, my boyfriend will actually take me to work and pick me up to avoid even being in the parking lot," she tells Refinery29.
She says the ring has helped her avoid harassment. "I haven't had any harassment since I started wearing the ring, actually," she tells us. "And I have noticed that older men do look at the ring. I catch a lot of glances when I'm handing them their room key or taking money." She says she doesn't advocate women wear fake engagement rings, but that it does highlight the ridiculous things we often have to do to keep threatening men away.
Guptill's post has received close to 2,000 comments, an overwhelming amount of them from women who also wear fake engagement rings at work.
It's enough for Jared or Kay Jewelers to start marketing these, and you can draw your own conclusions about how absurd and rage-provoking that is.
The solidarity poured in.
"I have done this since I was 18 working as a waitress...so I feel ya."
"I work as a cashier and I wear a fake engagement ring to ward off the creepy guys and their advancements. I hate that this is the culture we are living in."
Apparently shiny things don't deter everyone, though. A few users made comments to the effect of: "I've been married for five years. It doesn't stop guys from hitting on you. Most of them don't even notice!"
The threat of sexual harassment at work is unfortunately a problem many women still face, especially those in service jobs. It's infuriating that we have to resort to faking our marital status in order to ward off inappropriate advances and prevent sexual abuse. When a woman has to wear something presumably given to her by a man as a sign of commitment simply in order to feel safe, she loses a part of her freedom and autonomy.
Guptill says her experience has made her aware of just how common the ring tactic is, having now heard from women who have used it for decades. "I was beside myself about the overwhelming amount of comments and shares. And when I saw all of these women ranging from ages 16 to 60-something, I was in shock," she says. "It's entirely too common that women are organizing their day-to-day life around the possible threat of the creepy men out there. It's wrong... I shouldn't have to worry about this sort of thing at work. And neither should any other woman."