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Or is it suddenly acceptable to make 'jokey' comments about weight and the size of breasts?

(29 Posts)
EmilyFran Sat 13-Dec-14 19:00:45

NC-ing regular as this could out my workplace if anyone reads this who also works there! Sorry if it's long, don't want to drip feed.

I have a lovely colleague, let's call her Hannah, who is significantly overweight (this is relevant) and consequently has rather large breasts. She doesn't talk about her weight at work (and indeed why should she have to?) and so it would be fairly obvious that it's not a subject she wants to joke about. Same goes for the size of her breasts. Sorry, am trying to explain this sensitively and suspect I am failing.

Work Christmas party last night. At a public venue, so people we don't know were there. Not a huge place, so we probably made up about a third of the people there, and there were about 20 of us.

Two colleagues, one male one female (let's call them Tim and Jenny), started chatting and although I didn't hear the beginning of the conversation, the part I heard was initially about Jenny's breasts. Fine, her prerogative if she wishes to discuss that subject with Tim. The end of the conversation went something like this:

Jenny: mine are tiny!
Tim: yes, they're not exactly like Hannah's are they?
J: haha, I don't think so.
T: you could work on that!
J: I don't think there's any danger of me getting as big as Hannah any time soon.
T: her boobs you mean.
J: haha yes.

Then they both chuckled to themselves, clearly finding the breast jokes and weight reference funny.

Uncomfortable anyway, but Hannah overheard the whole bit about her. She stood there, while Tim and Jenny flustered over some faux-compliments about how 'spectacular' Hannah's breasts were because they were embarrassed at having been caught having the conversation by her. Hannah said something like 'can you leave my boobs out of this?' in a jokey way, but it was clear to see she was bothered by it. She sat quite quietly after that and the subject changed. Hannah looked upset, but no apology was forthcoming from Jenny or Tim.

So aibu? Cards on the table, I'm going to be really surprised if anyone thinks this is acceptable.

madsadbad Sat 13-Dec-14 19:03:18

Are you Hannah?
No your not being unreasonable and they are twatty fuckers

Bunbaker Sat 13-Dec-14 19:04:45

No, it isn't acceptable in the slightest.

EmilyFran Sat 13-Dec-14 19:06:30

Thank you for replying.

No I'm not Hannah, but I have been there (used to weigh 18 stone and had very big breasts) so I guess I'm maybe a little more tuned in when someone makes comments like this.

MrsKoala Sat 13-Dec-14 19:07:52

Not so sure about the weight references/jokes but i know loads of people who joke about others breasts. I have had it from DHs army colleagues at xmas parties. Totally odd.

EmilyFran Sat 13-Dec-14 19:11:11

'Tim' is very crass anyway in the office. It's sometimes funny, but even Jenny has said on occasion that his jokes go too far. Apparently though, this was acceptable to her. And no, the alcohol had not been flowing for long so can't blame the drink.

rockybalboa Sat 13-Dec-14 19:11:56

In no way acceptable.

RaisingMen Sat 13-Dec-14 19:13:18

They owe her an apology. Jenny sounds like an absolute bitch.

FrancesNiadova Sat 13-Dec-14 19:17:20

I've had a mastectomy; 1 breast completely removed. 12 months ago I'd have been absolutely devastated by remarks about my boobs. (Still would now TBH, but would cry later).
What I'm trying to say is that they're more than insensitive, but bldy abusive. How dare they make a woman feel uncomfortable about her body.
The rage fangry for your colleague & flowers for you. Looks like your colleague is going to need a good friend over the next few weeks.

Bulbasaur Sat 13-Dec-14 19:22:48

The only time this is ok is if you're good friends with Hannah and including her in the joke instead of talking behind her back, and only if you know she's cool with it.

In this context, at a work party, absolutely not.

madsadbad Sat 13-Dec-14 19:24:29

Did you or did you feel you could pull them up on it?
Nasty fuckers.

EmilyFran Sat 13-Dec-14 19:24:46

flowers for you too Frances. Thank you, and hope you are doing well post op.

Hannah is a lovely person and doesn't deserve to be made to feel like she did. I will make sure she knows I am there for her.

EmilyFran Sat 13-Dec-14 19:27:34

madsadbad - I didn't pull them up because I didn't want to draw more attention to the incident. I guess I just felt like minimising Hannah's humiliation was most important. In other circumstances, I certainly would've said something and if the subject comes up again but not in Hannah's presence, I definitely will make my feelings known.

mumofthemonsters808 Sat 13-Dec-14 19:32:08

Not acceptable I would be horrified if I overheard a conversation about my breasts. Of all the chit chat topics, why would you make someone's body parts who you are sat with,a topic for discussion ?. The pair of them sound like idiots, insensitive ones at that. They are a pair of cranks and his jokes in the workplace would get right on my nerves.

Bluestocking Sat 13-Dec-14 19:34:12

Who's the boss? Shouldn't s/he speak to Tim and Jenny about not discussing their colleagues' bodies in public?

TestingTestingWonTooFree Sat 13-Dec-14 19:40:09

YANBU - not acceptable

babewiththepower Sat 13-Dec-14 19:44:05


EmilyFran Sat 13-Dec-14 19:50:45

Manager wasn't there, but not sure Hannah would want it taken further tbh and wouldn't it be her call to do that? Not trying to minimise what Jenny and Tim did btw. Also, since it wasn't in the workplace, surely work wouldn't get involved would they?

Bluestocking Sat 13-Dec-14 20:08:52

IMHO a work do is still work. Hannah will have to deal with those people on Monday after hearing what they said about her. Reporting her discomfort is her call, but if the situation made you feel uncomfortable, then you would be justified mentioning it to the boss. Reading between the lines (and feel free to tell me I'm completely wrong, obviously) it sounds as though your workplace may suffer from the curse of "banter", which is a way of pretending that insulting, belittling talk is funny, and that everyone has to go along with it or be accused of not having a sense of humour.

LapsedTwentysomething Sat 13-Dec-14 20:13:48

It's out of order, but I think that many (slim) people see it as fair game.

There is a girl in my year 11 class who is quite overweight. The others often comment on her breasts and this week I caught one of then being rude about her weight. It really upsets her and I can't get anything, work-wise, out of her afterwards. It's spoiling her education now and will stay with her in the future.

GarlicGiftsAndGlitter Sat 13-Dec-14 20:14:51

So ... at a guess, Tim's a woman-hating twerp who was trying to make Jenny uncomfortable by talking about breasts. On finding that Jenny's happy with her modest endowment, he tried to rile her by implying she ought to aspire to Hannah's more prolific bosom. It did rile Jenny so she attempted to divert this line by pretending she thought he meant Hannah's overall size. Thus doubling the insult to poor Hannah, who was listening.

Jenny urgently needs to grow a backbone, but Tim sounds quite nasty. I think you should all start complaining formally about his off-colour 'jokes'.

EmilyFran Sat 13-Dec-14 20:15:49

You're bang on point, Blue. It's full of banter. And a lot of the time it's nice and lighthearted, but I think it's crossing the line far more than it should. This to me is actually bullying and humiliation.

Jenny is a difficult one to describe. She's quite cutting and even if she doesn't verbalise it, she's a "my way or the highway" type. If you do something she doesn't like, even if it doesn't directly affect her, she will get arsey about it. To be clear, she is not a senior member of staff so can't set rules thankfully.

Tim is the type who thinks he loves women but doesn't respect them enough for that to be really true, iyswim.

EmilyFran Sat 13-Dec-14 20:19:39

Garlic, I can't be sure how the conversation started so I don't know for sure what the motivation was. Jenny is a harder type than Tim but I just can't be sure exactly who engineered it all.

GarlicGiftsAndGlitter Sat 13-Dec-14 20:25:21

Yes, I see what you mean. Maybe it's not a backbone she needs, so much as an empathy implant ... I agree, this sort of 'banter' is bullying.

Bluestocking Sat 13-Dec-14 21:03:59

It's so tricky. One person't lighthearted banter is another's cruelly cutting personal remark. Obviously, no-one wants to work somewhere where there's no chat, but it sounds as though the culture might have tipped over towards creating an atmosphere that's not exactly nurturing. Hannah probably isn't the only one who needs support!

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