Sexism, homophobia still alive

Originally, Jenna Skogg said she was going to title her lecture on discrimination in the workplace, “Sexism and Homophobia Alive and Well in 2003, Especially in Cincinnati.” Instead, she found a title ripe with symbolism, “When the World Grew Still.”

On April 8, Skogg stood proudly in front of a group of students as she talked about her struggle for justice. Women’s Studies, Affirmative Action/Multi-cultural Affairs and the Feminists At Northern student club sponsored the event that was held in the Otto Budig Theatre.

Skogg moved to the Cincinnati area four years ago to be close to her ailing mother. Skogg said she was warned about Cincinnati and about how many people considered Issue 3, Article 12 of the city charter to be “the laughingstock of the nation.”

Issue 3, Article 12 states, “No special class status may be granted based upon sexual orientation, conduct or relationships.”

Knowing this information, Skogg still came to Cincinnati where she found a job at the Taft National Historic Site in Mt. Auburn. She said she was excited about the job at first; that is until the harassment began.

Skogg said she was “chastised and ridiculed” about her appearance and sexual orientation. She said the men she worked for were incompetent bullies. “These men reminded me of boys on the playground,” Skogg said. “Pulling girls’ hair and pushing them around.”

Skogg said she would hear things like, “You don’t present yourself well as a female, therefore you won’t be considered as a candidate for a job.”

Comments like that forced Skogg to feel shameful, humiliated and vulnerable she said. In her second year, Skogg said she decided to file a complaint against her supervisor at the Taft because the “situation had escalated.”

She said she faced even more hostility because she brought attention to a mismanaged site. “I was voicing concerns for my own well being,” Skogg said. As she voiced her concerns, she said, the team looking into her complaints found other things that were wrong with the management.

This was the first instant in her life were the “world grew still,” Skogg said. She was left out of meetings, events, and lunches. “The world grew narrow, small and dim,” she said, “and it took everything I had to go to work.”

Skogg said she stayed strong during the time the investigation went on by reading books about courage. She found stories by Nelson Mandela especially inspiring, and sustained herself by using her ability to reach out to others. She filled up her calendar with meetings dealing with leadership, and awareness.

“But the world grew still again,” said Skogg, while in the fourth year of the Federal Government refusing to settle on her complaint.

It was then that Skogg decided to find an attorney. The two of them worked together until Skogg finally decided to reach a settlement that would allow her to live her life comfortably, she said. “They had to honor some things before I said goodbye,” Skogg added.

“This intense part of my life drained me,” said Skogg. “I watched myself grow older everyday; new wrinkles appeared.”

It was at this point in her life, however, that Skogg said she saw her spiritual life grow.

“I don’t think you can go through anything without coming to terms with who you are,” said Skogg. “This was not an accident, it happened for a reason.”

That reason, she said, was that she knew what she did would make a difference.

She also said her personality could help heal others who are being harassed for their sexual orientation.

The talk at NKU was a “kickoff” to other talks she plans on giving at additional universities including Miami and Xavier.

As of right now, Skogg said she turned in her badge to the Taft department about a month ago.

She spent the past days celebrating Women’s History Month.

She has sent job applications out to places in Washington D.C., and she breathes.

Skogg said, “The world grows still, and I smile.”