I have a confession to make! I am mad as hell and I need to unburden myself. I resisted the temptation to write about this because I was so close to the story, as they say, and I wanted to make sure I sat with all of it and remained objective. Back in college when I was writing, and writing, and writing, because well, that’s what Journalists do, one of the things we learned early on was to remain objective if we wanted to present a piece that would be taken seriously and be deemed unbiased. It’s the cornerstone of solid journalism, and use to be what journalist prided themselves on. Yes, use to be. I lost all respect for the majority of news outlets and journalists who forgot how to be human and present the news in an unbiased fashion. But that’s for another day.
Unless you have been living in a cave for the last few weeks, the Harvey Weinstein, alleged sexual assault and harassment of countless Hollywood actresses has been all anyone is talking about, and rightfully so. This man used his power and privilege to allegedly force himself on many actresses, under the guise of vetting them for key roles in films he was directing and producing. The thing is though, ever since women have entered the workplace, unscrupulous men have used their power and privilege to harass and force themselves on women in one form or another. In the famously brilliant drama, which I adored watching, Mad Men, the culture of the 1960’s with women entering the workplace in a previously male dominated field, showed blatant sexual harassment that was the norm back then with men, and was an accepted part of that culture of “Boys will be Boys”, mentality.
When I was 13 I had a job at a convenience store in my neighborhood. I was technically not suppose to be working yet, as the legal age for employment was 14, but the manager who hired me unbeknownst to me and the other employees, was one of those unscrupulous men I speak of, and had his eye on me, as predators do. I took the job because my good friend’s brother worked there, and I just adored him and knew he would look after me. So on only my second day of work, I was stocking milk in the store’s refrigerator section, and this perverted man of about 40, came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me, because he said, I looked cold and was shivering. I was so taken aback that day, being just 13, I just froze, than I pulled away not saying a word. Being molested at 5, I knew full well what this pervert was implying when he wrapped his arms around me. He was a pedophile, I knew that with all of my heart. My rejection of his advances angered him, he sent me home, and I never returned to that store. The next day, my friend’s brother came by my house to tell me what had happened at work the following day after I left. This manager was arrested for embezzling money from the store and stealing and reselling cartons of cigarettes from the store. It felt like vindication in some way, but the trauma of that day never left me. I told my friend’s brother what had happened and he felt terrible that I had to endure that. He felt responsible, which I assured him he was not. But this would be the beginning of many episodes of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in the workplace. One day I had been in my office, I was working for a large well-known paper cup products corporation, I was the Assistant Director of Human Resources, two of the men in upper management, as well as the CEO of Operations for the Eastern Division, came into my office, he was holding a magazine that had lingerie in it, with scantily clad women, and opened the pages before me dropping the magazine on my desk, turned my chair around to meet his gaze with his two other lackeys watching, and asked me to pick out an outfit he’ll buy it and I would model it for him. I was horrified, embarrassed, and fucking angry beyond words, not because he said that, but because he knew he could without reproach, and his lackeys took pleasure in my uncomfortable reaction. I was just 23 years old at the time, and if I had known then what I know now I would have laughed at the lawsuit I had against them and the company, and would have watched him squirm as I told him what I had planned to do as I found a way to cut him down in front of his lackeys with my biting remarks about the small size of his penis and how if I put on the lingerie for him he probably wouldn’t be able to get it up, being he was much older than I, (keeping in mind there wasn’t Viagra back in those days). The irony was, I was the Assistant Director of HR, and I was being sexually harassed, HR who is supposed to be the department within a company that assures employees are protected by inappropriate behavior and breaches of company policy. But this was Pre-Anita Hill and her case with Assistant Justice of the United Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, was only just coming to light, back then no one gave a shit about things like this. You were expected to suck it up and do your job if you wanted to be promoted and taken seriously in business. This boys club entitlement, made me sick to my stomach and was the reason I finally left the corporate world. I could handle raunchy talk if I were in the presence of men, I would blush and let it slide off my back, but what I couldn’t handle was the vile, disgusting way men in power pounced upon me like I was some sort of prey, there for their amusement and to make them feel powerful. I imagined them with their full erections, getting off while they spewed sexual innuendos and simulated sex acts. The same man, this CEO, in another one of many episodes on another day, ripped a leaf from a plant that I had in my office on my windowsill, walked towards me, licking this plant leaf, as he simulated oral sex, watching me cringe with disgust and repulsion. I swear to you, these events happened just as I am recounting them. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, I felt like I was out of my body watching this sick movie, only I was in my office trying to get payroll done for 250 employees and he felt this twisted perversion to come into my office and watch the young assistant squirm.
It was so upsetting and I didn’t dare tell anyone. I remained employed there for some time until I finally decided that I had endured enough. I have since recounted this story to only a few people whom I trust and am close to. But I am not unique, my story is everyone’s story. Women all over the world have a story. Men, what you don’t understand is, we all have a story. That uncomfortable place within us, that made us feel less than, made us feel objectified, worthless. The stories we keep inside, that we dare not speak of, or acknowledge, until we feel safe enough to say the words and let our voices be heard. Not every man is this way, or would even think of doing these things, or being this way, but all too often I encountered many who were, some to a lesser degree, because I think that they knew deep down inside what they were doing was wrong and they didn’t have the balls to commit to extreme measures, they just lingered there, but didn’t cross the line. To me there is no difference, once you make that decision, you are the same no matter to what degree you carry out your perversion.
This is far different to me, than being with a trusted male coworker with whom you have a mutual friendship with, who shares a racy joke or details of his date last night. I am not a prude, I am an adult, and if we are friends, I will not take offense and will probably be equally as raunchy, but there is a huge difference than being preyed upon. What I am talking about here is unsolicited, unwarranted, unwelcome advances and inappropriate behavior, by men in power, who take advantage and prey on women for their own perverse needs, and to usurp their power, position, and privilege, in the workplace because they feel such a strong sense of entitlement. Their egos cloud their judgement and this becomes no different to them than an acquisition in the board room, to the victor goes the spoils, and sadly, we women are the spoils.
We women can not let another generation of women endure what we have, as they make their way in this world and work and play among men. We also have an obligation to educate young boys, and men alike, and let them know that it is not ok to sexually harass, assault, or usurp power over women under any circumstances. To do so diminishes, denigrates, and emotionally scars a women right to her very core. We also must not let other women make excuses for such men, allowing them to get away with and not being accountable for their actions. Phrases such as boys will be boys and that’s what men do, need to vanish from our lexicon and go the way of the dinosaur. We cannot allow anyone to blame victims and absurdly suggest that it is the pretty ones who are prey for men in the workplace, and that by the proactive way a women dresses she is signaling to a predatory prick that she is asking for his unwanted advances and sexual harassment, as Mayim Bialik, suggested in her op-ed piece for the New York Times, where she proceeds to damn women who are attractive, and asserts that she personally choses to “Dress modestly, and as a rule isn’t flirtatious with men, claiming that being a “prominent-nosed, awkward, geeky, Jewish 11-year-old” was a difficult one, as she was constantly being compared to the “pretty girls” and was offered roles designed for girls that didn’t fit the traditional good looks typical of Hollywood starlets. Stating what she called the “upside of not being a perfect 10” and as such, managed to steer clear of sexual assault and harassment of men, as a result of her demure fashion and lack of makeup choices. This is not only dangerous, uninformed, unsubstantiated, and absurdly inaccurate, but it speaks to the ignorance of society in thinking that sexual predators are enticed by a women’s dress, appearance and bra size. But see the thing is, this isn’t about sex, this is about men who force themselves on women because they are in a place of power and perceived privilege. I was so furious when I read what Bialik wrote I could scream. She had an opportunity to educate, and enlighten many on this hot button topic, and instead, to me, she came off sounding more like a bitter, vengeful, teenager who didn’t get asked to prom, and was now telling everyone why she was overlooked, and asserting blame, because she was outshined by her so-called “hotter” looking peers, who sought to entice the star quarter back by batting her false eyelashes, pouty lips, and exposed cleavage. It’s insane to me, that this woman, who is a brilliant Neuroscientist not only on tv, but in real life, and a talented actress, chose to take that tact when writing about being a “True Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World” suggesting that the ultimate quality to being a true feminist is to downplay your God-given looks, and sexuality, so as not to give men the opportunity to prey on you because of these good looks and generous rack. Bailik has since tried to explain herself via live steam on Facebook several days ago, but for me, there was no mistaking what Bailk said, and defending herself seemed disingenuous and self-serving given the back lash by fans and Hollywood elite, alike.
What I wish to leave you all with is this, unless you have experienced sexual assault and harassment you cannot fully comprehend what it feels like on any level. It diminishes who you are as a person, how you see yourself, how you feel you are perceived and it how you interact with men in the workplace. I know for me, for a long time I became quite defensive and felt I had to be perceived as strong, opinionated, and in your face, to stave off any would be perceptions of weakness by men in power. I accepted every challenge and became adept at cutting anyone down who dared seek to embarrass, manipulate, or mistreat me for their own selfish gains. Today, I am able to speak up for myself when I feel I am being manipulated or disrespected by a man who believes he is somehow better than me by mere virtue of his penis, to which I am armed with my quick wit and biting insults to assure him he is not, and show him this girl will not let anyone push her around! I have found my voice and can be silenced, no more.
Women, sisters-in-arms, we need to all stick together, empower, encourage, and support one another. We are strong in who we are, where we have been, and where we will go tomorrow. It’s our world, we are awakening to the paradigm shift of power, and it is no longer at the hands of men who seek to disrespect, denigrate, and diminish our worth. We have found our voices and raised them up, our battle cry is that we will no longer accept that boys will be boys, for boys, will be held fucking accountable, and we will see to that!