The way it was; the way it is

August 27, 2018

Back in the day, powerful men were all-powerfuland young, pretty women were super-impressed. Or they were supposed to be. Or–they became unwilling prey. Or they were both super-impressed and willing prey in a tradeoff that some of my fellow feminists want to pretend didn’t happen.

It is, in fact, entirely possible for pretty young women to say no, now, and it was possible back in the day, too.

Of course, they may not have gotten the part they wanted, the job they were going for. And that was oh-so-wrong. Power should never be used in that way. But that’s how it was used. Power corrupts.

Was there another way to get the work they wanted? I don’t know. Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe there was but the pretty young women didn’t know how. Or maybe they just believed there was no other way and wanted success so badly they compromised their values.

Now, I’m not just blowing smoke. I was a pretty young girl once, considered prey by men who were older and more powerful. For some reason, I never traded in that way. Figured I didn’t need it. That I’d find another way.

He did become a big cheese

Once I came back from vacation to find my boss had replaced me, just weeks after I’d spurned him. I was, after all, pretty, young and married. But I just found another job and moved on, never thinking about him or that job again. It wasn’t a career spot. Over the years he became a major figure in the community. He might have been able to help me. But I never thought about that. I didn’t think I needed that kind of shortcut.

As a Silicon Valley executive pretty senior in her career, I had a close-up view of the double standard for men and women. In fact, I left because of it. Because I saw that even Human Resources was complicit and I didn’t want to deal with it.

I found an incredible different job. Well, it was incredible for many years, and then it wasn’t. Then it was only a good place if you were male, white and let a crazy person think they were in charge. Actually, they were in charge. And preyed on pretty young women. Which I was no longer. But the younger women talked to me.

This is in fact the way the work world has been forever and to really change, a few big things have to happen.

Keep shining a light on it

The light now shining on this stuff is great. It had to happen. People had to see it so clearly they couldn’t deny it. So they couldn’t pretend it happens only rarely.

Policies have to change. HR has to hold executives to a high standard. It has to happen.

Predators have to be shamed. It has to be so uncomfortable once they’re caught, the come-down so great that the shame becomes a deterrent.

But women have a role, too.  Women can not be so willing to trade their self-respect for work, even if it’s work they really want.  For success. They have to trust that they are smart enough to find another way and if they don’t? They have to see that it’s not worth the trade-off.

The allure of wealth and fame

Money and fame are attractive to so many. But when we are so willing to give up our self-respect in trade for them,  we have larger societal and personal problems than simply sexual harassment. It’s a values-deep problem.

Now I know some people aren’t going to like what I have to say on this.

Men don’t like other men to be called out on this stuff, sometimes because they know that they, too have crossed the line. Some women would prefer to be cast as unwilling victims without agency. And really everyone has a lot to say about everything, when I look around social media. Sometimes it’s laughable:  white women scolding other white women for being racist, for not being feminist enough, blah blah blah. I see women defending themselves, that they aren’t racist. I see other white women telling them they are racist for saying they are not racist. They just don’t see their own racism. I see see threats to unfriend or shun or whatever..

I think all this is pretty much bullshit.  What did Willie Shakespeare say: “Sound and fury signifying nothing.”

The rubber meets the road in how we treat one another, not in what we say. And what we know to be true about ourselves. Our self-respect. And that’s true for both genders.

What’s real is this: If you have a good heart… if you treat others the way you’d like to be treated–or the way you’d like your daughter to be treated (or to act)….

…if you hold yourself to a higher moral and ethical standard without waving the Bible, just out of self-respect, then I think you’ve got it pretty much together. And if more people were like that, then the way it IS can change.

Exposure is uncomfortable

But right now we’re in that uncomfortable stage of exposure.  Women are vilified. Men are shamed without due process. We’re kind of stuck there, I fear. At least for a while.

Still, if we continue to shine a light on this bad behavior my hope is that it will become intolerable. Truly intolerable, not just pushed into the shadows. And institutions will change.

Because they haven’t changed yet. Not really.

Your thoughts? Have you had to face these issues in your life?

25 comments on “The way it was; the way it is
  1. Alli Smith says:

    I’m glad the light is shining of this stuff too! Those type men need to stop thinking a woman is their’s for the taking and women need to be strong enough to say no and walk away. I also believe that changes are being made, slowly but surely.

  2. candy says:

    Wonderful light is starting to be shed on this topic. Doesn’t just happen to the young pretty women you kept referring too. Happens to all women at all ages. Women should stand their ground. Men should be taught a young age this is proper behavior.

  3. I fully agree with you on this.

  4. Glenda Cates says:

    This is something everyone should read as it still happens and we need to stop it as no women should be treated this way ever. As for you I am so glad you was able to get out of the situation without getting hurt.

  5. Jeanette says:

    It is definitely something that I appreciate that you talk about. I think that this world can be extremely unfair and when you call someone out on at least That time someone knows you were watching and listening. I am glad you set up for what you believe in. Not a lot of people will stand their ground on anything.

  6. Janet says:

    I was reading an article in the New York Times about this topic just yesterday. As a mom of young adult daughters I’m glad to see these matters more openly discussed than when I was their age.

  7. Amber Myers says:

    I am so glad women are speaking out against this. I cannot stand men who think they can get away with being gross pigs. Not all women are vilified when they speak out, thank goodness. These days people rally behind them. I think social media helps!

  8. Diane says:

    Shine that light!

  9. Ihaven’t faced this type of problem at work, but I am not the stereotype that most men seem to want. I too have heard stories from my colleagues, but I am always amazed. I shouldn’t be.

  10. Haralee says:

    I agree! I have a good friend who is homely.Not ugly just not attractive and never was. She tells stories of her young self working being hit on by men telling her because of her unattractiveness she couldn’t do any better etc.Lesson here is not just pretty women but any young or youngish women!

  11. Tasheena says:

    I’m glad that you spoke on this. I’m hoping this will stop and the norm will be different for my daughters generation.

  12. YES! some great insights here. thank you!

  13. Here’s what I think. I think it is necessary not only to shine the light, but to do so with the next generation watching and listening. I am raising my kids not to be complicit or to accept what was (and still is) either “perfectly acceptable” or “just the way the world is” in my parents generation. Similar net effect for either statement by the way, just a difference in how much of an asshole people are.

    My kids are shocked by the things that my parents (and I to some extent) took for granted 20-30 years ago. I have raised my daughters so differently than the way I was raised. In a different world and with different expectations. Sometimes I think it doesn’t matter though, sometimes I think things may even be worse. Sometimes I have hope.

  14. One day hopefully there will be an equal and fair workplace for men and women. I think it will eventually lessen as more people telecommute and contact is limited.

  15. wendy says:

    I used to work in a power plant and know for a fact that the men doing the exact same job were being paid more. The excuse for that was “he’s got a family to support” Um…so did I. Yup need to address the issues.

  16. Sara Welch says:

    It is tough to not let someone like that consume you at the same time. It ius really captivating, and sometimes scary!

  17. Kita Bryant says:

    I have known some folks like this. I wouldn’t exactly say I enjoy their company.

  18. Karen Morse says:

    We’ve definitely come a long way from how women were being treated before and although that still exists to this day at least we’re able to do something about it. I wish for the same things that you’re wishing for. For it to be completely intolerable.

  19. Vyjay Rao says:

    It is so sad that in spite of the so-called progress and development, some things do not change. The corporate world is still stuck in those old times beneath all the froth. Minds and hearts of men and women need to change, and such behaviour needs to be exposed by moth right-thinking women and men.

  20. Lisa Favre says:

    It’s incredible to read that things like this still happen in this day in age. I am happy, though, that there is more transparency and people are openly discussing it so that we can turn our attention to the matter and help/support each other.

  21. The old times is definitely different now but there are still places were men are preferred. I have witnessed this when I was still working in school.

  22. Nancy Hill says:

    Nuance seems to be lost on more and more people. You are so very right. I wish I knew how to wake up even one person to the fact that we are ultimately responsible for information we allow to flow through our lives, for actions we take or do not take, but that this personal responsibility is not the whole story nor even a major part of it, and that in spite of this we can make a difference thorough thoughtful, concerted action.

  23. Catalina says:

    I am so agree that a woman is so smart that she can find the work of her dreams without becoming a victim of this system! We need to sayNO!

  24. Peter says:

    I’ve never personally been a part of a situation such as this. I come from a restaurant and bar background I have seen my fair share. People like that give all others a bad name. Glad you’re shining some light on it too

  25. Ricci says:

    This is a very thought provoking read! I othinkwomen should support other women no matter their age, race, or “status” in life!

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