The Price of Being Female

You can’t be outraged by Harvey Weinstein and then be totally okay with Donald Trump. Or vice versa. Either you’re pissed or you’re complicit. End of story.

Was that clear enough? I am disgusted by both and I could not care less which party is involved or whose narrative is validated by either man. Both are trolls. Sexual assault and sexual harassment are wrong and it does not matter who committed the acts. Does it suck when it is someone you once admired, yes. Does that change or somehow validate what they did, no.

Being a woman means this nonsense is a part of your every day life – a casual comment, an inappropriate glance or gesture, a hug that lingers uncomfortably long, an unwelcome touch. It happens every freaking day and if we bring it up, we are often told “Oh, I am sure it was nothing.” But, it is not nothing. It is never nothing.

What’s worse is almost every woman I know has a story of unwanted sexual advances, contact, harassment or comments. Most of us have several stories.

One that still haunts me happened early in my professional career that I am still not comfortable talking about in detail or at length. I had been at the job less than a year and was on a two-night trip with one of our vice presidents. It was my opportunity to prove that I was capable of doing my job (something he often questioned due to my appearance, age and gender) and at first I was excited at the opportunity. A co-worker told me “he will try to sleep with you” when I mentioned the trip to him, but I blew it off. I shouldn’t have.

There’s a lot of things I should have known in that situation … I should have recognized the danger in accepting a second drink … I should have heard the undertones in his request that we review the following day’s agenda in his hotel room … I should have run when he bragged about his sexual conquests outside of his marriage … I should have known that his position of power over me would give him the advantage. I should have listened to my friend and kept his warning in the back of my mind. But I didn’t do any of these things because I naively trusted him and was eager to prove that I could keep up and that I was worth my weight in my career. I should have seen through the BS and seen the situation for what it was. But, I didn’t. Instead I found myself in a situation where I felt both threatened and trapped and I blamed myself.

This is a position that so many women find themselves in every single day because their superior found them too attractive to maintain control and where they feel entitled to something that was never theirs to begin with. This is the very problem – far too many men feel as though women owe them something. We don’t. We don’t owe you anything – not a response to your text, not a yes to sex after a date. We aren’t yours to own or control or to do with as you please.

Thankfully, I was able to get out of the situation, but our work relationship never recovered and I never spoke up. I should have.

Here’s the thing about harassment in the workplace – women have everything to lose by saying no or by reporting the incident. Men have little to lose and often have the upper hand being in a position of power. Women that come forward are often retaliated against, which discourages other women from coming forward as well. This is why men like Trump and Weinstein are able to maintain decades of harassment and assault. Their positions of power act as a shield and they can silence the voices of women.

One (of the many) thing(s) that blows my mind about this whole Weinstein story is how many people are acting outraged that women did not speak up sooner. Why didn’t they? Their careers and livelihoods were threatened. Their credibility was threatened. They didn’t feel anyone would believe them and yet now everyone is holding them accountable for the acts committed that they “could have stopped.” But, who would have listened to them? How many of them did speak up and lost work because of it or were silenced?

This just one of the prices of being female – having a responsibility of speaking up, even though it can cost us everything and no one is likely to listen or believe us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *