Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” - Abigail Adams
Two days ago, while at a nighttime hotel bar gathering at a Conference I was attending for work, I was talking to a small group of men (it’s an insurance conference, the ratio of women to men was like 27:1) something happened.
Before we go there, let me give you some context. For more than 20 years, being a woman building her career in various male dominated industries - Financial, Automotive, Med Device, Commercial Real-Estate - I have endured an unspeakable amount of harassment, disguised as “lighthearted, all in good fun” banter. The “BITCH jokes”, the “Tiger Lady” remarks and even the off-color comments about being “hot" or "attractive" and a "hit-on target"- have grown to be the everyday norm. In order to survive and thrive, I have needed to grow the thickest of skins, showing them that women can have the corner office, and their jokes don’t kill us, they make us stronger.
But here’s the thing - after 26 years in the workforce - you'd think I would be desensitized to it all - but I'm not. In fact, I think I am more hurt, demoralized and just downright angry about it than I ever was before - all stemming from the sheer disappointment that we as women haven’t made it further.
That night in the bar, after I had been talking about a huge client and staff dinner event I was thrown into organizing , an older gentleman in our group, who had at one point bragged about his grown daughters and grand-daughters- pulled a dollar out of his wallet to “tip” me for my efforts. The dollar bill - handed to me as if I was someone’s property or at someone's service - actually threw me off guard. I said to the man, “Um, NO - you don’t throw money at women in bars - it's an insult”, and yet, he kept doing it. All. Night. At one point, I actually said to him, “would you want someone talking to your daughters like this”? To which he ddn't even comment. On other occasions, after I had walked away, he would go stand by others I work with (all men), and pull out his dollar and wave it in the air - making a complete spectacle as he did it. Everyone laughed, since I guess that would be what you might do if you had no idea how to react, and perhaps they saw that or my angry reaction as funny. He wanted everyone to be involved in his “paying me off”.
As I always do when these demeaning things happen, on the outside, I played it off - threw my hands up, gave dirty looks, put up my hand to signal “No”, yelled at him saying “NO” and acted like it didn’t bother me - the minion that he was, naturally inferior to me. On the inside - I was disgusted. And sadly, as usual, I blamed the mixture of stupid testosterone and alcohol and retired for the night. It would all be over tomorrow.
The next evening, at our dinner, I was running around, organizing, making announcements, moving people, taking charge - basically doing what I do - GETTING SHIT DONE. Side note, I am actually a Marketing Exec, so this was already pretty demeaning, and by NO MEANS the highest and best use of my time, but whatever, you gotta get it done. Suddenly, in front of a room full of people, the same man pulled out his wallet, opened it up and tried to hand me that same, ridiculous dollar. And everyone laughed. This continued to the end of the night, when I was trying to get a bunch of drunks off a boat and into a bus that he happened again, this time gaining a laugh from one of our younger male executives. That was it, I turned my back and walked away.
A few minutes later, a female coworker came over to me and said “Are you okay, did you hear what he said”? I replied that this had been going on for two nights, and she was appalled. I said I wasn’t going to acknowledge it with him anymore, I had told him many times to stop, he was an idiot and when you give idiots more attention, they just keep going. She was disgusted no one did anything to curb the behavior - including me - I didn't ever formally report it to someone either. SHE was the ONLY one to even ask if I was okay. But I wasn’t okay and I did nothing about it. I had to hold it together to get through the night, but I wasn’t okay. And at the end of the night, when the last guest had gotten off the charter bus, I went back to my hotel room and cried for 28 minutes straight.
Here's the thing -I have worked very very hard to get to where I am in my career. I wake-up, kick-ass and rock every role at every company I have ever worked, EARNING the high position and subsequent esteem, that I currently hold. But when one man, one stupid, silly, petty man treats you like you are dirt - you lose face. You lose ground. You lose what you have worked so hard for your whole life - respect. That one stupid dollar symbolized so much more than just an insult. It showed me in that moment that no matter how high you get, no matter how hard you work, as a woman, they still want to push you down and push you back and put out your flame. And it is NOT okay, I am not okay.
Now, you may be reading this and saying - “You’re just being oversensitive. Surely he didn’t mean it that way” or “You are overreacting, I don’t find the dollar bill demeaning at all” or “Great, another one, men just can’t look or speak to a woman at all” - and that is fine. Think what you want. It may not insult you as it did me. But that’s not the point. The point is that mindless, senseless, useless “joking harassment” isn't funny. We’re not laughing. And like sexual assault, or physical advances, we've been accepting it so long, we're essentially giving men permission to treat us this way. We have been so desperate to earn a seat at the table, that we have let men walk all over us - both physically and mentally. Hey idiots, if you wouldn't say it to your mom, sister, daughter or wife, don't say it to someone else. It's not okay.
I guess the hardest part of all this is that it’s the year 2020. Women have been fighting for their rights, for their dignity, for respect since the freaking Garden of Eden. Isn’t it time we just stopped brushing it off, making it okay, and letting it slide? There is a reason that these industries lack female workers - we just don’t want to deal with that shit. It’s easier sometimes to forgo our dreams of being a CEO of an Aerospace Company (totes not me, but some woman out there I am sure), just to avoid the struggles that it takes to get there. That is just so so sad.
I am hard on my daughter - I will admit that. What she doesn’t know now, but I hope she thanks me for someday, is that the world is hard on us girls and I am building her to be strong. Despite 244 years of Women’s Rights movements - we are still belittled and demeaned into submission. I want her to be ready. I want her to be better than I have been with just saying “FUCK YOU” to all the male chauvinists that she will encounter. I want her to take us further.
All this to say, the gloves are off Ladies and Gentleman - I am done just “laughing it off”. I have worked far too hard, for far to long, to let a simple, trivial, futile little man take away the respect I have earned from others or instilled in myself. If I see him again, I might just kick him in the balls. The sting might make him think that maybe, just maybe, his words hurt just as bad. Take me to jail for assault, I’ll gladly go peacefully - it'd be worth it.
It will symbolize my declaration of rebellion, my battle cry, my mantra; we’re not laughing anymore F&%$$, and we aren’t going to brush it off any longer. You belittle us, and try to push us back, because beauty, brains, strength and confidence, scare the hell out of you. We’re just as good if not better at everything and you know it.
We’re not going to vacate our seats, we are going to replace yours. Keep it up a-holes, we’re no longer silent, and pushing forward with a vengeance.
We're done. We’re not laughing. It’s On.
Foul mouthed, outspoken and pretty much an eternal realist.