This is not a post you might expect from me, but you’ve heard the likes of it before. I know I don’t need to write this, but I have been quiet so long.
Yesterday there was a stereotypical news leak about a political candidate. Stereotypical news engenders stereotypical responses — denials, blame, defense, sympathy, antipathy, and conspiracy theories.
Maybe the story is fabricated, maybe this didn’t really happen, and maybe it’s just another round of dirty trickery. Maybe the whole thing was a misunderstanding — the case of innocent friendliness being exaggerated and exploited for gain.
If you’ve ever experienced it, you know sexual harassment and discrimination is not an exaggeration. It’s not exaggerated because you probably didn’t even say a word about it. But it is a fact: a fact that is usually ignored, tolerated, belittled and then forgotten. Until it happens again. It always happens again.
The story made me remember things I’d forgotten.
When I was just out of college and working in my first job, a client invited me to dinner. He said he wanted me to come to work for him. When he started talking about sex, I excused myself.
Shortly after that I did some writing for an oil company. I flew to another state and spent an hour interviewing a refinery manager for an article in the company magazine. At the end of our conversation about industrial safety, apropos of nothing, he said, “I like that skirt on you.” I said thank you and left.
The day after I was hired to handle publicity for a financial services firm, the president of the company called me and asked point blank, “So, you wanna fool around?” I hung up.
Assigned to work with a regional vice president of a large beverage company, I was told by his assistant, “From now on when you come to a meeting, don’t say anything. We don’t mind looking at you, but we don’t want your opinion.” I resigned.
Everybody can tell stories like this. This stuff happens all the time. No one really gets hurt. It’s all a misunderstanding. Don’t take it the wrong way. Things aren’t always what they seem. Don’t be so touchy.
I’m an old lady now, and I no longer care how I’m seen or heard. I’ve left that conversation for good.
When you feel intimidated, accosted or afraid, what you really want to do is leave. But the people who say and do things like this rarely seem to go away. They’re still out there pulling infinite second chances from under their hats. To them I say nothing. But to you, I say speak up, even if it’s only here.