Leadership Coach who helps you figure out what you want and how to get it. Lover of audacious living, avid reader and dabbler of many things. Your Life. Your Impact. Your choice.

Unfortunately #MeToo

The life of being a woman … complex.

And I don’t say this tongue in cheek – it is hard to be a woman.

If I read the social cues of my world correctly, I am supposed to be size 4, fit beyond belief, have three or four sets of letters after my name, be the CEO of something, able to whip up a culinary masterpiece on a moment’s notice, have a gorgeous house that I decorated myself with furniture made by my own two hands, and be incredibly attractive. Add in the husband and children expectations and sleep won’t happen for two decades, which really dings one’s ability to be attractive and smart.

  • But, according to the messages, the most important thing is to not make waves and ‘take it like a man.’

There is just one slight problem, I am a woman.

Once again, the media is full of stories of a man in power who has confused himself with God and thinks he can do anything he wants to women without any repercussions. The resulting social media campaign of women sharing #MeToo if they have been sexually harassed or abused has been overwhelming and disheartening.

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  • Too many women, too little change.

Sadly, I am not and was not shocked by the news. Nor was I shocked by the amount of women who just took it for years without saying anything.

And in all honesty, we condone sexual harassment and abuse all the time by not saying anything.

Myself included.

I understand why women don’t speak up, why I don’t speak up, often, there seems to be no way to win.

The only choice seems to be to lose even more than your dignity, which just got taken from you. Your job, the respect of others, and acceptance in the social and family circles which are your safety nets are a few of the items next up for loss.

  • And somehow, don’t ask me how, we have shamed the women who are the objects of harassment and abuse instead of the abuser.

After being harassed and abused, the prospect of more loss is usually too much to take and so we quietly ‘take it like a man.’

With so much to lose, don’t you think it is time we start believing women when they speak up?

I shouldn’t have to tolerate being stalked by a man at a work function that I need to be at for my career.

Having to change table locations three times, physically remove his hands from my body, listen to commentary on what he would like to do with me if he ever finds himself alone with me as he leans into me, and turn down offers for sex while other men and women awkwardly watch and listen without helping is unacceptable on so many levels. The comments about how he has a crush on me from those witnessing my personal hell are not helpful because their confusion seeps over into mine and somehow, in the midst of everything, it feels like my fault.

  • Leaving early for French class was a welcome reprieve.

When asked why I was leaving early, I used the socially acceptable answer, “I have French class tonight! So much to do and so little Donloree!” What I wanted to scream was, “I can’t handle being treated like a sex object anymore and that a%*&!# over there has decided he owns me and won’t be respectful of me or probably any woman. You should leave too. What is wrong with all of you? You just watched and awkwardly laughed.”

It is hard to always have to save yourself.

We all own our reactions and my lack of appropriate response to his degradation of me is mine, just as his lack of boundaries and complete disrespect for women belong to him and are not my fault.

And of course he held a place of power in the male dominated workplace I was working in and was highly respected by the other men.

Showing up the next day at work and sitting at the same boardroom table, working together on projects, having his eyes track my every move, and sitting down the hall from him didn’t feel safe.

  • Nor was it.

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My role got handed to me and I played it well, but playing unflappable woman who ignores all sexual advances in the workplace is tiring and lacks integrity.

It is time for us to write different scenes.

Brené Brown has it right in her new book Braving. The example she gives is around slavery, yet the message applies to this conversation as well.

…the humanity wasn’t stripped from all lives the way it was stripped from the lives of black citizens. In order for slavery to work, in order for us to buy, sell, beat, and trade people like animals, Americans had to completely dehumanize slaves. And whether we directly participated in that or were simply a member of a culture that at one time normalized that behaviour, it shaped us. We can’t undo that level of dehumanizing in one or two generations … All lives matter, but not all lives need to be pulled back into moral inclusion. Not all people were subjected to the psychological process of demonizing and being made less than human so we could justify the inhuman practice of slavery.
~ Page 77

It makes me incredibly sad that I might be, and have been, hired as a flagship woman to show that a company is interested in being an equal opportunity employer. I want to be hired because I am the best person for the job and will be an amazing addition to the team.

  • We just aren’t there yet.

And I don’t know how to win.

I am not sure what the best approach is for the next time I am belittled because of my gender, paid less than my male counterparts, or put in a position where I have to continually rebuff sexual advances by a man in power in order to keep my job.

  • Because, unfortunately, it will happen again.

Speaking up usually results in jeopardy. Yet, perhaps it is time we all just risk and continue to lose until we collectively win. Someone always has to go first and those who have gone before us need brave women and men to stand with them.

Together, our calm and clear voice may eventually be heard.

Your inability to see me as a person and complete lack of respect is not my problem. It is your problem, completely unacceptable, and will not be tolerated.

And the next time I get handed a scrip to be the docile woman who simply allows a man to do as he pleases and to accept it without comment, I will scan the pages and return them to the delivery boy.

No, will I wait for a new script to be delivered. I will write my own script.

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It is time we start responding instead of reacting.

A measured and dignified response is always the best approach. It is hard to gather up the remaining pieces of your dignity and have a response that is worthy of who you are, but always try.

Don’t cover up, hide away, or accept, simply respond in a way that you would be proud of later.

  • Although my stealing away for French class was socially acceptable and very Canadian of me, it is not the response I am proud of now.

Looking back, I wish I had simply said, in front of everyone, “You need to stop. And right now. I am not something you can own and you are not being respectful. I deserve better and so do you.” And then I should have walked away. Instead, I ran away, scared, and allowed myself be hunted for the remaining days we worked together.

My response is always up to me and I need to remember that when it seems there is no way to win, I can always choose to lose while keeping my dignity intact.

The conversation is always worth having.

Please note: I realize this is an extremely LARGE conversation and all men do not mistreat all women. Men, on the whole, are amazing people who deserve respect – same goes for women. In light of the fact that as a society we do not know what to do when sexual harassment occurs (both ways), it is important that we talk about it. Demystifying sexual harassment and making it something that can be talked about without shame would be a giant step in the right direction.