Being a woman right now is uncomfortable. That’s the best word to describe how I feel when every day my inbox is flooded with updates on the Harvey Weinstein saga, sexual harassment litigation updates from Uber and white papers being published about how prevalent slut shaming is online for women.
You can’t turn on the news without hearing about another reported incident of rape or sexual misconduct coming to light…in the workplace. And for that – well, I’m thankful. It’s been long enough. We’ve been quiet for far too long. I feel empowered and proud. But again, I am uncomfortable.
Why? Because of the way this narrative has affected some really important relationships I have in my life. Mostly with men. Men whom I love very much.
You know who I’m talking about…
“I voted for Trump because our country needed a change – and he would get us out of this financial crisis. I don’t like or agree with what he has said or done to women.”
“I think what Harvey Weinstein did is deplorable. It’s disgusting. But how and why didn’t these women come forward sooner? Why wouldn’t you choose to walk away from Hollywood and your career instead of being harassed?”
“I think these women who have come forward are brave, but I am sure there are some women who are taking advantage of this situation and who are going to get rich from it.”
“I know this stuff happens, but I can honestly say it doesn’t happen in my company.”
These are all sentences that have been said to me by important people in my life – men. Men who always preface this conversation with how much they support me and other women – but who always end on a note that leaves me feeling upset. And frustrated. And just plain angry.
I get it. If you’ve never been touched inappropriately in the hallways of your work, or you’ve never been called “sweetheart” or “honey” in a meeting full of your peers, or been asked what size bra you wear - it’s hard to imagine how you would act. Common sense tells all of us that we would fight back when a male colleague tries to force his way into our hotel room at a business convention or we would tell our boss when a client asks us to wear that blue dress he likes so much that accentuates our curves.
We wouldn’t take it. We would slap someone. We would run. We would quit. We would TELL.
But clearly – that hasn’t been the case. I’m not here to debate why or to reiterate for the hundredth time the power struggle dynamic. That’s not what this blog is about. This is just explaining to the men whom I love so deeply, why I have been a little bit shorter with them in conversation, why I haven’t laughed at their jokes, why I have chosen to pull away a bit sooner during our good-bye hugs.
Because quite frankly – you are making it worse. You’re making me resent you. And yes, even to my loving husband, wonderful father and amazing brother - you’re making me love you just a little less.
Don’t judge, don’t assume, don’t roll your eyes, don’t laugh it off – just listen. Don’t lead with a caveat when subtly defending a sexual predator who has been accused by lists of women for misconduct. Don’t tell me these men are smart and talented (while acknowledging they have “other” faults). Don’t tell me these women should have spoken up. Just stop! Listen and realize that most of you don’t worry about being assaulted or raped on a weekly, if not daily basis. You don’t have to hear men cat calling you in front of your teenage daughter and say things like, “Hey baby, I would love some alone time with you and then I can move onto your daughter.” You’ve probably never been called “aggressive” when you spoke your mind or been asked to take notes in a meeting when you are one of the most senior people in the room. You haven’t been told that you would get further in the workplace if you would talk less or wear your hair down more.
So stop with the remarks. Stop trying to fill the void with your justifications or assumptions. Stop pretending you understand the full picture.
Just tell me you believe me. And know deep down, that at some level — every woman in your life has gone through something like this. Many times.
I’m sorry if you are sick of reading about it, hearing about on the news or discussing it at parties. I’m sorry it makes you feel awkward around us. But this isn’t about you. This is about bringing this to light over and over again until it STOPS.
To all the men I love – please listen more and stop making me love you less.