Sunday, January 19, 2014

Money Can't Buy My Love

All my life, my mother warned me to expect anti-semitism.  I have never directly encountered any.

When I got married to a brown man, (my first husband), my family threatened that we would run up against racism.  We never did.

I have been super lucky, and feel very privileged to be living in Toronto, where the various -isms are rarer than elsewhere.  However, I have encountered a surprising amount of sexism in the past few months, and it's making me furious.

What changed in my recent past?  I took a step into the realm of Big, Bad Business, which is full of cranky, rich, older men.  These men assume that any young, appealing female is there to do their bidding without asking too many questions.  I would truly like to slap them all.

The Business Men are all lascivious to some degree.  I do not see them greeting each other European-style, with a kiss on each cheek, but that's always how they greet me.  Okay, I can live with that.  But there's one accountant, a rat who always reminds anyone listening that he owns a block of real estate in downtown Toronto, who takes it too far.  From the minute he was introduced to me, he hit on me unrelentingly, in front of my step-dad, and even in front of my husband.  I tried to be a good sport about it.  I mean, it's annoying, but whatever.  He can talk until he's blue in the face but he's not going to get anywhere with me.

I had just sat through a meeting with him, and, in an attempt to establish a friendly rapport, made some joke to him about psychopaths.  He took this opportunity to wrap both his hands around my neck and pretend to strangle me.  I was so startled by this that I didn't make much of a response.  I just kind of made a face and stepped away.  He followed me, put one hand on the back of my neck, and proceeded to stroke my hair in the creepiest way you can imagine.  Then he offered me a ride home.  Yeah, right.  That'll be the day.  I escaped a.s.a.p. and haven't seen him since.  The less I have to do with him, the better.

Then there's the lawyer who was rude to me because I didn't say "Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full sir," when he started giving orders to me as if I were his administrative assistant.  You can bet that he wouldn't have talked to a man of my age and position in the same way.  I gently hinted that it would be more appropriate for him to assign the task to his secretary, but he just got angry with me. I did what he wanted, fuming the whole time, because I didn't want to start a war with him, but I asked my step-dad to remind him that I'm not a secretary.  I only help my step-dad in that capacity on occasion because he's my dad, and because he asks me nicely.  I manage a department of 14 people; I have higher priorities than typing someone's memos and fetching tea, especially when the person who's asking doesn't say please or thank you.

(That all being said, I always say please and thank you to my own subordinates.  There's nothing about secretaries that should allow anyone to feel welcome to abuse them.)

I shouldn't have to deal with these losers much from now on.  I have declined to participate any further in the Big Bad Business scheme that my step-dad has been wrapped up in.  Partly it's because BBB is not my style, and partly it's because the sexism in those circles is so sickening.  I guess it's two facets of the same problem: nasty people.  I have no problem with a little innocent flirtation for fun, but when I feel like I've been time-warped onto the set of Mad Men, well, that's taking it too far.

5 comments:

Jenski said...

Whoa. Those two specific examples are awful. I have to admit that I'm shocked the first situation still happens! Argh.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

ummmm.... this stuff still happens?!? I thought Mad Men was ancient history. I would slap the one guy with a warning about sexual harassment so it's at least on file if it has to go further.

Granny Annie said...

The final frontier in the battle of discrimination is Women's Rights. If this had been the first equality won, the others would have become non-issues. The reason we cannot and will not ever win this battle is because we cannot unite. We are our own worst enemies.

Lynn said...

I can't stand that either. The owner of my company doesn't seem to get that you can't say just anything to women. He and I had to go out and meet a customer together - I drove. We stopped for gas and as I was putting the gas in the car, he was able to hear the CD I had in the player - it had been turned so low we couldn't hear it before, and we were talking. He asked who it was and I replied, "Emmylou Harris. Do you like her?" He said, "I wouldn't kick her out of bed for getting cracker crumbs in the sheets." Something like that. He apologized the next day and then followed with, "But I'm a MAN." Sheesh.

And not 20 minutes ago - I had to tell a male coworker that he should not address an email to two female clients as "Ladies:" I think just addressing it to their names is good, but that's just me.

Vanessa T said...

I'm stunned to hear that this kind of thing is still so rampant. I would think in those kind of circles you're talking about, that sexual harassment lawsuits would have shut them up but good. Sometimes such lawsuits are justified, but sadly too many woman file them frivolously down here. Heck, a girl where I used to work (before I met Darc) threatened to file one on ME! All because I patted her shoulder to say, "If you need to talk, I'm here," when she came in to work crying one day.

But the very fear of a lawsuit should have silenced those men by now. Sad. And I'm sorry you had to deal with that, and I'm glad you're removed from it now. :)