This week, the Harvey Weinstein chapter in the “Me Too” movement came to a close, with HW being found guilty of rape and a felony sex crime, although he was acquitted of his 2 most serious charges. I am not implying this problem is somehow solved with Mr.Weinstein’s conviction, as it turns out the accusations were merely the tip of the iceberg when it came to men in power roles in Hollywood being improper with women. And especially beyond the glittering lens of the entertainment industry, this type of behavior still runs rampant for ordinary women, be it inappropriate behavior to outright sexual assault.
I have to admit it was hard for me to take a lot of the accusations seriously when people began coming out of the woodwork, releasing stories from decades ago about abuse at the hands of famous people. Many of these stories didn’t even involve physical touch. “The door was unlocked and he was touching himself, why didn’t this broad just leave the room,” I pondered, upon hearing the Louis C.K. allegations. I just assumed most were just trying to cash in on a monetary payout. I recently had an incident that has changed my mind on the matter, and sometimes unfortunately that is what it takes.
I want to precede this story by saying I have never been a staunchly feminist woman. I enjoy being able to use my “womanly wiles” to my advantage, particularly in a sales position. I never cross any kind of unethical line, but I definitely have batted my eyes and flashed many a smile and a compliment here and there to get my foot in the door with accounts. However, I’ve never touched someone or accepted dates with clients or anything of that nature.
After the first of the year, a decision-maker at an account who is always uncomfortably flirtatious, asked me if I’d made any New Years resolutions. I told him the usual-lose 10lbs and pay off debt. He then proceeded to say “I bet you could help me with my resolution.” Stupid me walked right into this one. “Oh yeah? What’s that?” thinking perhaps he wanted to sell more wine.
“This year my resolution is to be a bad boy. Think you can help me out?”
Ew. My first response was a criss-cross of laughter and vomit, because that is hands down one of the most ridiculously repulsive things I’ve ever heard pass someone’s lips, even if Brad Pitt said it. He then doubled down on his attempt and said, “I think me and you could have a lot of fun together,” and licked his lips and looked me up and down, the way I stare at a Hot n Ready pizza during a Sunday hangover.
It was at this point that I realized I was in a horrible predicament. I am a woman with a very strong personality. It does not hurt my feelings to put a man in his place, and it’s not like this type of thing hasn’t happened before. The issue is, when you’re working as a bartender or you’re just hanging out in a public place and a stranger says something gross and inappropriate, there’s typically no consequence to cutting them down to size. However, I am currently in a financial position where every single bottle I sell matters, and I need this account. And if I offend this man, who has just been totally unprofessional and offensive to me, I’ll lose that income that I so desperately need. It also was just the two of us, as he had conveniently waited to say this when we were standing across the store from the only other person in the building. He said/she said doesn’t typically bode well for us ladies. So I did the thing that women do-I laughed uncomfortably, grabbed my phone and checked the time, and told him I was late for an appointment at another account. When I got in my car, I felt like I needed a shower to wash his lecherous eyes off of me, as well as that god awful pickup line that he definitely heard in a porn somewhere. I was so mad about not standing up for myself, and every time I’ve gone back since, I make sure to wear turtlenecks, a coat, a hat, and no makeup, which is outlandish that I have to do this to feel like I’m not inviting this turd to be gross.
The point is, it made me realize, if I am reacting this way over an account that might mean $50-$100 in commission, what would I do if it were someone who could give me a career making millions? If I had to consider that the person touching themselves in front of me had the ability to have me blacklisted by every other decision-maker in my industry because they thought I was “a bitch” for refusing them, would I really just walk out of the room? Even in writing this article, I am petrified that the wrong person could read it and make a mental note to not hire me somewhere down the road in my career because I am speaking so openly of the event.
It’s disgusting that ANYONE, not just men, would use a personal grievance against someone to dictate the path of their future because they were in a position of power over them, and ESPECIALLY if they were scorned for behaving inappropriately or unethically. It has also opened my eyes to how horribly skewed the world of men and women truly is. While I do have the benefit of these “womanly wiles” to influence buyers, I also don’t know one male sales rep who has been put in this position. But when I spoke about this to my female cohorts, they didn’t even blink an eye. It’s just commonly accepted as a hazard of the job and that the pros outweigh the cons.
I hope the tide is slowly turning in this circumstance, but until then I will just have to figure out a way to thicken my skin and balance putting people in their place while not hurting their ego. And always, it goes without saying, if someone crosses an uncrossable line with you, dear reader, no matter your circumstances, you ALWAYS have the right to say ENOUGH and walk away, pros and cons be damned. There is no amount of money that is worth a lifetime of shame and regret for not standing up for yourself.