The Black And Pink Cloud

Is it just me, or are people getting worse?

I worked at a job once upon a time – decades before #MeToo – where the boss took a lot of indecent liberties, verbally if not physically, with the women at work. This was in the 1980s.

And he wound up as the subject of seven sexual harassment lawsuits, and lost his job after about a year.

Again – 1988.

And as I’ve slogged through three decades in the working world since then, I’ve listened to a lot of pundits bemoaning that there just aren’t enough female managers, and enough respect for women. I’ve also worked for a lot of women; my first field after radio, technical writing, was pretty much dominated by women. My current field, perhaps less so.

I’ve also heard few stories from women about predatory bosses and coworkers. A few, to be sure – I’ve had a few good female friends who’ve related some shocking stories of coworkers and sexual predation on at least a rhetorical level…

…all pretty much followed up by a visit to HR, and some sort of consequence for the guy, commensurate with the severity of the indiscretion.

Let me sum up; over thirty years in the workforce, and a generalized knowledge that there are consequences, at least in the civilized world (forget about ad agencies and showbiz) for guys acting like neanderthals.

And so since then, as I have watched the #MeToo “movement” make sexual harassment a part of the “national conversation” yet again (that’s right, kids – it’s not the first time), and read stories like this…”

All woman live on a spectrum of misery because, we can only assume, we are women. I have endured attempted rape, and sexual assault on public transport. I have been fired from jobs for not being demure or flirtatious enough (because only two female archetypes are acceptable, and both have terrible pitfalls.) On my first day of work at a famous newspaper, a famous male journalist invited me to place a cigar in a place from which no words come. I giggled, and that giggle – it was a tragic giggle – tells you everything.

via, ironically, “Unherd

I’ve had to wonder – am I (or, really, the decades of female friends I’ve had in the work force) been unshakeable pollyannas? Have I managed, at random, to steer a course through the working world without encountering my share of predatory guys? Have I – who spent most of the past 20 years neck-deep in raising kids – just been too buried to notice?

It’s possible.

Or is it the industries that’ve spawned “#MeToo” – the “elite” reaches of showbiz, the media, academia and politics, where power is one of the perks (for men and women), and the sense of entitlement that comes with the career for people who’ve never really known anything else?

Or is it the current generation, the millennials who as adults collect grievances and diagnoses the way they used to collect Pokemon cards? And for whom, like the raft of fake hate-crime hoaxers that’ve plagued our campuses, the perception of grievance is the same as an offense?

It’s not a rhetorical question.

7 thoughts on “The Black And Pink Cloud

  1. I’m noticing that as well. Six kids for me, but it strikes me that the reports I’m seeing of rampant sexual harassment and abuse seem to be concentrated in areas where the subjective opinion of a higher-up will make or break your career, and where the genius of one man leads his colleagues to assume that if he is punished or forced to leave, that the gig is up for them. Hence it is heavily in Hollywood, broadcast media, high level athletics (e.g. gymnastics, obviously), politics, and universities.

    Where one person is less likely to be seen as indispensable, you don’t seem to tolerate harassment as much.

  2. Or is it the industries that’ve spawned “#MeToo” – the “elite” reaches of showbiz, the media, academia and politics, where power is one of the perks […]

    Most of the #MeToo industries were those in which the supply of victims vastly exceeded the demand for participants, and many of those victims compromised their principles and prostituted themselves for their career. Just look at the reporter who twittered brainlessly about the cigar suggestion. She felt that if she didn’t “play ball” she would be replaced pretty quickly, there being a nearly infinite supply of beginning journalists wanting to work at a “famous newspaper.” Can you tell me that she wasn’t realistic in her assessment of her situation?

    Call that “power” if you will, but it’s gatekeeping of the first order. There are many pretty young things, male and female, who would do most anything to break into Hollywood. The situation is more about the industries that take minimal qualifications (can you look pretty and mostly read a script? you’re an actor!) with high rewards (you wrote in the NYT? you’re famous and get invited to the right parties!), and the (lack of) strength of moral conviction of people.

    Anecdotally, I don’t see a huge amount of #MeToo stuff with those I know. It’s not visible at my work (98% male anyway), nor anyone in my family (not that they’d put up with it). But as an extreme case, I have a pretty, young niece who works as a welder in a metal fab shop. She’s had to shoot down a few of the young turks, but with one exception they’ve taken the message to heart and never bothered her twice. The exception found out just how nasty life in a metal shop can be when she complained loudly about the third time she had to shoot him down and the other guys weren’t happy. They were pretty protective of her. (She’s a damn good welder, too, much better than I ever was and I did some pretty esoteric and fancy stuff for physics lab equipment.)

  3. There’s another side to it. I once worked for a branch of government where management believed Workforce Diversity was more important than Customer Service. They put a woman on the front counter who had dozens of tattoos to display but no other talent. I noticed she had a new tat and said “Your body art is beautiful, someday you’ll have to give me the nickel tour and tell me what they mean.” A co-worker sprinted to Human Resources and insisted I had demanded the tattooed woman get naked so I could stare at her body. That was pretty much the end of the investigation – I wasn’t even asked what I meant by a “nickel tour.” I got lucky – it would have been a pain to replace me at the time so I got off with a lecture and a few hours of remedial sexual harassment prevention training.

    And now I make a point of not mentoring women, not being alone in the workplace with them, not talking to them more than the bare-bones job requirements. Yes, I’m withholding 30 years of knowledge and experience f0rom women that I freely give to men. Sorry, gals, it’s just too risky to treat you as an equal. I’m too old to start over.

  4. Men and women have had integrated workplaces for how long? Since the end of the First World War? And how long have men and women been fooling around at work?
    This is not a bug, this is a feature. It is the height of hypocrisy for a woman to sleep her way up the career ladder & now, when there is no price to pay, to shout that she has been victimized.
    Who deplores same-sex workplaces? It ain’t conservatives.

  5. My daughter worked in Europe for a couple of years, and it is a much more forward and “handsier” place in the workplace. There were approaches, but the only time anyone laid a hand on her, it was another woman – who promptly received a forearm to the throat and a forceful, “Don’t touch me!” (in perfect Czech). It wasn’t a superior, and there were no repercussions (besides the other woman quitting the job a few days later).

  6. Per Joe’s comment, I got in trouble once when I commented that with my then-five kids, it would be too expensive for my wife to work outside the home. That was interpreted as being against women in the workforce.

    My entire job at the time involved working with women. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have a pretty good track record that way.

    But that said, very said regarding the tats, as I’ve learned that a great way to get to know their owner is to ask them what they mean. They’re intensely personal that way, and most owners are very happy to explain it.

  7. My first job in IT, was for a project based staffing company. The staffing industry, at least at that time, was dominated by females. In fact, for about a year, I was the only male in our 7 person office. Further, the staffing industry as a whole, had an underlying reputation of being a little bit sleazy. Consequently, we had a pretty strict dress code that men were required to wear suits and women were required to wear professionally with dresses, no low cut blouses and a jacket. In 1993, the requirements for women were changed to allow pant suits. It was enforced, too. One Friday morning, two of my sales colleagues showed up in short skirts (one was wearing a leather version), low cut blouses with jackets. They looked more like they were going to a party than work. Our female manager made them go home and change and they were not happy.
    Bottom line, IMO, those professional standards, most likely prevented an environment for sexual harassment or lewd behavior.

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