I shouldn’t let a man rattle me with his words or frighten me into this type of paralysis.
I have a severe case of “writer’s block” and it all began with a man’s rant. This was someone I had championed and promoted, whose work I had lauded to others, but with one swift misunderstanding, he lashed out publicly rather than reaching out to chat one-on-one. After clearing up the complete misunderstanding and apologizing, I am left with that residual crummy feeling from the insults hurled my way.
“Nothing to worry about, all’s fine,” he said at the end, to wave a magic wand over it all and make me forget his temper had erupted like Mount Vesuvius. Can you take back that awful jab about my writing? I wanted to ask . He had implied that I do not take what I do seriously, which could not be farther from the truth. Not only do I take everything I do way too seriously, but when I pour myself into work, it is something I put significant time and effort into (There is not only writing, after all. There is also fact-checking, editing, revising…There is waking in the middle of the night as another thought comes to me and rushing to rewrite a portion. I could go on and on). In this case, male bravado was at the center of the storm. This was someone who was worried that I had inadvertently tarnished his tough guy image. Ire had gotten the best of him and he immediately lashed out impulsively. A couple of comments were issued to me to make me perfectly aware that no woman should ever do that to him and no woman would again.
While I am not the first woman to feel intimidated by a man, I am more attune than ever now to the idea of women who are afraid to speak out. While sexual harassment in particular is a current focus, there are other types of fears women face when it comes to the opposite gender. It is not always about trepidation. Sometimes it’s about hesitation.
A friend of mine is afraid to tell her male boss she is pregnant because of the disparaging remarks she knows he will make. The last time she was pregnant, this same boss gave her hell and spoke derogatorily of her to their colleagues.
“I won’t be disclosing this until my pregnant belly is staring him in the face and it’s impossible to hide,” she tells me, “He will start complaining and laying a major guilt trip on me with regard to what will happen to my position, with the employees I manage, and with our clients. I’m perfectly capable of running this entire corporation and having everything go smoothly through my maternity leave. I know precisely who to delegate tasks to in that period of time…Yet, he was awful the last time I was pregnant. He made me feel as if I had committed the gravest injustice to our company. Otherwise, I love working here. I don’t want to ever feel chased out. I have been dreading how I’ll eventually have to let him know I’m pregnant this time around.”
Despite what we would expect from the Corporate America of 2018, being pregnant or being a mom comes with its own challenges in the workplace. Our kids come first, but having to leave a meeting due to a child’s allergic reaction (this happened with me years ago) can illicit obnoxious remarks from the higher ups. When dealing with male – as opposed to female – bosses, we smack our heads against the wall in frustration. How will this person ever get it? He’s never going to become pregnant or physically give birth to a child.
On the subject of “getting it” and truly understanding women, let’s talk about women’s bodies. Over the years I have been horrified hearing men opine in an unsolicited manner on the female form. Two nights ago, on Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules, Lisa Vanderpump’s party planner Kevin Lee approached server Katie Maloney at an event to express shock over (his perception of ) her weight gain. As it happens, Katie is svelte and absolutely stunning, but not ask stick thin as some of her cast mates are. “What happened to you?” Kevin asked, which immediately took Katie aback. He proceeded to tell her she must take care of her body and that he was “worried” about her.
Publicly castigating a young woman before the cameras about her appearance does not smack of worry to me…but perhaps that’s just me. My personal contention is that Kevin was being catty.
In his non-pology to Page Six https://pagesix.com/2018/02/06/vanderpump-party-planner-i-was-joking-about-katies-weight/, Kevin gave the excuse of being Katie’s “friend” and declared that she’s been so “sensitive” lately. Congratulations, Kevin. Like so many great male deflectors before you, you turned it around to blame the woman you insulted. You expressed that the fault lies in her psychological makeup.
It also pays to note that Kevin is one of those extremely thin men who could consume cheeseburgers for lunch and dinner daily, but still fall over when the wind blows. I have doubts about his understanding of female hormones and related weight fluctuations, the challenges of staying in shape and the unbalanced amount of criticism women (versus men) receive about appearance and physical fitness.
While it might prove inaccurate to state that Katie Maloney was fearful of Kevin Lee, something in her made it impossible to respond with anything other than a quick initial defense. She was essentially rendered speechless and this is not an uncommon response to the shocking things men will say to women. Historically men have felt they have the license to comment on women’s bodies, to let them know they appear fuller than they used to, to suggest they lose weight and imply they aren’t trying — when that most often is so far from the truth. With #MeToo and #TimesUp, men are starting to pause before making sexually suggestive comments to women..so… can we also school them on refraining from commenting on a woman’s weight?
I have been horrified about this for years and I’m hoping that 2018 might finally usher in some progress. I’ve been married for close to two decades, but I remember a blind date from many years ago who stared at my waist. “I normally date women who are a size zero or two,” he told me unabashedly. At the time, I was a slender 4-6 and was appalled, but also incredibly frustrated. I exercised on a daily basis and tried to cut down on junk food..and it seemed all for naught. I was probably even more conscientious of watching my weight then because I was in a brutal Jewish Manhattan dating scene where Natalie Portman was every man’s ideal. While I could not change what my date was attracted to, the fact that a man had actually said this to me, and that I ended up feeling apologetic to him at that time, reflects something that was wrong with society.
When I was pregnant many years later, a guy who happened to be rather portly and disheveled approached me to loudly declare “wow, that’s HUGE!”, pointing to my stomach. I looked at him dead-on and without realizing I was reenacting a scene from Sex and the City, (one that must have been stuck in my subconscious) I replied “I’m pregnant! What’s YOUR excuse?”
The problem we face today is that we, as a society, are still conditioned to men speaking a certain way to women. In Kevin Lee’s mind, it was OK to justify Katie’s hurt as the result her being too sensitive. When our president was accused of making the moves on a female reporter, one of his initial responses was “Have you seen her? I don’t think so.” While two wrongs don’t make a right, my immediate thought was “Donald Trump, have you seen you?!”
But you see, this is not the response that comes to others’ minds. Why? Because wealthy and powerful men “can” make these types of statements and they “can” demand to be flanked by beautiful women. Our society has long rewarded these men throughout history. Luckily now in 2018, women are starting to say that this type of treatment is no longer tolerable.
I saw far fewer people comment on Katie’s physique after Monday night’s episode of Vanderpump Rules than those who lambasted Kevin Lee on social media. If the episode had aired 10…even 5 years ago, I think more people would have chosen to comment on Katie and scathingly scrutinize her body type. I’d like to think we are making progress, that we are getting bolder and speaking up for ourselves. Unfortunately, I also know firsthand that we still have a long way to go.