I happened to catch "Outsourced" last night. It's not a show I regularly watch, but I do stick around for it every once in a while. It's cute, but I worry about it relying heavily on Indian stereotypes. Last night's episode centered around sexual harrassment and the cultural differences around what constituted inappropriate behavior.
During the show, my husband and I had a discussion about those sexual harrassment training sesssions that they do in nearly every workplace, and how lame and annoying they were, and Jesus, didn't everyone know this stuff by now?
Well, they should.
Of course it wasn't that long ago that behavior considered inappropriate today was accepted as the way men were. And we're not talking back in the Mad Men era, either.
Anita Hill is back in the news after receiving a bizzare phone call from Clarence Thomas' wife Virgina, in which she asked for an apology for Anita's sexual harrassment accusations of nearly 20 years ago. Turns out Ginni may regret that phone call, because - well, I had never heard of Ginni Thomas and her Tea Partyesque activities - some of which benefit directly from her husband's position on the Citizens United case. I can't be the only one for whom this is news. How far can this red flag be raised?
People have their theories as to the "why" of the phone call. Many of them have to do with attention getting or politics. My own theory was that Ginni found or heard something that disturbed the denial she's been living in for 20 years. You know how some women know their husband is cheating, but the tell themselves they don't want to know? If Ginni was really unaware of her husband's bad behavior before, she's going to know now. Lillian MacEwan has some things to say about that era, and her stories appear to back up Anita Hill.
The Web chatter and news articles surrounding these events have made me realize how much my thinking has evolved in 20 years. And here's the confession part: 20 years ago I wasn't sure I believed Anita.
There were two main reasons for this. First, it really bothered me that I was expected to believe her because I was a woman. Second, I just couldn't believe anyone would actually do the unprofessional and immature stuff she was describing. And then, a year later, it happened to me.
My experience was more what we would now term "a hostile environment." The men in the group refused to continue using my maiden name once I got married. I overheard someone saying that anyone without a tie didn't have to be taken seriously, including the women. The guy who became my boss a month or so after I started began regaling me with stories of his sexual exploits with women from his gym. He compared and rated the physical attributes of our female coworkers.
Even though I knew he must be including me in his comparisons when I wasn't around, I don't recall ever objecting, though somehow the relationship got antagonistic quickly. I was smarter than he was, and I probably didn't hide well enough the fact that I thought so. He was around my height and I took to wearing very high heels on the days that we had to present together so that I would be taller than he was. It was my only form of revenge. But in the grand scheme of things, he wasn't my only problem. A month or so before the end of my time there, someone forwarded me an email that mentioned my breasts in both a positive and negative light. It was part of a game that the sales team was playing and they were making the "welcoming" gesture of including me in it.
I'm no prude, but I am extremely shy about my body. I am, to put it politely, a little top heavy, and very sensitive about it. My rule about hanging around with guys is that they can say just about anything to me, but I do not want to hear that they are saying things about me. I can't take it. I won't take it. The unfortunate scene that I made that day put an end to the game - or at least my inclusion in it. I lasted there no more than six months. I certainly had grounds for a lawsuit, but all I wanted to do was leave.
Thankfully, I haven't had that kind of experience since. Looking back on it now, it's hard to believe that people ever thought that kind of behavior was ever acceptable, and it's hard to believe that was almost 20 years ago. Anita Hill may not have been successful in keeping Clarence Thomas from being confirmed, but she has changed a lot of other women's lives for the better. Men's too, even if they don't always realize it. Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done on that front.
My old boss -- is now a VP.
At the same company.
I'm not sure he'd have made it anywhere else.
I hope they have good sexual harrassment training.