I seek women of my age or stage who look cool and proud and smart and stylish and modern. I imagine they recognize one or more of these qualities in me and we acknowledge each other as we pass, silently. ‘I see you, lady!’
This is the title of a book of Nora Ephron essays, which, when I got it as a Christmas present, I found dated and schtick-y (I also thought, at the time, I’m too young for this). But now it happens to be true, though I feel like a bad feminist for admitting it. Maybe I should reframe the emotion as ‘I feel good about turtlenecks.’
So goes the subtitle of a GirlBoss article helpfully pointing out all the helpful ways in which women help others at work—at their peril. I’ve written about being a young woman with a bad boss (The Boss of Me), a beleaguered commuter (Girl in the Gray Flannel Suit) and a woman trying to decode Broffice Brocabulary.
But this article made me laugh, wincingly, especially this part about being saddled with “girl” tasks:
If women had a dime every time they were asked by a man to take notes in a meeting, for no other reason than the fact that they’re women, we’d be making at least 84 cents to their dollar.
Yesterday, a colleague I like quite a bit started mansplaining an editorial calendar to me—me being the editor, he being the marketing dude. He looked a bit hurt when I called him out for mansplaining so I apologized…a lot. He’s new to the organization, hasn’t worked a lot with editorial teams, was really just explaining his understanding of the edit calendar, not schooling me about it. But I was in a mood, I guess. I apologized again today. And now I should just stop apologizing.
Even while men are looking backwards, fearful that past workplace behavior will be mis/construed as harassment (or assault), women I know are reconsidering their acceptance of office-inappropriate words and deeds.
I thought about this while reading “Can Hollywood Change?” The New Yorker article by Dana Goodyear, who takes on the same topic. A Friends assistant was fired, she suspects, for not being “game” about writer-room banter. Along the same vein, another source, a script writer who was “game,” now feels ashamed of her complicity, a “betrayer of my feminist values.”
With 30+ years in the workplace, I’ve seen and accepted behavior I now cringe to recall. I wrote about the most egregious incident in an essay called “The Boss of Me,” about my first magazine job (and boss) for TueNight. That was harassment. But what of the years of intra-staff hookups, locker-room banter and, overall, iffy (and icky) stuff I wrote off as part of the landscape of working at Time Inc., a company led by men? Here, a short list of the iffiest, ickiest stuff, some of it as recent as, say, last week. All colleagues referenced, unless otherwise noted, are male.
- “Snatch canyon” is what a colleague called his office view over a passageway between two buildings, populated, in his opinion, by attractive women.
- “So should I just take my dick out and slap it on the desk?” Fumed a colleague after sharing an emasculating comment he received from another male colleague.
- “Is she hot?” Asked a colleague about an intern I was interviewing.
- “I’d leave my wife on Christmas morning for her,” declared a colleague about a female colleague we had in common.
- “People are totally banging in that room,” snickered a colleague about a “wellness/nap” room.
- “Assfuckery,” “Assfucked,” “Fuck me up the ass:” A colleague’s casual profanities about workplace annoyances.
Starring as Belle in Beauty & the Beast, Emma Watson appears on the cover of Vanity Fair in a nude top-and-cape number, to much criticism. Gloria Steinem was asked whether a real feminist would ever wear such a thing. “Feminists can wear anything they fucking want,” she said to TMZ.
First a rebuke, then a rallying cry, now a t-shirt.
Hell hath no fury like a woman silenced. Like Trump’s Nasty Woman putdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rebuke (and silencing) of Elizabeth Warren last night only fanned the flames of female fury. Here‘s how it went down: Warren began to read a letter from Coretta Scott King’s feelings about a prior Jeff Sessions’ appointment. McConnell objected to both the reading of the letter and to Warren’s history of outspokenness, even after she is asked to stop talking. Then came the line.
“Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Instantly, this has become a rallying cry for women in government, in the workplace and in relationships to “persist” in the face of would-be male silencers. Writes Heidi Stevens for The Chicago Tribune:
“Just keep talking. Keep your pauses short. Maintain your momentum. No matter if he waves his hands, raises his voice or squirms in his chair, you do you.”
Or push back. “Bob, I wasn’t done finishing that point. Give me one more sec.”
Sometimes the floor remains yours; sometimes you get rebuked and silenced by your colleagues.
But you say what needs to be said. And here and there, you inspire a rallying cry.
“Nevertheless, she persisted.”
This post was supposed to be about the surge of pro-woman discourse in the age of Donald Trump. I mostly wanted to post the posters, below, which I think are beautiful. Following a path I could not recall if I even wanted to, I fell into Everyday Feminism and an article called “Here are 20 Examples of Cissexism We’ve Probably All Committed at Some Point.” And I, a supposedly broad-minded, thinking-caring-and-soi-disant feminist, have committed so many of them. For example:
3. Not Noticing When Personal Information Forms Have Only ‘Male’ or ‘Female’ as Options — yes ma’am! and sir and, um, other honorific I don’t actually know
6. Never Wondering Why Tampons Aren’t in Men’s Restrooms — never, ever wondered this
12. Referring to Equal Marriage as ‘Gay Marriage’ or ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ — guilty again and I thought I was saying the right thing, but now I see the problem
19. Expecting Trans People to Educate You If You’re Struggling to Understand the Trans Community — perhaps worse (again) I never considered this question at all. And I love the author’s notation on this one: I am not your teachable moment. Teach your own damn self on your own damn time.
Also cessexist as a adjective is really hard to say but I’m going to try, I really am.
The debate about whether women should support women because they’re women has been simmering ever since Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy, polarizing feminists and/or strong women everywhere. In one camp is the venerable Madeleine Albright who just this weekend repeated this oft-offered opinion, at a Clinton rally in New Hampshire: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” There was much applause.
Now I know politicians and their supporters share their more extreme views when surrounded by their base. I give to you Sarah Palin waxing kooky on her beliefs at faith-based event when she was on McCain’s ticket. But that prompts me to ask: Am I compelled to support Palin and also Carly Fiorina and also Michele Bachmann because they are women?
Women fought hard for the right to vote. Women in public office still fight hard to get there. It’s no more right-minded to vote for a woman simply because she’s a woman than it is for a man to disregard that candidate simply because she’s a woman. Candidates earn our votes because they’re the best choice, regardless of gender—or race or age or faith, for that matter.
Also this weekend, Gloria Steinem stepped in and stepped in it, during a conversation with Bill Maher that started off in a smart and informed way. For instance, she had interesting things to say about why women get more progressive-thinking when they age—because they tend to lose thier power. (Interesting, not sure the theory holds entirely, but something to think about.)
But then she said a really, really stupid thing to explain why polls show young women prefer Bernie Sanders over Clinton two to one: …because that’s “where the boys are,” per Steinem.
Making things worse, she followed up with a non-apology on her Facebook page, blaming “talk show interruptus” for having “misspoke,” with words that are now being “misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics.”
She said what she said and in no way did an admittedly pushy and interrupting Maher force those words out of her. To date, her Facebook post has nearly 17,000 comments, mostly calling her out for the insult and then her equally insulting explanation for why she said it and what she meant.
When I was watching all this on Morning Joe, especially thrilled by Mica and Cokie arguing about what this all means, my husband stepped in with his opinion that “women get so bitchy when they turn on each other.” And that capped off a morning of dubious feminism, offhanded misogyny and just straight up are-you-trying-to-make-me-craziness.
All before 7 a.m.