The title of this blog sounds like a college paper. However, I think comparison and contrast is a valuable life skill and can be applied to any area of life.
These days the media is full of stories about sexual abuse, harassment and sexism. Hundreds of men are accused of sexual assault or sexist behavior daily. I want to provide an insight, a comparison and contrast. I will tell two stories, the first is an experience that I believe is all too common today. The second is an experience that I have had recently that has been incredibly cathartic. So cathartic that it has restored my faith “in the good corporate man.” As much as I want to shed light on the all-too-common disgusting behavior men perpetuate upon women, I want more to illuminate and praise my brothers out there who are kind, respectful human beings. I hate that a byproduct of the patriarch is the divisive “men vs women” mentality. We are a world in pain, and people in pain hurt others; regardless if they are male or female. How can we fill the gap with love? Note: The stories are described take place in a corporate setting.
I walked into the elevator, mind racing in preparation for my next meeting. I was headed downstairs to the basement to visit some coworkers for my 15 minute break. In the elevator it was just me and Major ____ a notable military officer that ran the military intelligence lab in the place I worked. I felt a piercing stare and looked up to see him checking me out. Feeling uncomfortable I shifted, from foot to foot. He asked if I worked in accounting on the 2nd floor because all of the “hot girls worked in accounting.” I shyly responded “No sir, I work in System Engineering” he told me there weren’t many cute engineers. I nervously glanced away, praying the elevator doors would open. The tension in that small space was suffocating. He leaned in, invading my personal space and smugly, degradingly, haughtily, looked at me and said “why don’t you come to the basement (where his office was) and make my day?” I felt the heat, the shame, flush from my soul to my face. I didn’t respond. The elevator shortly opened to the basement and there were two male house keepers, tan hands a contrast to the brooms they were holding, looking at the elevator doors as they opened. Major __ announced “boys look at what I drug to the basement.” If the floor could have opened and swallowed me I would have preferred that to standing there in utter horror and self-consciousness. I felt sickened, and knew this man was a predator.
I reported an formal EEO compliant. Turns out there were five other women he had harassed. The result from his military and civilian command? Relocate him ASAP to the Midwest, and not allowing him to get a medal for this particular assignment.
Within two years after that, I had left my career in engineering. After 10 years of similar experiences, I was jaded, broken and had enough. I travelled for a while and was lucky enough to find a job that allowed me to work from home. I wanted to be alone, I couldn’t bear the idea of going back to the corporate world. I worked from home for almost four years. Years recovering from all the sexual harassment, shame and damage toxic men had caused on my soul. Through lots of therapy, prayer, and healing I decided I could face the workplace again. I was starting to shut myself off from life and limiting my career progression. I would be damned if their behavior had a victory over my career. I was stronger and more grounded now, and no one was going to fuck up my Zen. My heart, while healing, had healed with a lot of cynical scar-tissue.
I moved from Utah to a new office in Florida and it has been such a healing experience. I first had to have the vulnerability to put myself out there. I had taken my power back and had the strength to be vulnerable. This time around it is different. My office is 75% male and each and every one of them is a good man. I am respected, my opinion is listened to. I am not harassed or marginalized. It is so cathartic to work with men that are honest, respectful and kind. I began to despair that they didn’t exist, but the despair is turning to trust. This trust is healing. I know there are good men, and good corporations whose values are followed from the top down. I have found myself energized in my career. I feel I do not have to play a certain role to be promoted. I can be myself, just Jo’el, and work hard towards a goal.
I think we as women still need to be on guard. I think we need to hold our male counter-parts accountable, but I think prejudice in any form is wrong. Honest, decent men need to be heard and they need to be a part of the greater discussion. Good men are invaluable in changing the minds/behaviors of ignorant men. We need them on our side. Inclusivity is the answer, not division. We need to recognize and praise our brothers who have our backs.
The word “feminist” is loaded with political meanings. It is used as darts by both political parties. Feminism is described as “the doctrine advocating social, political and other rights of women equal to men.” Inherently that should not be politicalized and polarized. It means we should have the rights as men. Sounds fair enough right?
Let us hold to account the men that treat us with prejudice and let us praise those who lift us up.