Me Too. Two simple words that, if you are on Facebook or Twitter, you most likely are seeing pop up as the status update on many women’s and men’s pages.
Actress Alyssa Milano, in a Twitter post on October 14, shared the idea that anyone who has been sexually harassed or assaulted write the two words – Me Too – with the rationale that the sheer number of us who would do this would show the world just how widespread this issue really is. In two days, hundreds of thousands of us have posted it, and some have shared stories, using the hashtag #myharveyweinstein, to show that this abuse is not limited to Hollywood, industry, or level in one’s career.
The revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s deplorable behavior have sparked a movement. Perhaps we as a culture are FINALLY ready to discuss something that previously we did not share. Like, really did not share. Last week, amid the shocking stories coming out about Weinstein, my best friends and I were talking and admitted that we had been targeted in the workplace. Keep in mind these are women that have been in my life for nearly twenty years. We know everything about each other…every bit of each other’s history, what our ATM passwords are, where to find each other’s wills should the worst happen. THIS is the one topic we never really delved into, which saddens me. Why do we share everything, even the scariest, darkest corners of our psyche with each other, but feel too ashamed to discuss something that we did nothing to cause?
When it happens, you feel completely scared, humiliated, isolated, and guilty. You figure it must have been something you did. You never assume that this is just a hideous human being with predatory behavior. You hide it from everyone, even your very best friends. ,
It is time to rip off the bandage that we have all been using to covering up this shame and start telling our stories. In doing so, we take back the power that Weinstein and monsters like him have had over us. In that vein, here are some of my #MyHarveyWeinstein moments:
- A senior HR professional at the firm my father was one of the top people at. I was 21, in my first job out of college. Dad’s office was two buildings away, so I would sometimes stop by to say hello to he and his Executive Assistant, who is like family to us. On this particular day, Dad was in a meeting, so I was at her cube. I leaned over the cube wall to look at something on her computer, and the guy stopped by to talk to us. As he stood next to me, he began to fondle my bottom. I was apparently green with disgust, because she brought me in to Dad’s office, where I told her what happened. He was fired within hours.
- A Managing Director at an investment firm. He moved to Boston from the West Coast for the position. His wife and children had not yet made the move east, and he asked me to spend a weekend with him because “my [expletive] is lonely and wants to spend time with you”. I reported this to my boss. She told me that it was probably because he was from another country and had different views of how women should be treated and to drop it. Two weeks later, a highly respected female Portfolio Manager, who had been at the firm for several years, resigned. In her exit interview, she told me that he was the reason she was leaving. He had made comments like “You’re too old to [expletive] so you are of no use to me” and “old women should just leave the office. I want young and hot”. When I met with him to express concern over these comments, he became incensed and told me that he was going to ruin both her career and mine, and that I should have [expletive] him when I had the chance. When I filed an official complaint with Human Resources at our parent company, I was told that, as a Human Resources professional, I am expected to deal with challenging people and that if I could not handle comments like this I should leave. I did.
- The CFO at a a financial services firm. Over the course of my tenure, he told me that, as a woman, I should be careful about not talking back to him. He told me that I was too pretty to have anything of substance to say, that if I was not careful, he would find a way to get me fired because he was sick and tired of women like me questioning him, and that I needed to put on some weight because men like curvier women. Keep in mind I was his peer, and the only woman on the executive management team.
- The Founder/CEO of a banking client. His receptionist resigned, so I started looking for a qualified replacement. When I brought in four incredibly competent and qualified candidates, he dismissed them all. When I asked for feedback, he informed that “Unless I want to [expletive] them as much as I want to [expletive] you, they are not the right candidate. And find me one with [expletive] as good as yours.”
- The Head of Inside Sales with a company I did consulting work for. I had just returned from an amazing island vacation. He came by my office to catch up, and asked how the vacation was. When I shared that we had a great time, he said that next time he should take me on vacation because “you have no idea the naughty things I want to do to you on a beach.”
Harassers, abusers, and [expletive] grabbers take note: We will no longer remain silent when you spew your vile words, will not cover up your abuse, and will not live in secrecy one minute longer. Keep it up and “Me Too” and use of #MyHarveyWeinstein may eventually include your names and addresses.
In the words of Alyssa Milano, “This is not an uncommon occurrence. This is a sick culture. Men like Harvey Weinstein are around every corner. Men who undermine women and their strength, ability, and intelligence exist everywhere.” By sharing our experiences, maybe we can prevent the next generation from having to endure the Weinstein’s of the world.
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