Column: Women are not prey, not even for rich and famous
Ask any woman — your sister, daughter, wife — whether she’s ever had “unwelcome attention” from a guy.
Ask her whether she found it flattering.
Chances are you’ll get an earful.
Women are pretty unanimous about those kinds of guys. We talked about them in ladies rooms when we were stuck on those social antiquities called “blind dates.” Sometimes friends inadvertently fixed us up with a creep. Our mothers had warned us about such men. We were taught to be direct, clear and firm.
But our mothers didn’t seem to realize that those signals often went unheeded by guys desperate to brag in their locker rooms. I guess you know where this is going.
We are living through the most bizarre of presidential campaigns, but who knew that, for one very long weekend, we would be replaying that “boys will be boys” theme. Or more precisely, rich, powerful and famous men will be rich, powerful and famous men — with the accompanying sense of entitlement.
I write not knowing the ultimate fallout of Donald Trump’s “tape-gate” recording, the one that had dignified commentators and journalists confronting anatomical slang we used to think was far too scandalous for dissemination, verbally or in print. I’m talking about the words that make most women feel vulnerable and soiled and furious. Words that I’m uncomfortable having my preteen or teen granddaughters hear, even though we all know what they mean.
I am not by any stretch, a young innocent. Or a prude. But I never thought I’d hear those slang words — and boasts — in the public arena of presidential politics. Like so many of you, I’m sure, my husband and I almost ignored the early-warning system on Friday night when it sounded. We assumed this was just another instance of Trump testing our limits for tolerance and decency.
But this time, there was more intensity to the CNN commentators’ tone. This time, we actually turned up the sound on the kitchen TV. Which meant we were in for the least tasteful viewing and eavesdropping in recent memory. Man-talk for sure. Talk not meant to be heard by millions. That night, I was reminded that almost every woman I know well has shared her own story about “unwelcome advances.”
So many of us, with absolutely no encouragement on our part, have been targets. I still relive my own tale, going back to a summer job after my sophomore year of college. My awful job was in a car agency answering phone calls from angry customers.
In the next mid-20th-century version of a cubicle was my boss, an ill-tempered middle-aged man. When he wasn’t yelling at me, he was cooing and inviting me out to lunch. I never went. I had just turned 20 and was a total innocent, but knew that lunch was not a good idea.
Midway into that summer, the invitations began sounding more like a demands And his observations about my clothes were inappropriate. I was scared. I was angry. I was helpless. And when it became clear that the lunch invitations were not innocent, I did what women of that era did. I quit the job.
It left a gap in my tuition fund for the fall, but it was the prudent thing to do. I’ve never forgotten that incident, or how it made me feel. I still cringe when I think of it.
I wish all the Trumps out there would understand — truly understand — that women are not prey. Not fair game. Not even for the rich and famous.
I have told my daughters, and now my granddaughters, what women have always told one another in our own most private and powerful moments.
Our bodies belong to us. Always. Actions have power — but so do words. And so do votes.
Sally Friedman is a writer in Moorestown, Pennsylvania. She wrote this for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may email her at [email protected]
More from the opinion section:
- Cover of the DE lately has said, ‘There is nothing redeemable about SIU’
- Required consent training at SIU is more harmful than helpful
- Making sense of the annual SIU safety report
(c) 2016 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.