I’m witnessing a lot of anger these days. Anger from women and men alike. Women in business have been marginalized and even victimized. The arts and entertainment industries, with their loosey-goosey protocols, have been right up there with some of the worst of the offenders.
First it was our formerly beloved Cosby. But that seemed to be an isolated set of circumstances. What Harvey Weinstein has brought to the fore is that it was far more broad reaching than anyone ever imagined. I can attest to that, through my own observations and experiences, the advertising industry has not been much better. And I consider myself one of the lucky ones, because while I suffered some embarrassing moments based on verbal comments, I was never physically assaulted.
I actually had the president of an ad agency where I worked take me aside to tell me he was aware that one of the male managers was making inappropriate advances toward me. He went on to tell me that the manager was more important to the company than I was, so if someone had to go … I was hurt and confused then, now I would just kick him in the balls.
That same company president proudly proclaimed himself a feminist – and at every one of those proclamations, I had to choose between laughing or gagging. He was an intelligent man, and he really believed he was a feminist. He went on to make his secretary extremely uncomfortable when his wife threw him out. He couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to “trade up” from her current boyfriend. I know this because he actually ASKED me that question during a one-on-one meeting.
But times were different when these events occurred – people laughed about the “casting couch.” They considered actresses to be celebrated hookers and little more. And these were opinions held by both men and women. I would wager that we are not all without blood on our hands. Women in business offices were some of the first to condemn the “slutty dressing” new girl with too much make-up – sound familiar? Did that add to the understanding that at least some women were fair game?
Women were made to feel they had to toe the line in dress and behavior. And they would still likely have to field some uncomfortable exchanges, either verbal or physical, if they chose to brave the workforce. Fear of just such interaction was one major factor that husbands of the 40s, 50s and 60s balked at letting their wives into the workforce, ironically while many of them were making their own female co-workers uncomfortable.
Cindy Gallop has declared a mission to expose all the “Harvey Weinsteins” of advertising. And there have been many (like him, him and him, to name a few). Many of these misogynists deserve to be called out for the untold injustices they have inflicted on so many long suffering women. It’s about time karma rear her angry head and level the playing field on these jokers.
But what is the reality of today? I mean, just last year, the 4As published a study that said more than half of women in advertising have been sexually harassed at least once. With all this turmoil and long-hidden, secret offenses, is there hope at all?
In my personal opinion, there is a whole world of hope. Many of the men I encounter today are light years more enlightened than those knuckle draggers of yore. The difference is enormous, even palpable. The majority of the men of today would never think of making anyone uncomfortable, men or women. They are extremely careful about their playful joking – in fact, I think women are far more likely to push things over the limit today.
So, while my heart aches for the pain and suffering these women have undergone, my belief is that the majority of monstrous behavior toward women is starting to be pushed into the past and things are getting better – if only for the fact that these men are being exposed. So, from my vantage point, the future looks bright, and while we still have some ugly messes to clean up, we need to focus on the education that made today’s American male enlightened well beyond his bottom feeding forbearers. And keep pushing forward.