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By Andrea Peyser
October 14, 2016
As a naive, 20-something professional, Megan thought she’d made it. But as she found out, she had a great deal to learn about the world and its slimy characters.
Newly hired in the 1990s as a strategic planner for a New York City-based corporation, Megan gave a presentation before some two dozen partners and co-workers, all of them males, wearing a blouse rising to her chin, and a short skirt that showed off her shapely legs. But Megan, who asked that her full name and that of the company be omitted for professional reasons, might as well have walked into the lion’s den in a burqa and a ball gag, as much as anyone cared.
Standing before a white board, she drew a graph with a line going upward, to depict improving sales, followed by a deep plunge, showing a dip. And when she was finished, one of Megan’s colleagues grabbed her marker and offered to “round out’’ the picture.
“He turned it into a flaccid penis!’’ Megan told me, still reeling, more than two decades later, from the public humiliation.
“Then he said something really stupid like, ‘I want to hold this against you to firm things up.’ ” Everyone in the boardroom laughed, including the female secretary. “I was nearly in tears.’’
Then, she did something she regrets to this day. She laughed along with them. In order to get along, Megan behaved like one of the guys
She quit her “dream job’’ a few months later, and today works for a nonprofit firm dominated by women who, she said, aren’t “a whole lot better in terms of objectifying men — and women.’’ Megan is far from alone.
All over America, people are reliving run-ins with something Donald Trump dismisses as “locker-room banter.’’ But words matter.
There probably isn’t a woman who came of age before the last few years who hasn’t gone through some form of gender-based degradation in the workplace. I once worked for another media company whose male editor had a fetish for asking young women to walk away from him, shaking their booties as he ogled them. Those who complied were rewarded with promotions and plum assignments. Those who refused to play along (including me) were relegated to the journalistic cellar.
Complain to the Human Resources department? Not a chance.
I think the flood of females into the workforce in recent years and the fear of sexual-harassment lawsuits have combined to improve the status of women. Just maybe not in Trump World.
Conservative readers and pals have begged me to let up on The Donald who, 11 years ago, as a 59-year-old real-estate developer and reality-TV star, was recorded yukking it up with then-“Access Hollywood’’ co-host Billy Bush, bragging that his star status gave him permission to manhandle women. Come on, they say, he didn’t know then that, today, he would be running as the Republican candidate for president.
Warning: Graphic language
“It was words, not actions,’’ a GOP woman insisted via e-mail, after I called on Trump in a column to step aside from the race.
(This week, a slew of females came forward claiming that Trump leered at young girls and took sexual liberties with women — six of whom said he groped them or forced unwanted kisses, with one alleged incident dating back more than three decades. Trump denied, vehemently, that he acted inappropriately.)
Wondering if I’m taking Trump’s lapses of decency too much to heart, I interviewed a man near and dear to me — my husband. I wanted to know: Do most guys really talk like that?
The answer is yes — and no.
The hub admitted that many men, even he, privately discuss women’s appearances, sometimes in crude terms. (I’d be lying if I failed to admit that women talk trash about dudes’ — and ladies’ — looks.)
But even if Trump never touched anyone without consent, as he maintains, he crossed into territory where people I care about wouldn’t dare venture. He boasted disgustingly that, as a star, he “can do anything. Grab them by the p-?-?-y.’’
He talked about women as if we’re pieces of meat.
Women (and men) have put up with a lot to get ahead. We don’t need Trump to set the calendar back to days when men could be male-chauvinist pigs, and women sex objects.
We deserve better than that.