Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Two readers have emailed me asking my thoughts on l’affaire DSK. On the particulars of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape allegations I really don’t have any, believing that it is for the courts to sort out. Though I’ll agree with his defenders on the small point of the perp walk, after all a defendant is considered innocent until proven otherwise. But to the broader response by his peers as characterized by the insufferable Bernard-Henri Levy and the outbreak of anger among French women all I can say is GO GIRLS.

To say that each week I’m subject to some egregious sexual harassment is an exaggeration, though a small one. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been groped on the Métro or have had demeaning or threatening comments directed at me from men on the street. That shit happens in many cities, but it seems worse here. But sexual and sexist comments in business setting are more common here than in the US or UK.

The flirting and suggestive comments I can ignore or brush off with repartee. Also I can ignore objectifying comments such as, “that dress is lovely, but on you it is beautiful,” without embarrassment. Each of the young women who have interned at Kim & Co., has confronted this in a different way. One had worked very hard on a project and greatly contributed to its success and in the conference call tying up the loose ends she heard the senior manager for the client
, who is her father’s age, tell the project manager to “…make sure you bring the pretty young girl to the executive presentation, she brings the beauty of a bouquet to the room.” At what was the crowning moment of her internship, she was being compared to a vase of flowers, how horrid.

More problematic are the expressions of support that are accompanied by a hand placed on my back heading south, or my knee heading north. It’s awkward. Easier to dodge are the suggestions for a private dinner or getting together cinq á sept.

Admittedly, in a small way French women have contributed to the propagation of these attitudes as they have not been as willing to forego some of the benefits of traditional femininity for equality as American and UK women. I’m guilty also as I’m a shameless flirt and not above leaving the man’s suggestion open till I’ve gotten what I want. But I want it to be different.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even as a child, I used to wonder about the problems of being a woman, to be a person in society and to be decorative as well. This was back in the 1950's. I guess that in your two professions, you must balance this as well today.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A test is how quickly a man switches from ogling or flirting to seeing her as a person who happens to be a woman. That is more difficult for men to do with very attractive and very unattractive women: tough to get through the sexual meanings in both. A guy can understand in the abstract there's a person in there, on the other side of the boobs, inside the dress, above the legs, but many, most can't relate to a woman fully as a person. When you add power to the equation, you get men who don't want to see a woman as a person and certainly not when the power relationships are skewed.-M

2:32 AM  

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