Can Privilege Come at a Price?
A Scenario For You to Ponder
Imagine this if you will. You are a high-ranking woman working in a high powered office and you have a new male Executive Director or Chief Executive Officer. Your new boss invites you and your team to a “get to know you” dinner on Valentine’s Day. Your interactions with the previous ED/CEO were minimal at best, as it was not within the scope of your position to interact with him. But you think, he’s new and, with your entire team there, it will be an excellent time to suss out this new boss and the direction he has been mandated to take the company. The day before Valentine’s Day, he decides he wanted to have dinner only with you and a few members from his executive team. He’ll connect with your team at another time.
You get to the dinner and it’s a little odd, as you are the only representative from your department and the only female in the room, but you’re a professional and have been dealing with the boys club for decades. It’s dessert and your new boss asks everyone to give you and him the “the room”. Your new boss inquires whether or not you wanted to stay in your position. He states plainly that many other people would want your job, and given his mandate to change the direction of the company, he’d completely understand if you would want to move on. He says to you, “Listen if you want to stay it’s not a problem. I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” You respond with an innocuous, “I love the work I do for our company and look forward to continuing to do so.” Your new boss places his hand on your shoulder and says, “I hope we can find a way to have a fruitful working relationship.”
What do you deduce from this scenario? What motivations do you extrapolate from your boss’ actions? Do you immediately cry “SEXUAL HARASSMENT!!” and file immediate chargers? Do you extricate yourself from this situation as gracefully as possible and make note of it for later...in case this behavior continues. Do you shrug it off? Do you tell the new, seemingly volatile ED/CEO that his behavior is inappropriate and guide him to “better behavior” because he’s new and clearly doesn’t know better? What do YOU do in this situation?
In essence, this is the decision James Comey had to make when he was alone in the White House with our 45th President. In short, Comey has to decide if he will blow up 45’s spot or play it cool. It’s an entirely different response when it’s a woman than when it’s a man, isn’t it. It is my suspicion that the pundits and politicians on both sides responded to James Comey quite differently as a man than how they would have responded had he been a woman. And this left me wondering why? Why would a woman in almost the exact same situation receive more empathy than James Comey?
I’m Just a Girl?
Yes, there is a history of oppression that women have experienced due to the patriarchy of our world culture. And yes, women have had decades of quietly enduring the unwanted and unsolicited advances of men because there was no other recourse for them. Decades where the power dynamic was firmly in men’s hands. But surely we don’t suppose that the power dynamics of America lay only in gender roles. The rich have more power than the poor, the educated more so than the uneducated and we don’t call the Office of the Presidency the most powerful position in our country for nothing. Are we then to assume that a woman should experience our “fictitious” scenario any differently than a man? Are we cementing the trope of the proverbial damsel in distress?
I couldn’t help but to think of the outcry that would have shouted from the highest D.C. hill, had all the pundits and politicians asked a woman, “Why didn’t you tell him no.”. “Why didn’t you tell your boss.”, “Why didn’t you ring the charges bell when you had a chance, rather than sitting on it until you were fired.” Placing a woman in that position, I bet a great many of you could come up with some feasible and strong arguments for all the “why’s”.
Not enough evidence to prove wrongdoing, but enough experience to know it when you see it.
Volatile, new personality...One can have no idea how the new boss may react.
Fearing the loss of your job.
In politics, idylls can be turned on their ear in a NY minute.
The government needs to get out of Americans health care - unless it involves reproductive rights.
The Constitution is the thing by which all governmental decisions should be measured - unless it involves a deity, and that trumps everything.
And only “certain” types of people are vulnerable to a misuse of power. Typically people society has deemed weak and in need of saving.
I call bullshit. Because guess what, James Comey did not scratch 45’s back. Comey did not bend over and take a power punch to the back end. Comey said no, and Comey is out of a job. And that, my friends, is not the victim's fault.