We all need to take a lesson from Khaleesi, The Mother of Dragons in Game of Thrones. She is a beautiful, strong woman who found her power in a world dominated by men. She leads differently than all the men. If you love Game of Thrones you may remember this amazing scene where she takes charge of her army for the first time and frees all slaves.
For most of us, this character is but a dream. Most women I know – in their 50’s, have a story to tell of being harassed, demeaned in the work place or being victims of “mansplaining” which is defined as men condescending or patronizing women.
So there is no shock value for most women who watched the video over the weekend of Donald Trump’s frat boy banter with Billy Bush. But, there is, for many of us, a sigh of relief that a hugely public figure has been exposed or “caught” in the act of demeaning women.
We know that Trump is not an outlier, but this type of locker room speak is something many of us have been exposed to, or even a victim of, but have not felt there is anything we can do about it.
As women, I’m guessing, as we’ve watched Trump and his stories unfold, our memories are jogged about our own personal workplace experiences with impropriety.
I had a flashback about a run-in with harassment back in the early 80’s. I never really felt I could talk about it because I wasn’t sure it was “enough” to qualify as harassment. There was nothing to be done about it and I told myself, I was just being overly sensitive. But, the truth is, I knew I was being harassed.
It was 1984, and it was late in the evening. My workmate and I were cramming for a presentation. As we sat side by side at the computer, the only two left at the office, he began to rock back and forth singing, “Like a virgin – F###d for the very first time.” He was staring at me, grinning greedily repeating this refrain over and over and over again – back and forth he rocked.
His leering was purposeful. There was no doubt this 20-something workmate was coming onto me –if not taunting me — but I remember nervously chuckling and trying to get him focused on our project. He was feeling playful and wouldn’t let up.
I finally got up and went to the bathroom. When I returned – he was still grinning. It was tough to work – and I pretended to just ignore it – but I’m not sure how I made it through that evening. I remember driving home fuming and pissed off and had no one to talk to, as I didn’t yet have a cell phone. (I don’t think I got one until the early 90’s, but I digress).
I was newly married and weirded-out by this guy. He was on my strategic planning team and I had to work with him for the whole year. I was 27 years old.
I told my husband about it when I got home – and we both agreed – this is just what guys do and that’s the way it is in the corporate workplace and I better get used to and learn to ignore it. And so I did.
But to this day – I still think of being taunted by that lewd “teammate” and how wrong that was. And, then I think of Donald Trump’s video – and I’m not surprised at all but, I am annoyed and somewhat relieved that he has been exposed.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a power move. Most women in their fifties experienced it, but most shrugged it off. Some still deal with it.
What amazes me is that it still hasn’t changed and exists behind a veil of shame and fear. I often feel that in business, men’s boundaries with women are different than with their male peers. I’m hoping this election drama highlights awareness and women are encouraged to recognize and feel empowered to speak up when they are demeaned in the workplace.
Perhaps the day has come that more women like Khaleesi are no longer merely the Mother of Dragons, but respected leaders and not just the stuff of fairy tales.