By Khimm Graham
Harvey Weinstein, the latest mogul accused of sexual abuse, has been in the seat of power for eons in many incarnations. His selective sexual harassment in Hollywood has reportedly tortured the many women in his orbit.
Being a mad man of the 1960s and ’70s excuses his behavior and admits him into therapy to wash away his sins. But there are boardrooms of sinners, now and then.
I was chief clerk in a downtown office on Delaware Avenue in the sizzling ’70s. Office intercoms were ripe for heavy breathing and off-color suggestions, which I learned to deflect with panache.
Tit for tat, so to speak, seemed to level the field, and being pressed against a wall in a storage room occasionally was a slippery slope unto a physical attack, which was apparent.
Working late one night dunning accounts, I locked the glass entrance believing I was alone in a long hallway of separate rooms. Reception was a fish bowl in a two-story building of businesses, but the files I needed were in the collection manager’s office behind a solid door at the end of the hall.
I walked in, bent over the file cabinet and landed on my back with my hair tangled in the fist of this collection manager’s hand. I screamed and his other hand covered my mouth while his knees spread my legs apart.
I bit him until he bled and ripped his face – tearing skin with my well-manicured nails. Enraged, I beat this man, who had been my co-worker for two years, until he retreated and said, “OK, OK. If you don’t want it, you don’t want it.”
The next day, I came to work and finished the billing and the payroll. I maintained great distance from the office at the end of the hall and kept my job.
At 20, I lived in a furnished three-story walk-up with a gas refrigerator, no car and a few hundred dollars in a savings account. My MasterCard was co-signed by my male boss because I was a single woman and not entitled to my own major credit card. I was not an equal in a world dominated by men in charge, and I was not alone.
This isn’t an old feminist sob story. Just a factual account of what I and some women have experienced in the workplace.
What is sad is that this story continues as I near retirement. In all vocations, in every facet of career, women are still unequal in pay and subverted to unwanted sexual conduct – whether it be a shoulder massage or attempted rape.
Fearful of retaliation, reputations ride on best behavior – team players who don’t file complaints or sue their employers.
Most often, harassment is without witness and assault is behind closed doors and silent halls. Who will believe you?
Unfortunately, many women are not united in their opinions. Collectively, publicly, most condemn the assailant. But privately, the victim is frequently at fault. She slept her way to somewhere.
This condemnation knows no boundaries by generation. Many successful women are tried by their gender peers as often as they are fat-shamed.
When we at last consider each other with equality, we will be equal. Until then, Weinstein and his ilk win every time.