If you haven’t read “An Indecent Proposal (part 1 of 2)” please do that first!
“You are smart, but women need a covering,” Mr. G my potential client stated with righteous conviction. “You are here wasting away, probably talking to all these small boys that have nothing to offer you. I will make you rich, I’ll buy you a house and you can drive any of my cars you want. I will pay for your further education, and you only have to make me happy,” he leered. “You are brilliant. Look at the report you wrote. No one in my company could produce something of this quality. You deserve to be rewar –”
At this point I realized my logic, reason and professionalism were falling on deaf ears. I began knocking on the door I was backed up against and heard Joyce ask “Sir, should I come in?”
“Yes please,” I responded in an equally chirpy voice.
He looked furious.
Only then was I comfortable enough to face the door, quickly reach for and press the unlock button above my head, and race out of there – leaving my proposal, broken pen, and “prospective client” behind. I wondered if Joyce faced this kind of harassment from the CEO or if Mr. G reserved it for external consultants only. A creepy adage of another ‘potential client’ turned ‘not-so-honourable’ person crossed my mind, “I never lay my rod on my staff.” I shuddered as I hoped Joyce had the privilege of Mr. G extending such morals her way. I signed out at the reception downstairs, rushed to my car, and drove straight home.
I felt strong…and weak.
I examined my outfit, wondering if I’d brought this on somehow. But how? I was fully covered and fully professional and fully clear as to where I stood. And should that really matter anyway…
As I thought of my rent and Masters tuition expenses that my full time job wasn’t quite covering, I had a second of self doubt.
Was I being foolish or naïve?
My train of thought didn’t make it out the station though. This was the only option I had ever given myself and so it was what it was.
I suddenly understood how my mother felt a few years earlier when I was visiting for the summer and she came home from this Commission or that Ministry red faced and pissed off; frustrated that her proposal was ignored in lieu of her beautiful skin and enticing figure. I felt equally objectified. I felt like it was hard to be objective in this situation.
I felt like…none of this was my fault.
At the time I didn’t live in a country where you reported sexual harassment, even in its more extreme forms; never mind a grope, a few off-handed comments and a missed kiss. I resolved to pay more attention to the signs. I resolved to make my position clear and avoid isolating myself. Most of all I resolved to trust my gut feeling no matter how lucrative the client or how interesting the work.
Every one has what they are willing to do, give or compromise with varies across the spectrum. As far as the physical goes I realize mine is nothing at all – not a peck, not a grope, not a gander. It can be discouraging when one opportunity after another falls through, but in the long run (and I’m still running) I am convinced that what is mine will be mine. I don’t have to drop pieces of myself along the way. I am not in the business of judging, only taking personal stands. While I could have had a house, car, etc. (see above slimy declaration) it will happen when it happens and not in “that way.” I believe there are enough forthright and integrity-filled clients who aren’t looking to break their marriage vows or break a young woman’s spirit and resolve, so I seek those ones out and pray they show up.
While I “lost an opportunity,” I gained a greater sense of identity and that, to me, is enough. I might have been $1,000,000 (I kid you not), richer right now, based on more desperate offers communicated via text from Mr. G after my hasty departure, but what I’ve learned is priceless.
It’s not my fault. It’s not her fault.
It’s not your fault if you were ever in a similar situation.
However she has a part to play. She must be attentive. She must be vigilant. She must take her stand before an incident confronts her. She must not allow dwindling resources to make her feel like she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place – even when she’s literally between a mountain of a man and a locked office door.
I would like to say the next day, week, month, or even year I got a heaven-sent no-strings-attached opportunity that trumped Mr. G’s offer and made it all worth it – but I didn’t haven’t yet. I have paid my rent and I’m chipping away at the tuition bill, but through salary savings not dissolved resolve.
Most times your standing up and refusing to sit on someone’s lap won’t be worth it financially, but if you were just in it for the money you probably wouldn’t have made it to the end of this post.
Has this ever happened to you? How did you handle it? Any tips? Any thoughts? Any advice? Do tell.