“What was most alarming to me, as someone who was always raised as an independent woman, was just how ingrained this behavior was,” said Casey Crowe Taylor, a former public relations employee at Victoria’s Secret who said she had witnessed Mr. Razek’s conduct. “This abuse was just laughed off and accepted as normal. It was almost like brainwashing.”
The above quote defines why abuse happens. It defines how strong people are still abused. It is the mentality I try to keep in mind while attempting to raise strong, independent children who will not be afraid to stand up for themselves and others.
As a young woman trying to have a career in the world of Investment Finance I experienced a myriad of abusive and frightening situations. The constant scrutiny and judgement on my wardrobe, scent choices, makeup and hair overshadowed the quality of my work and intelligence.
At one point in my career I had a corporate one on one review session with my female boss. I looked at this individual as a mentor until we had a conversation that included forward-thinking career advice from her to me at one of the top investment firms in the county. She told me that if I wanted to continue to work with men and raise up the corporate ladder I needed to raise my hem line and lower my neck line, perfect my make-up, dye my hair to the current fashion for professionals and smile and laugh at the men to make them feel good. Then and only then would I be able to climb the corporate ladder.
I was disillusioned and sick. She was not a mentor. This was not help. Instead of being a woman in my mid-twenties I felt like a 16 year old kid being pressed up against the deli case of the convenience store I worked in and groped by the thirty-something year old man I worked for. Every moment of being touched by someone without my consent ran through my mind, along with every person I ever tried to get to help me saying “That is just the way things are” or “men will be men”.
It isn’t that women of my generation never tried to get help or change things. We were powerless. Society had accepted the mindset that it was okay for men to treat women as object; adults were allowed to treat children as possessions; that you are always property. The only factors that changed how you had were treated was based on the gender and race you were born as well as age. Treatment was dictated by these and we just had to accept it because that was how things were. This was Normal!
Just because something is perceived as normal does not make it right any more than the phrase “this is how it has always been” legitimizes behavior of any group. Decency and Integrity are fundamental to a healthy social group. Society isn’t going to change overnight. However, we can begin to change the world by changing our immediate environment.
So many of us feel powerless in our current social and economic situations. However, we are not powerless. Simple things can be changed in our lives that over time do have a greater impact on the quality of our lives and immediate environment.
Respect. Do we respect ourselves? Do we respect our family members? Do we respect our friends? If the answer is no, that is the first place that you can make changes as an individual. Be honest with yourself and why you do or do not feel respected. If you do not feel respected in your immediate life circle then it is impossible for you to have confidence in yourself and that affects your relationships, career, parenting, etc.
We each have a choice in how we want to be treated and how we treat others. Starting with this one small change can be the beginning we need to change what is normal in our society. No one needs to be a doormat to be respected. Conversely, no one needs to be a bully either. There is a reasonable middle ground in respecting yourself and others where everyones needs and expectations can be communicated and responded to. Also, we do not need to be everything to any individual. That is unrealistic and unhealthy.
However, let’s begin with respect. Respect yourself. Respect Others. Teach Respect.
With Sassy Respect,
Sassy Viking Mama
Sources: ‘Angels’ in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria’s Secret as printed in the NewYork Times. and YouTube/Aretha Franklin’s Respect.