Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher

It’s time to roar!

18 Comments

Years ago, when I was a rookie stockbroker working for a big name brokerage house, a senior VP offered to ease my way into ‘the big times’, if…

The ‘if’ was the catch. It involved sexual favours and the threat that if I told anyone, no one would believe me. He was a senior partner. I was a rookie. No contest.

I believed him so, rather than submit to his sexual advances, I did the only thing I thought I could do at the time. I said nothing and moved to another firm.

Several years later, after leaving the brokerage industry, I worked for a Canadian hi-tech start-up with offices in Silicon Valley. I was situated here. Most of the team I worked with was in California. Everyday I’d have a conference call with one of the VPs in the California office, and every call, he’d make some type of sexual innuendo over the phone.

I thought the best way to handle it was to laugh it off. To pretend I didn’t hear, or didn’t get his meaning.

That worked, until we were alone in a hotel elevator while attending a conference in Dallas. His floor was before mine. The doors opened for him to exit, he turned to me and asked if I was joining him in his room. I laughed it off. Pretended like I just thought he was being funny.

The next day, he began to make my life hell. There was nothing I could do that was right. Nothing my department created that met his needs for sales and marketing support.

My boss asked me what was going on. I feigned confusion. I told him I didn’t know. I suggested it was perhaps a mis-communication.

And then the guy in California got really nasty. I couldn’t ignore it so I went to my boss and told him the truth.

The solution. They reorganized our work so that I did not have to work directly with the man in California. He was too valuable to lose. To critical to our agenda to let go.

I said nothing. Got pregnant soon thereafter and left the company.

I felt responsible, culpable, accountable for what happened. And, for my actions, I was. Except, I thought it was all my responsibility. That their bad behaviour was my fault. That if I had just… (pick your poison) … THEY wouldn’t have felt they could make such advances.

Truth is, what I am most responsible for is my silence.

Truth is, millions of women continue to encounter such treatment today. It’s not because we deserve it, or ask for it, or ‘know’ we want it. It’s because sexual politics continue to play a role in our society, and we stay silent.

Last night at dinner with my eldest daughter, she talked about power and control and how if women do not know they have choices, or understand their power, or believe the stakes are too high to challenge the status quo, they cannot be held accountable for their actions.

For me, having walked away in silence, I disagree.

At the time, I thought I had no choice even though I had lots of choices — I just chose to take the one that I thought ‘hurt’ the least.

Truth is, I was scared to rock the boat. I was afraid to take on the male establishment, to challenge the ‘acceptable’, to poke the bear of sexual power and confront the underbelly of sexual power.

Truth is, I was afraid to speak up.

I can rationalize my fear away by saying it was too hard. I would have been pilloried by the men. I would have been ridiculed, mocked, black-listed, shunned.

It doesn’t matter.

Truth is, I stayed silent in the face of abuse.

If we want to change the world, if we want to stop abuse, end violence, end sexual predation, then we must not let fear drive us into hiding.

We must let courage draw us into giving voice — and stop being afraid of the consequences.

And we must stop saying, I didn’t know any better.

I knew better when I walked away in shame. I knew better when I didn’t speak up. It’s just, I was afraid of the consequences. Afraid of what might happen.

Sure, it’s not fair that women have to rise up to claim their voice and create equality. I mean really, why can’t men just do it for us?

And that’s the thing. Men can’t do it for us.

We must do it for us.

It is our right.

It is our duty.

It is our obligation.

If I could go back and change anything in those two encounters, it would be that I did not silence my voice. It would be that I recognized the moment in time where I had the opportunity to make a difference, not just for myself, but for women, and men, today.

‘Cause here’s the thing. What happened to me happens to millions of women everyday. And for the majority, we are still saying silent.

It’s time to stop the silence and roar.

 

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Author: Louise Gallagher

I believe we each have the capacity to be the change we want to see in the world, to make a world of difference. I believe we are creative beings on the journey of our lifetimes. It's up to each of us to Live It Up and SHINE!

18 thoughts on “It’s time to roar!

  1. I love that you are writing about this topic and finding a voice now that you didn’t exercise then.

    I want to clarify that I certainly did not imply that “women can’t be held accountable for their actions”. The point I obviously unsuccessfully attempted to argue, was that within the constructs of the power systems at play in instances such as the experience you lived, though there is always choice, there is not always agency.

    I too have walked away in silence from persistent harassment from a male peer in a position of relative power. Though at sixteen I could have chosen not to stay silent when he repeatedly pressured me for sexual favours – alone, in his car, and with my understanding of his place within the social framework of our peer group – I lacked the agency to exercise that choice. Had I had a greater sense of self-esteem, my own driver’s license, insurance of my physical safety, and the knowledge that I would have had family and friends to support my voice, perhaps I would have made a different choice. But I didn’t. Though I can take responsibility for that decision now – in no way do I hold sixteen-year old me responsible for not being empowered to make a different choice. I did the best I could with what I knew.

    You’ve always said that when we know better, we do better. The wisdom of time can allow us to look back on those situations and see where we had efficacy. But I’d hazard a guess that the fact that you did not utilize that agency at the time of your experience was due to the very real power dynamics that prevent women around the world from also breaking their silence.

    As women, yes, we have to roar. You and I and the millions of other women who once stayed silent because at the time silence was the safest option, must create structures and support networks and a space where we believe women’s voices. Where we teach men – who, are also operating within the systems of power that have been handed down from generation to generation – that they too have agency and can change the nature of the system by creating space for our voices.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thank you Alexis for clarifying — your position — and a very important aspect of this conversation. You are correct — without agency, without an understanding, sense of safety and a sense of knowing that who I am is worth roaring for, we do not stand up and roar.

      I didn’t then — but you are damn right. I can and will now! And in my roaring and your roaring and all of us standing up and roaring together, men and women who believe no one deserves or should ever be sexually, emotionally, physically harassed, bullied, diminished or abused, we create a mighty wave of change — and the space for those women who are trapped in making choices they do not want to make, but have not the agency to do otherwise — to roar with us.

      Love you my mighty and fearless daughter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Courageous and poignant writing Louise. I need to add an extension of an ideal you express. When you say “men can’t do it for us” I only partially agree. Those men who are the predators will not be a part of the solution. But all other men can and should be. We also need to speak up when we see the seeds of this repugnant behavior. We too can say in the midst of a meeting that there is no place in this situation, this company, this world, for that behavior. All of us need to find the courage to roar, and to challenge historical norms and to form new expectations.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I agree with Ian. If a woman speaks up, there are often comments that the woman is making a fuss over what was probably an innocent gesture. Sometimes those comments come from other women. However, if a man speaks up as the action being unacceptable, people notice. Yes, this in itself is sexist and unacceptable (that men are believed and not women). But the point I am making is that it why it is so important that men speak up too. It starts with all of us.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with both you and Elizabeth Ian — men too have a role to play in ending it. By your adding your voice, you create space for men to examine their words and actions. I also believe it is imperative for women to carve their path in this so that the path is a reflection of what women need and want, versus what men think we need and want. I think we must roar in a high octave so that the pitch is a reflection of our unique qualities, and not an adaptation of men’s tone…. However, everyone’s voice is needed to ensure we create space for everyone to be equally free to express themselves in their own unique way. Hugs

      Like

  3. Great post, Louise. It’s too bad that your story is all too familiar. I don’t blame you one bit for not knowing what to do and feeling powerless. Awareness will allow our silence to end.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Those are no-win situations. We do the best we can. (Of course there’s the old “hindsight is 20/20” adage.) It seems you learned to be honest with your superiors and then assess that if that type of behaviour is acceptable & accepted by them, it’s time to move on. Had you given into the sexual advances, would anything have been better? Hell no!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the beautifully brave roar of this post, Louise. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know that silence. I kept it, too. It was crazy-making shame that kept me quiet. No, quiet isn’t the right word. Muffled. That’s the word. I want women to find their roar soonaer than we did. I want it to stop taking until we’re in our 50s. I want voice and strength and presence to happen in youth. Big dream. I want men to find their rightful “roar” too. Not as predators but as protectors. We all need to take responsibility. My sons know to speak up when a woman is disparaged for her femaleness.
    Together we will rise.
    Thanks for this powerful write, friend.
    -Jennifer

    Liked by 2 people

  7. LG,

    Great piece. Pitch it to a magazine … it doesn’t need much polishing … it’s great

    Mark .. from the doghouse (I shouldn’t have said you were whining … I just thought your columns recently were pity-affected and a little self-indulgent – but today, you unloaded fantastically)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mark! (and no dog-house needed. I appreciate your position/perspective — this is a place where we each are free to express what is true for us — and where each position/perspective is honoured) Hugs

      Like

  8. Ah…Louise. Compelling post…and haunting in its familiarity. I spoke up once when I was very young. My boss said he would fill my car up with gas from the municipal pump if I would show him my breasts. I reported him to the officials and all that happened was I got transfered to a different department in a different building!! In hindsight it was a very good move for me but at the time I can remember how disillusioned I felt. Don’t beat yourself up over not speaking up for you can’t do anything about the past. I wouldn’t know how to make a difference here and now…somehow, sadly, it seems that things have not changed much from when I was a 19 year old girl! Sending you beautiful thoughts ♡

    Liked by 1 person

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