When I was in my late twenties, I worked as a stockbroker. Years before, I had worked for a summer at a brokerage firm in Toronto and was intrigued by the business. Perhaps not the business itself, but more the aura of power and wealth that imbues the industry with its sense of self-importance and attitude of ‘the whole world revolves around us’. It was seductive.
At the time, I was one of a small group of females in the sector.
We did not band together. We did not form a group to support one another, even though sexual misconduct was rife within the industry, covertly and overtly. When we occassionally met over a glass of wine or at a party, we’d talk about the sexual advancements we’d received as if being propositioned every day was the norm — because unfortunately, it was.
Every woman I knew attested to the fact that from innuendo to explicit comments, there was little confusion as to where some of the men stood on the notion of women in the field — they might ‘accept’ that woman were brokers, but they sure did not respect nor accept that women had equal status and rights to being treated like anything other than sexual objects.
I say ‘some’ because the vast majority of men I worked with were respectful and considerate.
And then there were the few.
The one’s like one of my bosses, a VP in a large firm who offered to pave the way to my success if I had sex with him. “Tell anyone and they won’t believe you,” he said when I rejected his offer. “You’re just a rookie. I’m a VP.”
I believed him. I left the firm and went to a smaller company where I felt safer and accepted. Even though I was the only female broker amongst a cadre of men, not once was I subjected to sexual improprities. I believe it was because the Managing Partner was pretty clear on the level of professionalism he expected from his team. There was to be no sexual misconduct.
A father of three young daughters, he stood up for what he believed in – that when they became adults, his daughters deserved to step into a world where they were safe to make their dreams come true, without having to face sexual misconduct and harrassment.
Which brings me to my question this morning… Where are the men?
Women have been marching. Speaking out. Wearing pink pussy hats and t-shirts decrying sexism and sexual harassment. Calling out for equality. Fair pay. Fair treatment. Fairness.
Where are the men?
Not just the single voices speaking out against those who have recently come under scrutiny for sexual assault and misconduct, but the marchers. The placard bearing. The fist pumping the air demanding an end to sexual violence; in the home, in offices, in military quarters, in locker rooms and movie sets.
Where are the men?
Do they not see that while they stay silent they risk being tarnished by the same brush that paints the perpetrators of sexual aggression and violence? Do they not see that in their silence they become victims of another man’s bad behaviour?
Sure, there are laws against sexual violence but laws do nothing for a woman while she is being raped. Laws do not bring comfort to a child while he or she is being abused. And laws do not heal the wounds of sexual assault.
Woman have been marching and in their midst there are a few men courageous and strong enough to stand up for what they know to be true and right — women are not sexual objects, the weaker sex or a sex toy who’s main purpose is to pleasure a man so he can get off on his power.
We are human beings deserving of respect. We have the right to feel safe walking down any street a man walks down. We have the right to step into an elevator alone with any man. We have the right to be in a room with any man and not be harassed, demeaned or propositioned.
Where are the men demanding their brothers stop behaving like beasts? That they stop forcing themselves upon women. That they put an end to using their masculinity as a weapon?
Where are the men?