What Now?

First, a belated THANK YOU for the warm welcome to the Women and Words site. It is an honor to share space with the women who contribute here, and it is a pleasure to read and learn from the comments you, the reading women, post. So…onward.

This post could just as easily have been entitled, Now What? Yes, I’m again referencing the ugliness that seems to add a perp a day, but I don’t want to waste words on them. I want to talk/write about the women and the culture/society in which we live that easily and routinely makes victims out of women who’re only trying to do a job, earn a living, build a career.

Why should it be part of a woman’s job description to meet her male boss at his home or in his hotel room? Why does a man need a button under his desk that locks the door? How many HR Department heads are women who answer to a male boss? How many women in the workplace strive to be considered just one of the guys or a real team player? To knock one out of the park? To score the winning goal? To come in first? The woman who won’t meet the boss in his hotel room or have an intimate dinner with him or work late with him is a bad sport, a loser.

Have you noticed how many workplace attributes are sports-related metaphors? How much workplace activity is couched in terms of winning and losing? Perhaps we women have been approaching our jobs–even our lives–all wrong! The guys are playing a game while we’re trying to learn and hone a craft, earn a promotion, and reap some recognition for our accomplishments, and if we should fail to be a good sport in the process, then we lose. And we didn’t even know we were playing.

A criticism that came often to me in my 20s and 30s was that I was too serious. Relax, I was told; lighten up. (FYI, it’s been a very long time since I was 20-or-30 anything!) I didn’t understand then what they wanted from me, but I sure as hell wasn’t about relax. I was Black and female, very often the first and/or only one in the room. I now understand very clearly what the guys wanted from me: They wanted me to be a team player, a good sport, one of the guys, while I wanted a promotion and a raise and, if I was lucky, to go home to a woman who was glad I wasn’t one of the guys.

So what now? We can’t hope that recent events will make men behave better. What’s required is for women (and girls–this “game” starts early) to set our own parameters and to heed the red flags and alarm bells. And for the record, there’s nothing wrong with looking good on the job–we do good when we look good! But if the boss insists on tight dresses, high heels and lots of skin, remember: Not being a team player trumps being a victim. And I don’t think bridge and bid whist are sports.

We have miles to go before we sleep.


  1. Great post, and good to hear from a black woman (& even perhaps a lesbian at that). As an artist who has luckily avoided boardrooms & molestations in the office, it saddens & enrages me in equal amounts every time I hear of what my sisters in the more corporate world have to put up with. I can’t imagine the loneliness of being ‘the only one in the room’, and YES, f*ck being a good sport just to appease the men; go Grrl! Cheers from Australia, G


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