My Thoughts About Recent EventsBy Carol Alt / Post / October 30, 2017
The other day I was doing an interview about my Cat Perkins shoe line and the interview veered off into a political hot potato question. “What are your feelings about the recent sexual scandals?”
First of all, I have to say in business I’ve never really been sexually abused. If I’m going to a meeting early in the morning I always brought a girlfriend who was waiting right outside the door of any hotel room that I had to go to; and believe me, there were many times you had to go to a hotel room early in the morning or late at night for an audition. I just never went alone; my guard was always up. Thanks for that bit of self-defensive advice, mom.
What trouble I personally got into came with my personal friends. The more powerful my personal friends became the more they thought they could take liberties. One Twitter fan responded that perhaps I was too powerful myself for anyone to want to mess with me. Well truthfully, I started out “somewhere.” Somewhere back in my business and personal lives I wasn’t seen as powerful as I am. I didn’t feel as powerful as I am. Everybody, at some point in their life, is vulnerable.
The point is that it was as my friends became more powerful in THEIR businesses, THEY felt more powerful and they felt like they could have whatever they wanted from me regardless of my feelings on the matter. So even if I’ve always known to protect myself in business, I was always shocked when I was in a friendly situation and ended up having to fight my way out.
I also understand there is a bit of a difference between this situation and a business situation; in a business situation I probably would be worried about losing a job or being blackballed in my industry. In a personal situation it I was sad enough to lose someone who I had cultivated as a friend. And many times I could salvage the situation if I chose to. I could always forgive– not forget but forgive- if I felt that they were still a politically useful person. However, I would never ever forget because, obviously, you just don’t want to find yourself in that situation again. Being wary is always very necessary!
I also cultivated an image of being serious and responsible, not a party girl, on purpose. If a photographer had big job I wanted to be the one he hired. I wanted to be the one that got the job done. I didn’t want to be the one known as a party girl. I did that because I always thought that you got back what you put into the world- the situations you created would dictate how they’d play out.
But even if I put out those working hard vibes, I still certainly found myself in many situations where, looking back, I have to wonder how I got there and why I allowed it. Most of the time however, even when I found myself in a potentially bad situation, nothing happened. At the same time a situation that seemed so safe and innocuous, something did happen. Is it the luck of the draw, or a roll of the dice?
Well sometimes I have to admit I did find a clever soothing way out. Then again, was it just clever and soothing because it was the luck of the draw, or a roll of the dice that I escaped unharmed and with a cautionary tale to tell? I guess I will never know. Maybe I don’t want to know. Certainly no woman wants to feel stupid because she suddenly finds herself in a situation she didn’t calculate would happen…
The one thing I do feel however, is that any woman who took payment for their silence had a hand in every woman who was taken advantage of after them. I was never offered money for my silence, and I was never in a situation where I feared for my job, so I really don’t know how that would feel. Then again, I never threatened to expose the situation and I’ve also never said I would keep quiet about it. I just felt somewhat responsible for being there myself. And, well, I was never sexually harassed by anyone I deemed superior- neither in business nor personally (even if by all standards they were extremely powerful men).
You do have to feel a sense of awe for the women who were strong enough to come forward and accuse men who had power over them. I don’t know if I could have been so strong. I was never worried about losing a job;as I mentioned above it was always the loss of a friendship and any perks that friendship with a powerful person could have brought- if there were any perks, who knows? I can’t dwell on what might’ve been…
There is one thing I am worried about in all of this though. Beyond women taking bribes to be silent and beyond men feeling that they have the right to take advantage of a woman if they find themselves in that kind of situation; I’m worried that because of all this, there’s going be a setback for women in business. I already know a lot of my male friends and male business associates do not want to be alone in a room with a woman, and I know a lot of men who do not want to network with a woman. Maybe rightly so, as I’ve heard stories of women who falsely accuse men of things they haven’t done simply because they’ve been turned down, either professionally or personally for advancement and they’re trying to get even.
So are we all vulnerable to abusing each other?
We women have to stop using sexual abuse as a weapon to get even, because that cheapens it and marginalizes it for a woman who is actually sexually abused.
Men have to stop using us as their tools. We are not a way to get back at someone or to relieve stress or a way to feel powerful when in a powerless situation.
I don’t even know if it is at all possible to treat each other equally because there will always be one bad apple in each barrel. In other words, somebody who takes sexual advantage to get ahead or to punish or get something more out of a situation.
I don’t think this world will ever be “fair and square-” that’s just never gonna happen.
Edited by Jake Layton