Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘sexism’

susan b anthony
It’s time to go back to 1972 or so and start the Women’s Liberation movement up all over again. We need it.

A client, who was sexually harassed at her old firm, tells me a new fear haunts her – that her “reputation” will be transported via gossip to wherever she goes next. I asked what that “reputation” would be – I mean, how do you get a reputation for being harassed by some clown at a law firm?

“Well, they might think I’m difficult, or unstable, or a trouble-maker,” she explained.

That makes me want to scream – particularly because she might be right: Some sort of reputation along those lines might stick to her, and it might get around at her new firm. When you’re a woman at a law firm – or a woman, period – there are times when it seems you just can’t win.

Another client – a young partner at a biglaw firm – told me she’d been harassed, but stated flatly, “you can’t report it – they’ll just push you out.” I asked her what she did instead. “Oh, you’re supposed to be able to handle it. Tell him to fuck off, or whatever.”

That was upsetting to hear. She delivered it with gusto – and I wanted to believe she really meant it, had the fortitude to say “fuck off” to the guy slipping his hand up her thigh, then briskly smooth her skirt, and move on. But is it really that easy?

Therapists love empathy exercises – it’s kind of our business, in a nutshell. So let’s go ahead and imagine the reality of sexual harassment – having someone you have no interest in sexually or otherwise, someone you work with or work for, pawing over your body at a firm function. My guess is it would unsettle me more than I’d like to admit. And how about going into the office the next day and trying to work with the guy – especially if he’s senior? Could you just “handle it”? Or would the whole unpleasant business get under your skin, leave you seething, angry and humiliated and wanting someone to listen to what happened to you and do something about it? And what would you do with the thought that he’s probably doing this to other people, and getting away with that, too?

(more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Dr. King would have turned 81 this week – an excellent opportunity to discuss ageism, an insidious form of  discrimination.

The starting point in any discussion of discrimination is why difference is an issue at all.

Some of your discomfort with difference derives from sheer inexperience.  It has been proven that a witness in a courtroom will more  accurately identify a defendant of his own ethnic background.  Most of us are used to seeing faces that look like our own.  Faces that are different tend to blur into sameness.

Another basis for discrimination is what psychotherapists call “transference.”   That’s when you transfer an expectation based on an earlier encounter into a prediction about future encounters.  If you are used to seeing Asian men deliver restaurant food and spot an Asian man carrying a bag from a Chinese restaurant, you might assume he’s delivering it.  That happened to one of my patients last week when he showed up at a friend’s place with take-out.  The doorman called up a delivery.  My patient was a guest, not a delivery man – and he felt insulted.

Transferences can crop up anywhere.  If you grew up in a world where African-American people, or Jews, or Muslims, or any other group, were supposed to be dangerous, violent, money-grubbing, untrustworthy or whatever, you might carry an unconscious assumption from that early programming.

Some of the worst discrimination arises from what you fear in yourself.  Think of the “straight-appearing” gay man who disdains the effeminate gay man.  Or the “bourgeois” African-American who looks down on the “ghetto” African-American.

Seniors face all three sources of discrimination.  They are unfamiliar, since our society tends to shunt them aside, separating them from the mainstream of younger people.  There is also transference – the images of older people in the popular media are often misguided and condescending, leading you to make assumptions about older people you meet in the real world.  And finally, you fear old people because you fear growing old yourself.

A few years ago I introduced a new member to one of my psychotherapy groups.  She was 77 years old.  No one else was over 50. The new member’s arrival triggered discomfort, especially in the youngest members, who expressed it by becoming flustered and telling her over and over again how terrific it was to have her join us.  Their response felt out of place and condescending – like it was all about her age.  Instead of the bright, prickly, opinionated, vain, complicated person in front of them, they seemed to be seeing a small child.

Over time, the group confronted this issue and explored unconscious feelings.

But their initial – and bizarre – reaction was all too familiar to the 77 year-old.

She shared powerful examples with us of ageism in her daily life:

  • If she went to a restaurant with younger girlfriends, a waitress always seemed to ask “oh, is this your mother?”
  • If she went out to shop for clothes with younger friends, the clerk told the younger people they looked great in their outfits, then, if she even noticed her, added, “even you look great!”
  • When she went to President Obama’s inauguration, a man chased her down and insisted on asking her age, then exclaimed “You’re terrific!” for no apparent reason.  This was typical – people are always telling her they “love” her  for no apparent reason.

Enough.  Let’s listen to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man we’re honoring on his birthday.  I hope, if he were still with us, he would be treated at the age of 81 as the man he truly was – not some crazy stereotype about older people based on ignorance, misguided assumptions, and fears of death and dying.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Read Full Post »