So there's this boy who pulls a girl's pigtails in grade school and she goes home and cries to mom and mom tells her that boys will be boys and the next day braids her hair. Some battles just aren't worth fighting.
Lee Abrams' resigned as Chief Innovative Officer at the Tribune. Complaints had come into H.R. regarding an offensive email sent company wide. CEO Randy Michaels resigned shortly after, on the heels of the board of directors evaluating the leadership and direction of the debt ridden company. And media vultures all throughout the nation are waiting to spit on the grave of the man they hope is next.
Credit is being given to the NY Times for their seven page spread on what they call the bankrupt culture at the Tribune - a culture the Times equated to a frat house. It was an interesting read, filled with sources and stories and analogies that positioned the Tribune as a company that had lost the respect of its peers and a company that simply couldn't compete. The Times got a few things right.
And they got a lot wrong.
First of all, frat house is the wrong picture to paint. Stag room is more appropriate. Maybe the Times didn't use that metaphor, because it likely has its own set of double doors.
Stag rooms were known for their exclusivity. Gentlemen only. Hotels, country clubs, fitness centers, restaurants, pubs, and of course, race tracks everywhere provided a place where the men could gather. A place where "gentlemen" talked about "gentlemanly" things. Like say, how many times he and the wife had done it that week.
Should we women, by now, have been able to infiltrate these environments? Was the liberation movement about gaining access to the places the men congregate? Was our goal really to invade their space? Is it sexist that the stag room cultures abound still to this day, or that women want to get into those rooms and redecorate?
Boys need their toys. They need their lockers and their yards and their garages and their gaming zones. They need their club houses. Their tree houses. They need a place where girls just aren't allowed. Because quite frankly, girls are just "icky". Girls are messy. Girls want to come in and ruin everything.
Sure, boys will get their hands dirty. They play in the mud, they throw their food, they can go weeks without bathing if a woman doesn't remind them to. But girls? We are hyper sensitive, emotional wrecks. We get offended because he did this or didn't do that. We want to come in and make alterations to everything they've got. (Ever notice the anatomy of Barbie's Ken? That's a girl for ya). If I were a boy, I don't think I'd want a girl in my club either.
Corporate America is still by all rights a man's world. If we didn't get that before the 2008 election, we're never going to. Is that okay? No. Is this how to change it? No way.
It is in fact the exact opposite response that should be made. Because it makes us look weak and petty. It sends the message that the sign on the club house door is warranted: "NO GIRLS ALLOWED!!!" Because apparently, we don't know how to play with the big boys. Hell, we can't even handle a parody.
Who the hell cares that a link to a video got circulated company wide that included a satirical sexual message? Are we seriously that sensitive? And let me ask the question that no one seems to have asked still: Why the hell did you click on a link labeled "sluts" to begin with? What were you expecting? Ice cream?
That this email message compelled a cry to H.R. confounds me. No one's job was at stake if it wasn't viewed. No one was holding hours of employment over you. Paychecks weren't being docked for thinking it was rude. Promotions weren't dependent on the amount of laughter in the break room. The email wasn't about kissing ass or being harassed. It wasn't anything but offensive to some who some others called prude.
I've been working in a male dominated industry for a couple decades now. If I had a dime for every time a man's eyes rolled over my frame, I'd be able to buy the Trib Tower in one day. Getting insulted or offended because someone comments on my cleavage or lingers a little too long on my legs is energy I just don't have the time to expend. Instead, I just throw it right back to them.
Ask me to flash my breasts for a Jefferson and I'll remind you we've had forty three presidents. Tell me I look good on my knees and I'll remind you men with class at least say please. Compliment my ass and I'll compliment your comb over right back. If someone wants to play that game, you can cry on the bench or you can pick up a bat and swing baby swing.
Because hostile or not, it isn't discrimination and worthy of complaint unless you've got something tangible at stake. And being personally offended just doesn't seem enough to start bitching.
I've had emails come my way company wide soliciting prayer for fellow employees. You think that didn't offend me? Of course it did. Why should employees be directed to participate in mystic magical things? Hell, even the First Amendment is smart enough to know you don't attempt to establish religion in a wide spread, diverse community. But you don't go crying about it. You don't start whining about your liberty. You take a step back and you realize that it isn't a battle worth fighting. Because it has absolutely nothing to do with your job security.
Can it impact your overall attitude if something rubs you a bit wrong? Certainly. We know that workplace environment effects productivity and progress in most all industries. Create a culture of comfort and you succeed. When employees are stripped of the straight jacket of rule and regulation, they thrive and fly on creativity. They tap into their personalities. They find comradery. They show up for work. They stay longer hours. They spread the word. They gain a vested interest in the growth. Because the atmosphere is inspiring to them.
Does this mean that all work environments should be the same? Does it mean we only cater to the men or to the women or to those who make complaints? No. What it means is that sometimes cultures change. And just because a culture isn't your thing, that doesn't necessarily make it a negative thing.
The NY Times is proud of its expose of their competition. They approached the spread in the old school spirit of journalism. Except they forgot to leave out the appeals to emotion. Now, plenty are jumping on their bandwagon. Including anyone who has ever had a bone to pick with someone in management.
But the truth is: You don't have to like, accept, condone or endorse someone's personality (or behavior) in order to appreciate them as an employer or employee, let alone a human being. If the grievance is simply about having to tolerate language or attitudes you personally find annoying, you're missing something.
I understand Randy Michaels' departure. I can appreciate that based on the financial position this company is in, his leadership requires the higher accountability. Bad press can be a bitch, especially when you're broke and losing money. Michaels' departure represents some pretty basic business sense.
But Abrams' exit was premature and unwarranted. And based on his own statements, he knows this. Yet, he volunteered it. Because that's kind of what out of the box, innovative thinkers do. They take their ball and go home. They don't have the kinds of personalities that do well being squelched, so they don't fight the man or rage against the machine. Instead, they take their game to another team. Make no mistake, Abrams doesn't have to land on his feet, he hasn't stopped standing.
Does this mean that Abrams made the best judgment in sending the email? Probably not. The timing showed a lack of perspective and understanding of just how tight the rope was the Trib was walking. People were ripe for an H.R. cry. Everyone associated with the Tribune had either read or heard about the NY Times piece. A morality card had been played. Laid down by Carr so eloquently that every player in media second guessed their own strategies. Like a great game of poker, if there was ever a time to cry and whine about something being offensive, derogatory, profane or simply not P.C., it would have been that week. And since it was Abram's calling to be everything but P.C., it cost him his role with the company.
And crowds are cheering.
Some suggest that the reason people don't report the sexism in the workplace is because they need to keep their jobs in this economy. That whistle blowers risk far too much to sound the ring. While this idea is grounded in fear and insecurity, it does hold value. Certainly there are times people remain silent when authority is abused and power is dangled over them. There are times when quid pro quo exists in the work environment and you have to make the tough decision of whether or not you ever want to work in this town again. Yes, in these situations, where trades must be made, it is worth a trip to H.R. and even a lawyer, because in these situations, there is a case to be made.
And it happens all over the place.
Is it fair or just that the glass ceiling still impacts women in this world? Is it okay that the club houses exist in the first place? Should a woman really have to play golf with the boys in order to be noticed in the workplace? No. It sucks. It's a shame. And some of the boys get that girls just want to play. Some of the boys leave the stag room and dance a tango or two. Sometimes, women are the ones shunning the guys from their room.
If liberation showed us anything, it's that women can be empowered in our own rights. We don't need to climb up to their tree houses anymore. We aren't dependent on whether or not we've got keys to the stag room doors. Yes, we still have a very long way to go. But we toss all that progress when we whine about our pigtails being pulled.
Sure. It hurts. But tattling and tantrums aren't going to accomplish as much as remembering the very real battles we still have ahead of us- that are worth fighting for.