I was recently at a deposition with six other attorneys. Besides me, there was only one other female, and she was very young.
The conference room where the deposition was being held had a deer head mounted on the wall. It was noted by one of the men that the deer had a small rack.
This meant that said deer didn’t have a lot of antlers.
I understood that term in the context in which it was used, because I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where there are a lot of deer, and a lot of people who like to hunt.
I have no issue with deer hunting. Everyone I know who hunts abides by the rules, practices strict gun safety, and uses the venison wisely. Deer are in no danger of extinction, hunting season is closely regulated (when you can hunt, how many you can kill, etc.) and most hunters are careful and responsible. Many of Michael’s patients are hunters who bring him venison treats – we once had a venison chili that couldn’t be beat.
So, the hunting part of this isn’t the thing that bothered me, and when I heard the assessment that the deer did not have a big rack, I understood that to be a sporting person’s description of the breadth of the deer’s antlers. That was fine.
But then someone else said something like, “hey, be careful what you say about BIG RACKS, heh heh heh,” thereby introducing into a conversation about interior decor a sexual component, i.e., women’s breasts. Because of course they did. One of my partners was also present, and I think he was as disgusted as I was, but we let it pass, and then we spent three hours talking about snow removal and backhoes.
Later, as we were leaving, someone mentioned a painting in the front room – the offices are located in a lovingly restored old mansion, which feels more like a antiques shop than a law firm. The painting was a portrait of a woman who looked a lot like Martha Washington, bonnet and frilly blouse which, for reasons not immediately apparent to me, was pulled aside to reveal her right breast, rosy nipple and all.
Which, if hanging in a museum, or someone’s house, would be fine (though perhaps still somewhat confusing. Was she getting a mammogram? Was she about to breastfeed? We will never know).
But in a law office, maybe not so much, because such a display tends to embolden people to say things, as one of the male attorneys did, like, “Now, THERE’S your big rack!” Again, not my partner, because he’s not an asshole.
Now, I’m not often in a professional situation where there is artwork that depicts the naked form – I would say it’s happened less than two times in my career. Taxidermy has also played a fairly limited role in the category of “things you talk about while waiting for a deposition to start,” although I did once have a case in which it was the plaintiff’s job to paint glass eyes for stuffed wildlife. Apparently, this woman used to stick her brush in her mouth in order to better shape the bristles, but then she got lead poisoning. There’s probably a lesson to be learned in that story, but we will leave that for another day.
Anyway, as I thought about these juvenile comments about women’s boobies, I got so mad, and I just wanted to say, “You know, some guys have really big dicks, and what girl doesn’t like a big fat dick? You know, THAT guy looks like he’s really packing some heat! Let’s now talk about dicks and how much we girls really like us a high hard one!” Which is pretty much the female version of what these guys were saying, if women were great big walking glands who made most of their decisions based upon the whims of their gonads.
I have a feeling that if I said something like that, those guys would have been very uncomfortable, and would probably have thought that I was pretty unprofessional, and they would have been right. They would have been shocked. For some reason, however (eons of male patriarchy, I imagine), some men still think it’s okay to talk about women’s bodies, particularly the parts that the bathing suit covers, but even if it’s in the abstract, guess what? Not okay!
No one said anything about my boobs (they’re not very noteworthy, though they performed yeoman’s service for a several years doing the very thing they were designed to do), and no one groped me or asked me to perform a sexual act (that’s setting the bar high).
Still, is it too much to ask that professionals gathered to conduct a legal proceeding not act like a bunch of 14 year old boys who got their hands on a Playboy magazine? (And yes, I know I’m harkening back to a gentler age…these days, it’s more likely porn on someone’s smartphone).
Some young women say they don’t need feminism. I would respectfully suggest that the incident I’ve just described, which happened just a few days ago, is a good argument for why we do.
Also, Les Moonves.
I get weary of the bad behavior, wearier still of people who think it’s harmless. It isn’t. Every time something like this happens, it’s an attempt by a man to diminish the women present, akin to saying, “it doesn’t matter that you’ve passed the bar and practiced law for years and are probably a better lawyer than I am, I will reduce you to nothing more meaningful that your physical attributes, which exist solely to give me pleasure.”
At its most benign (I guess), it’s a bit of a test to see how the women in the room respond, on two levels: One, is she one of the guys who goes along to get along, or is she a shrill, emasculating bitch who takes the fun out of everything? Second, is she a little bit naughty, and will she play along, in which case now we’re theoretically contemplating, in the abstract, a sexual encounter, which is yucky and awkward and really, really gross. Because even if you DO have a great big dick, I’m not interested.
Anyway, I’m not sure what I should have said, but I felt particularly bad for the young woman sitting there, and I felt bad that I didn’t speak up, because I’m old and I can afford to be the humorless menopausal schoolmarm who calls these jerks to the carpet. That young woman deserved more from me, because I know how demoralizing a lifetime of this brand of bullshit can be, although, who knows? Maybe she didn’t even hear it.
But I did, and it makes me angry that men continue to think it’s funny and acceptable to objectify women.
Also, I feel bad for the deer.