I hate holiday parties. Let me explain. I love a party with friends. I love meeting creative people and hearing how they got to where they are now. I thought that entertainment and advertising, industries replete with creative and smart people, would be a place in which I could meet future friends and collaborators. Don’t get me wrong, I have! In the seven years that I have been writing songs for film/TV and in the three I have been producing advertising spots for music houses, I have met so many wonderful people and a few that I even call close friends.
Time and again though, I attend work parties and other evening events and prepare myself for what’s to come: a hand inappropriately placed on my ass, a “joke” asking if I knew someone because we “fucked,” another joke asking if I flashed my tits to be allowed admission to the event, a comment on my young age followed by “you seem like an old soul, have you ever been with an older man?”, more “accidental” touching of my ass and a kiss on the cheek that’s a little too close and he knows it.
This isn’t a humble brag about my being sexually desirable — look around the room, this is happening to every woman, specifically the younger generation looking to make professional connections. I smile and brush them off, I try my friend Laura’s trick from when she was on a bus in Belize and ask about their children and specifically if they have daughters (and does your daughter know you’re currently breathing down my neck and asking for my zodiac sign because we’re “cosmically aligned”?)
This is more than the music business or advertising being a “boys club.” It’s about power, it’s about certain men believing that women will do anything to get a meeting. It’s about roles, and crosses over to real world examples of a friend being rescinded a job offer because the company tried to go back on their negotiation and she stood her ground and asked for a salary that was still below her value. It’s about the quiet rage of knowing that a dude in your same position with less experience receives a greater salary and benefits. It’s about another friend’s boss drinking vodka at the end of the day and calling her a pussy for not joining in because she had to work and not be drunk. It’s about being afraid to speak up for fear of being a bitch. It’s about someone else at another party calling a brilliant woman who taught me everything I know about the industry an icy bitch who needs to get fucked.
It’s fucked up. And yes, I will be fair and say that this industry is incestuous and that sometimes people DO want to meet people at after-work events. But my signals are clear, and I presume other women who have received unwanted attention are showing obvious signs of discomfort too. And even if I were single and looking to meet someone, I’m unlikely to respond to you positively if your first comment is making me the butt of a sexual joke (no pun intended). I LOVE A GOOD CRUDE JOKE! I tell them all the time, and at work too with three guys who are some of the kindest and funniest people I know and who I am also fortunate to call friends. But to return to the thought, what bothers me is the dynamic — the idea that I am laughable because I’m a woman, that I’m “asking for it” and should just suck it up and take it (<—yes I realize this is begging for a crude joke.)
But it’s getting harder to pretend I’m cool with all this. And I’m not quite sure what to do. I’m afraid to even write this for fear of its repercussions, that I will be perceived as a ranting, crazy “feminist” (<—which I proudly am, and don’t think it is crazy nor should it be a dirty word.) If you are a woman or simply a dude in solidarity, what do you recommend we do? Is there a way to change the game? Please share your stories with me. I want to hear them. Maybe we should just be bitches?