I have been harassed, drugged, violated, and raped, all before I turned 30
I do not work in Hollywood, come from a dysfunctional family, nor have I ever smoked. Anything! I am not a seductress, rather one who can gravitate towards naiveté. Indeed, most peg me as the-girl-next-door, a good little Catholic.
Raised in a small New England town surrounded by intellects and a close-knit family, I was educated in five countries on three different continents and speak five languages. I have shaken the hands of presidents, chatted with the Pope (in Spanish), and dined with princes. An admitted-overachiever, I graduated early from university. Before moving to Europe, I worked for a U.S. Senator, Presidential candidate, and subsequently joined a fast-paced global financial institution.
No amount of training or tutelage could have prepared me for the raunchiest rung of my career climb
Hob-knobbing with politicos was a cup-of-tea with a priest in comparison to maneuvering investment bankers. Imagine a 20-something, petite, Hermès-scarf wearing, pinch-waist tailored Irish-Italian deb waltzing into Boston’s blue-blooded boys club. I believed that I belonged there, but I stood out like a sacrificial lamb. My superiors salivated at my corporate innocence. Their exalted status whipped the collective psyche into submission. Initiation into this old money fraternity resembled a scene in DiCaprio’s “Wolf of Wall Street” replete with vulgar gestures, assault, and veiled threats. Here’s just a smattering of the hot takes:
- A colleague invited me to lunch and instead brought me to a strip club, where I was requested to pole dance
- A banker masturbated in front of me
- A client returned to our meeting with his pants and boxers down around his ankles
- As if by a dog, I was licked on the side of my face
- I was “roofied” during a blind date arranged by a male colleague
Needless to say, my career in financial services ended abruptly because I refused to ‘perform’, literally. Reluctantly switching over to tech, I discovered less-than-innovative male behavior among the tie-free, chinoed set. At an out-of-town tech conference, I had my butt grabbed by one SVP, only to be ‘rescued’ by another Exec who invited me to a strip club.
The recent #MeToo movement has clearly revealed that my experiences are hardly unique
Indeed, many of us have been victimized throughout our entire careers, and we should no longer remain quiet. We’ve let men take advantage of us, verbally and physically. We’ve extricated ourselves from situations that have scared the lipstick off of us. The bottom line, the burden was always on women. There is a reason that men have been getting away with these behaviors in our modern professional era – an unspoken code of tacit acceptance gripped generations of ambitious women, like me.
Do we really want Twitter to be the arbiter of sexual assault?
Though none acceptable, it’s important to distinguish between sexual harassment, assault, and violence. As this debate unfolds, who will be the final arbiter of this predatory plague? Are Twitter hashtags really enough? As the “Me Too” phenomenon morphs into the “Times Up” movement, I have yet to hear a solution. What must happen now is a retraining of society, writ large. Who or what will undertake this Herculean task? We must continue this national conversation without losing focus and forgetting good ol’ common sense. Let’s not just be voyeurs—but role models and change agents.
My #MeToo men can sleep easy tonight because I protected them
When I set out to write my first novel, Pleasing My Italian Grandma, I did not realize, as I do today, that my book was a form of self-therapy. Each chapter airs these incredulous encounters, reading like a modern-day “Me Too” playbook. Coincidentally, my final round of edits intersected with the Harvey Weinstein fallout. His victims’ publicized accounts were a skin-crawling déjà-vu. Lucky for my #MeToo men, the names have been changed. Perhaps they too are reflecting on past experiences, in the wake of Weinstein? We may never know, but I just may be inspired to send each one a signed copy with a simple message: #METOO!
To all the women whose careers were detoured or sidelined because of insolent men, I stand with you in solidarity. To upcoming generations, settle for nothing less than zero-tolerance for harmful behavior, in all its forms. Declare, once and for all: #NOTME!
NOTE: I was encouraged to write “Pleasing My Italian Grandma” by a very dear friend, who used to religiously print my emails and read them on the way to work. Amused and shocked, she made me promise to write a book one day. At the age of 30, she was murdered by a sex offender. This is for you, Alexandra.
Visit me at penelopegallant.com
Chat with me on Twitter @pleasingnonna
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