Yesterday in the midst of a wave of Harvey Weinstein-centric Twitter rants from various people, one of the quite reasonable men I follow tweeted in response to the male actor Terry Crews who had revealed his own harassment at the hands of a male Hollywood executive. The tweet essentially said – and I’m paraphrasing – “I now think I understand what women mean about harassment. A man said it, so he’s immediately believed, but a woman fears to say it because she knows she’s less likely to be taken seriously.” Nailed it. But why is this still the case in 2017?
Twenty years ago I was a cute little American twenty-seven year old who had moved, quite suddenly following a hasty divorce, to Wales, courtesy of my employers who knew the best thing for me was to help me get out; out of my judgmental as hell Southern city wherein my ex and his family were doing their best to pin the blame on me, almost entirely to throw people off the scent of the fact that my ex had taken to preferring both my clothes and my male friends. Wales was new and different and mysteriously dark and broody as a country; basically the same traits I’m attracted to in men. But it also contained something for which I was not prepared and which I now see today as a symptom of the plague in our society that allows, enables and cultivates men like Harvey Weinstein.
I had only been in the country maybe five months when I was invited to a supplier day hosted by supermarket giant Tesco. We were the new kids in town, as suppliers go, but I was making our mark and getting us recognized and I relished the opportunity to get out and meet people from within my own industry from whom I could learn. The day was designed as a competition of fun outdoor pursuits and we were broken into two teams. Fatefully, I was placed on the team of a man I’ll call Ward who was a Director of a large, prestigious PLC from the same product sector as the company for which I worked. I knew them by reputation and was immediately taken with his humor, outrageousness, and candor. He was based near London, he told me, but the bulk of their operations were in Wales and were headed by a man named Mark, and at the same time he was imparting this knowledge on me, he was looking me up and down and saying out loud, “Yes, Mark will like you very much.”
Fast-forward a few more months, I had forged a casual, but fun friendship with Ward and he would often call while driving or bored to see what I was up to or – more importantly – how business was going lest I should infringe on their territory. It was coming up to Christmas, and Christmas parties back then were new to me as they were a mostly UK phenomenon when it came to big, boozy work dos, but I was soon invited to more than a few and then, I found, was also expected to arrange one for my own office. We booked ours in a hotel near Cardiff that hosted joint parties in a large, nice ballroom and I put on the obligatory black dress, heels and my signature bright red lipstick and headed out for what I saw as a necessary indulgence for my team. As we entered the hotel that night, I noticed written on the marquee the name of the companies with whom we would be sharing the room, one of them being the one for which Ward worked, except the Welsh division. I knew his friend Mark of whom he spoke so frequently would be there, as he – unlike Ward – was a board level executive and in charge of the bulk of the operations in Wales.
The bar was long and like the party, communal, so at one point while going for a refill I asked someone from this other company where I could find this Mark. “He’s right there, the ponce in the purple tie,” the man responded and gestured. I went over to introduce myself and was immediately devoured by the intention of his look; this was not a sweet, fun little man who hid his flirtations behind his humor like Ward. This was a man who knew what he wanted and was only too happy to make those desires clear. As it turned out, Ward had not told him anything about me at all, and again Mark made no effort to hide his displeasure that his friend Ward had not shared the news of this recent U.S. import. To say I was the sudden and intense focus of this man’s attention for the remainder of the evening would be a gross understatement. He was married, but he didn’t care; his wife was there, but she had might as well have been on another planet. He engaged me in small talk, asked how often I went to London (the next day for a meeting, I told him, actually), where I lived, if I had a boyfriend and generally dissected every part of my life that would give him the information he needed to determine whether or not I was ripe for the picking. Read More…