Sunday, December 23, 2012

Iowa's Supreme Court, Irresistibility, and Seven Years Smoke-free

Came across a news bit the other day.  Iowa's (all male) Supreme Court, in a nutshell, has decided that it's okay for a male employer to fire a female employee for being "irresistibly attractive."  The employee doesn't have to be flirtatious, overtly sexual, or in any way act inappropriately.  Just being "irresistible" is enough.  In this case, it was a male dentist firing his female assistant.  For being attractive to him. 

What the hell?

Now, sure, this sort of ruling might catch up some male employees, but let's face it--this is mostly going to affect women.  Why?  Because, at the risk of sounding "reverse sexist," women don't have a "since the beginning of recorded history and likely beyond" legacy of objectifying, harassing, hassling, and projecting their sexual desires onto men.  Men haven't been the frequent targets of sexual abuse and systematic rape at the hands of women during war time.  We don't have entire faiths based, in part, on the idea that MEN are sinful by nature, tempters, and responsible for our fall from paradise.  In other words, sure, a woman MIGHT do something like this, but statistically speaking, it's markedly more likely to be a man because that's how our culture has formed.

When I was young and skinny, I had a series of bosses and coworkers who were absolutely sexually harassing/abusive. I had one who made it clear that, if I didn't date his younger brother (who was "irresistibly attracted" to me), I would be out of a job. Same guy's nephew worked at the place, and was beyond sexually harassing--had I been older, smarter about the law, and hadn't needed the job so badly, I'd have nailed him for sexual assault (yeah, assault). Understand that what this guy did to me (repeatedly, not just once) was no secret, and my boss gave me the "boys will be boys" and "it just means he likes you" lines. Instead of calling the cops (for which I would have been, at best, fired), I enlisted the aid of other male coworkers to escort me into the back so I could clock in and get things out of the walk in. Every night he was working was a scary-assed night for me--I didn't even dare walk to the bathroom alone. Five years after I stopped working there, I walked in for lunch just to take a look at the new decor. He was there. He came over and I just about flipped in the middle of the lunch crowd.

Imagine it--you look up from your pleasant lunch to see the guy who slammed you against a wall, pinned you by the throat, and roamed around up under your skirt with his filthy hand.  Ground himself against you and LICKED your face.  More than once.

He said, "Please don't freak, please don't run--I just wanted to say that I am SO sorry for the horror I put you through." It was a really odd moment.  An ugly moment. He offered to pay for my lunch, and I got ugly. I got ANGRY.  Asked him if he really thought the price of a burger and fries was going to make up for being dry-humped and viciously groped against a wall?

He started to cry.  Much as I used to cry on nights I knew I'd have to face him at work.

He was dead a few months later.  Victim of his own stupid, spectacular, drunken stunts.  I ran into his mother on campus a year or so later, and she literally accosted me in the Student Union building.  Grabbed my hand and started to cry, telling me how much her son had liked me, how he had always talked about me, how pretty I was, how smart I was, how nice I was. 

How she had thought maybe--just maybe--I was going to be her daughter-in-law.

What the hell is that?  That's what he told her he thought of me?  That's how he shows it?  That's like a dog who bites to show he's friendly.  Faced with his sobbing mom, I kept all my bitter memories to myself.  I told her how sorry I was for her loss, her hurt.  I let her go ahead and paint him as a great guy because, to her, he was.  Why crush a mom's heart any further when the guy was dead? 

That wasn't the only job that put me in a position like that.  I used to tend bar in another place in Ogden, Utah.  The owner was this lecherous, drunken immigrant whose English, which was never good, became increasingly rough as the alcohol flowed.  Guy couldn't keep his hands off the female employees and had a really bad habit of letting 13 and 14 year-old girls into the bar to sit on his lap and get drunk.  He had a lovely wife who bitterly accepted this because she didn't feel she had any choice.  They had a gorgeous daughter.  I used to babysit her on the floor in the hours before the bar opened.  I taught her to read in that bar. 

  Anyway, the owner.  Terrible for putting a hand on my ass or letting in the young girls.  And we tangled over and over about it, because, by then, I was no longer willing to let a boss (or anyone else) do that to me.  He kept letting in the little girls, and I kept asking them for ID and escorting them out.  At one point, the boss's wife cornered me, told me to stop or they'd fire me.  I said, "The inherent sickness of letting little girls in here for that purpose aside, if the cops show up, *I* am the one who is toasted.  I'm the damned bartender.  I'm the one serving up the alcohol."  She told me that they'd pay any fines or lawsuit judgments incurred.     Understand, these people couldn't even pay their damned utility bills.  This bar had no hot water, no heat, no telephone service, and they were buying beer from GROCERY STORES and reselling it in the bar because they had bounced checks to their distributors.  Plus, the law put the responsibility squarely on ME, not the bar owners.  They were going to cover my backside if a 14 year-old girl got raped or died of alcohol poisoning on my watch?  Even if that was the POINT (and it wasn't--getting little girls drunk and slobbering over them was the point), give me a break!  

It came to a head one night when the owner, once again, decided to dip his drunken paws into my till and take money so he could haul a couple of teenage girls (and our sloppy doorman) to Wendover for a night of hot tub hi jinx.  I stopped him, said, "I'm gonna need you to sign for that so I don't get screamed at tomorrow about the missing money you debauched away in Wendover.  Again."  He laughed, leaned his awful face in close to mine, and put his hand on my ass, asking if I wanted to come along for the (wink, wink) RIDE.  And I said, "You'll want to get that greasy paw off my ass before I break all your grubby fingers."     It was immediately after that they began cutting my hours viciously.  Kept telling me it was "just too slow" and they wanted to "give the other bartenders a chance."  At the same time, they were telling the other employees (including my roommate) that it was because I was a "lousy bartender" (I was the only bartender there with actual BAR experience), that I was "slow" and "difficult," and "rude to the customers."     

In other words, I was fired for asking children for identification before serving them alcohol and for not allowing my boss to grope me.

I find myself wondering--the Iowa Supreme Court.  Would this ruling protect people like my old bosses?  Or would they consider a line crossed when unwanted physical contact was made?  Would the "irresistible attraction" argument have held up with Joe's brother (who worked maintenance at the place)?  "Your Honor, I'm sorry but I had to fire her--it was destroying my brother, having to see her here night after night."  How about my violent admirer?  "Your Honor, I was helpless to control myself, she's just so irresistibly attractive I felt compelled to sexually abuse her."    How about Pedo-boss and his gropey little hands and predilection for underage girls?  Was I just "irresistible" to him, too?  

Enough of that.   A Facebook "meme" came across my wall today, What the heck, here it is:  

I don't know if Bill Nye really said that, and I don't care--not the point.  But I remember once having a then-13-year-old make some crack about a friend's intelligence, and his "proof" was that "he's just a mechanic." 
"Just a mechanic."
What a stupid thing to say.  My husband and I took him to task in a big way.  Because, while he can't help having been reared to be self-impressed and "superior," it's something he needs to unlearn as fast as possible if he wants to, in any way, be able to relate to people in this world.  I told him that, in a pinch, in the middle of Death Valley or at the top of a snowy mountain, I don't want a math genius, I don't need a kid who's adept at playing the piano or enjoys studying genetics and heredity for fun.  No, I want a MECHANIC.  And when I want my hair done, I don't want a physicist.  When my drain is clogged or my furnace kicks the bucket, I don't want a neurosurgeon. 
I sure as hell don't want a bunch of History professors working on my plane between flights.
Every person on this earth knows something I don't.  Every person has some skill or some bit of smarts I lack.  Some of those things I may not feel I need to know, but that doesn't detract from the point--they know something I don't know, and that knowledge serves them in their life. 
Respect that.
Today is cookie day--three kinds.  Peanut butter, sugar, and cardamom orange zest.  We were going to do Italian almond paste, but we decided to put that off to another holiday--we have plenty of cookies to be working with.  Also making brownies from scratch for under vanilla ice cream, homemade whipped cream and raspberry Chambord sauce.  Might use the "Shambord."  Not sure yet.  Hand cut steaks, mushrooms, roasted butternut squash and sweet potato, and salads round it out.  Oh, and lemon meringue pie, because I haven't had in years and it just sounded good. 
I just gained five pounds typing that. 
Oh, and today?  Marks seven years since I quit smoking.  Seven years that brought me to where I am today.  See, even if I did manage to survive the increasing lung problems and blood pressure issues, there's no WAY we could have afforded to move here with us smoking.  So this is my big pat on the back to myself, and a big "you can do it!" to anyone out there wishing they didn't smoke.  You don't have to smoke--you can quit whenever you want.  Seriously. 
I hope everyone's having a marvelous holiday season!  Two days 'til Christmas and we STILL haven't torn open the presents!  Yay! 

1 comment:

  1. So glad you can celebrate SEVEN years smoke free. It's almost 12 for me and It was the best thing I have eer done. From time to time I considered return to smoking, to help loose weight, but realized I would just end up a fat smoker!

    Enjoy the next few family days.