News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Monday, October 17, 2016

A little grope here, a little grope there, just business as usual

 A part of the story being missed about Donald Trump's sexual predations against women is that it is part of the privilege assumed by many executives in the corporate world.  But the denigrations and humiliations are not just directed toward women in a sexual context.  Both men and women are subjected to degrading and disdainful treatment.  Organizations that openly acknowledge the rule of the alpha male are organized like dog packs.  They expect the underdogs to be submissive and accept whatever it is the upper dogs wish to do to them.  They consider themselves royalty and the rest of us their vassals.

Not all organizations are run that way,  but as corporations became global,  their cultures resolved into the kind that govern dog packs.  They are the opposite of what democracies aspire to.  And many democracies fail because their constituents use the freedoms only to obtain alpha positions,  and soon establish stringent class rules in order to impose their wills on others in the form of  dictatorships and oligarchies.  

During my undergraduate years, we did not have college loans available.  Many of us had to   go to college part time or drop out to work in order to accumulate some money for another semester.  For a time I worked in an advertising agency as a copywriter trainee and a gofer and took classes at night. That was more than 60 years ago.  Many of the executives expected us vassals to roll over on our backs and wag our tails at any treatment extended us.

As the Trump episodes with women have been revealed,  I recall a young woman at the ad agency who was a receptionist and a librarian for the media library.  The  library is where every kind of ad ever produced by the agency--newspaper and magazine,  radio, and television--was cataloged and stored for reference along with other resource materials.   It contained a big table where the gofers worked at projects assigned to them.  The librarian, Laura, was expected to wear sexy clothes to make an impression on any clients or potential clients who were brought in to look at or listen to ads.  One day while a group of us was sitting around the table,  gathering ad proofs to take to clients for approval, Laura, wearing a sleeveless, spring-time dress, was up on a ladder reshelving stuff in the library.  Barry B., an account executive, came in looking for something,  spotted Laura on the ladder, and reached his hand up under her skirt and grabbed her crotch.  As he walked out, he said to those of us working at the table,  "I'm the chief twat tweaker here."  Laura was devastated.  I can still see her stricken face, as she ran from the room.

One of the secretaries later asked me what happened, and when I told her she looked disgusted, but shrugged.  Anyone complaining about one of the executives would most likely be out of a job.  So, nothing was ever said.  We vassals understood that we were expendable.  We were constantly reminded by the insulting and abusive attitudes with which we were treated and ordered to do abasing personal tasks for some of the executives.  We grumbled among ourselves,  but never confronted management about being required to endure demeaning treatment or being subjected to inappropriate behavior.  

It was an attitude I encountered later in the corporate world,  although I don't recall ever seeing such a brazen assault again. 

When I was released from active military duty,  I went to work for what at the time was the largest international manufacturer of farm equipment.  There was not much in the way of sexual harassment in the plant at which I worked because it was a closed-shop plant,  meaning anyone not designated an executive was automatically a union member.  Both management and union members looked out for any kind of hanky panky,  which would result in a grievance or  disciplinary action.  The problems were when executives from the head office came to town.

One of the vice presidents was notorious for his treatment of women.  While in the plant he restricted his behavior to leering at some of the younger women, but when he went out at nights he pawed and otherwise harassed women he encountered,  including the wives of junior executives. His attitude was that the people he chose to spend his evenings with were obligated to indulge his behavior.  One young executive seemed to think that for his sake,  his wife should happily "entertain" the vice president.  One day after the couple had spent an evening with him,  the young executive came home to find that his wife had left him in disgust.  She made sure that people in the company knew why.

A few years later I was editor of the farm and business sections of a newspaper.  I hated the business part.  Corporate public relations people and executives were repugnant to deal with.  I stress that this was not true for all companies,  but many pursued the line that they brought money  into a community and provided jobs, and the community should therefore defer to their wishes.  That attitude was that the news media was dependent on them and damn well better do as they pleased.  The attitude extended to the treatment of women.  The problem I encountered was that the newspaper I worked for had a policy that prohibited the editors from printing anything they knew to be untrue.  And we were expected to check any facts contained in news releases or otherwise conveyed to us.  I often found myself embroiled in angry exchanges with corporate executives for double-checking the accuracy of information or declining to print some gratuitous statement a company had sent out.  They really got angry and hostile when some negative information about a company was printed.  They preferred that such information be withheld.  They made clear that we in the media were mere vassals and that we had best do what our overlords determined was best.  It is in this context of being the superiors to the rest of society that they regarded women.  

If women expected to get entrance into the corporate power structure,  they had better submit to the compliant role that was an unwritten part of the job description.  If some executive wanted to caress a breast or  fondle a crotch,  that was an executive privilege.  Many young executives adopted this attitude because they thought it showed their alpha male status.  They considered it part of the  executive persona.  

Donald Trump's reported transgressions against women are not peculiar to him  They are part of the culture of a segment of the corporate world.  As a presidential candidate,  he has put this attitude of dominance and willful disrespect on display,  and his public behavior in regard to women has moved some to report what has happened.  When the incidents occurred,  the women thought,  like the people at the ad agency I worked at,  that the rich and powerful would only further oppress them if they reported the incidents or complained.  Women have decided that they can now be believed and listened to.  But they are not the only ones who see the realization of real equality and respect in exposing Trump's actions and those like his.  All who have been treated like omega dogs and vassals see the possibility of having their dignity acknowledged with respect.

Perhaps, something good can come out of Trump  

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States

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