As a feminist of a certain flavour I’m all for women being integrated into the various corporate paradigms. Which is a fancy way of saying that I think women can hold the same jobs as men. The thing that gets me in trouble (okay, one of the things that gets me in trouble) is that I think women should achieve these positions of power in the way that men do. They should work hard and prove themselves worthy. If they want to buy into the (often very true) theory that more deals are made on the golf course than in the board room, the women should take up golf. And no, Golf doesn’t mean “Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden.” That would be an urban legend.
I don’t think it’s feminist to flirt your way to the top. I’m sure we’ve all seen it happen. The woman who homes in on the men in the room and talks to them from under her eyelids, with a hand on their forearm. I saw this little play enacted not too long ago and it reminded me of how much I despise this tactic of self-advancement. Now of course the first reaction of all you who read this is to think it is because I’m a bitter old crone who couldn’t charm a dolly out of Santa, so I’m jealously putting down all the prettier girls who’ve both got it and flaunt it. Not true. First off, I’m not that bad looking and I have a pretty decent set of headlights, so If I wanted to go down that road I could. Unfortunately I also have a pretty decent set of self-worth and am not so eager to pimp out my feminity. Especially since I’ve also got a pretty decent set of grey matter.
What bothers me about the whole kiss-up is that it amps up sexuality in the workplace in a way that sends mixed messages. We cringe at the thought of a man telling his female subordinates that they will get a raise or promotion if they have sex with him. So why do we not cringe at the the thought of a female telling a man that he might get to have sex with her if he gives her a raise or promotion? Because that’s what’s happening. That’s what all those signals mean.
Both situationsa are nasty combinations of sex and power. One abuses power for sex, the other abuses sex for power. It’s craven.