So was the experience of Melissa Nelson, a dental assistant in Iowa, who was terminated by her employer after 10 years of stellar performance, because he was worried that “he would try to have an affair with her down the road.” All the while admitting that there was never any flirtatious behavior on her part. It existed only in his mind.
Of course a lawsuit ensued, and that’s when it went from outrageous to unbelievable. The all-male Iowa Supreme court ruled that Knight’s conduct was “unfair” but “did not amount to unlawful discrimination.” Evidently there’s precedent to allow employers to fire employees who arouse jealousy in their spouses.
I’ve been sitting on this for weeks trying to think of what I could say positive, what action we could take to make a difference. As a small business owner, I appreciate flexibility in employment. However, as an African-American I am outraged by anything that smacks of discrimination. And as a woman? Well, it’s just stupid!
Granted, my heart goes out to everyone involved. It’s a difficult situation to navigate, and I pray both families are preserved. Still I’m left to wonder, what is it that made him think because he found her irresistible that there was even a chance of an affair? Sure, I can see an attraction. But with absolutely no encouragement from Ms. Nelson she suddenly becomes “too irresistible” for him to be around? Hmm…
Could it have been fueled in part by the way women are objectified in society, featured as sexual creatures purely here for someone else’s pleasure? Perhaps that is why the ridiculous is now our sad reality. In the minds of some we have become disposable, interchangeable beings who’s worth and value can be defined purely by the inner workings of their minds.
Even more disturbing is our unwitting perpetuation of the madness. In Ms. Nelson’s case, exchanging after-hours text with her boss was probably not a good decision. Even though she was not pursuing an inappropriate relationship, in the melee that followed that became immaterial. Sometimes, we have to nip things in the bud before it grows into something we can’t handle.
Part of loving on you is learning to respect yourself, and training other people to do the same. By that I don’t mean we can change anyone else’s behavior. I simply mean we have to establish boundaries for ourselves, and then be willing to make a change when people consistently ignore them.
We also have to work together to stop the systematic degradation of women. We’ve been quiet long enough. Now it’s time for our voices to be heard. That’s why I’m so grateful for organizations like Miss Representation, a non-profit social action campaign and media organization established to shift people’s consciousness, inspire individual and community action, and ultimately transform culture so everyone, regardless of gender, age or circumstance can fulfill their potential.
They’ve created a short documentary that explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence. It’s a moving piece that gets to the heart of how perceptions of women and girls have taken shape over the last century. Screenings are being held around the world, as they work to galvanize communities to help end sexism.
We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and let someone else define our path forward. We are worth more, ladies, than society would have us believe. We are worth more than some of us believe. So what is it we can do? Here are five ideas to get us started:
- Respect ourselves enough to establish some boundaries. When people start pushing the envelope on what’s appropriate, have the courage to protect your space. You are your own best advocate!
- Cover it up and keep them guessing. We can’t expect mainstream media to portray us in a more respectful light than we show ourselves. It’s a proven fact – you can be cute and classy!
- Demand diversity in our representatives. An all-male Supreme Court? We need to band together and say never again! Diversity brings a broader perspective that enriches us all, and adds balance to our world.
- Protest loudly with your pocketbook. Globally, women represent $20 trillion in spending. Any company that degrades women should be struck from our shopping list. Own your power as a consumer and demand change.
- Fight for what you believe in. When women band together in passionate purpose, there is nothing we can’t do! Enough of us have to make up our mind that enough is enough. Take the pledge at Miss Representation, and get ready for the revolution.
We owe it to the young girls who come behind us, and to ourselves to do what we can when we can. If not you, then who? Take a step today for our better future tomorrow. Even something as simple as sharing this blog with others will help raise the social consciousness of our world. Better yet, share the blog and leave a comment with your ideas for moving us forward.
The world is watching. How will you respond?
Loving on Me as I Love You! ❤