Written by Barbara Renaud Gonzales
When I was in my twenties, I was fresh out of a graduate program, newly married and totally stupid about professional men in the office.
It was the late seventies, and my boss, who headed a non-profit organization in Austin, Texas, said so many things I don’t know where to begin. Here is a sampling:
1. “I’m gonna sleep with every woman in this organization.” (I guess this included me).
2. “Did you have good sex over the weekend with your husband?”
3. “Can you get her for me?” (On a return trip from Washington D.C. to Dallas)
4. “We call you Miss Prim and Proper.” Because I had told the young women in the office about the sexual harrassment legislation, how they didn’t have to sleep with him or any other “boss.”
5. “Your problem is that you aren’t nice to the boardmembers.” (Mostly men and mostly lechers)
And here is when I should have sued immediately:
6. “I don’t want blood in this office.” My boss’s sexualized culture was such that one of his underlings had posted a newspaper cartoon of the increasingly bikini-clad Texas A&M cheerleaders — with their behinds totally Barshamian-naked — this creative guy had written my name on one pair, and two other female colleagues, each got her own nalga. Because I had the support of one of my colleagues — the third woman, a secretary who was enthralled by him would not, could not, pobrecita, though she was silenced by the incident. Since there were two women complaining — my boss took the photograph down, refused to give it to me — he was a graduate of Princeton, after all, and that’s when he stated that “he didn’t want blood.” Of course he was as glib and funny and charming as Herman Cain. In his early thirties at the time, married, with two daughters.
I wish I had sued him. I’m this close to giving you his name. Hell with it, his name was Pedro Ruiz Garza, and he owes me an apology. I never slept with any man in my office, nor did I encourage them in any way. I think the real story about sexual harrassment is how millions of women can’t tell their story cause they’re afraid of losing their job, or what does it mean? Am I a puta? Did I ask for it? My story isn’t new, it’s the oldest story of all. And it happens to millions of women, especially in their twenties and thirties. It’s happening right now.
There are lots of Herman Cains out there — and many times their wives are the last to know. This is a story of men because they have privilege — and I suspect that brown and black men are more easily snared in the dragnet of race. Of course men are gonna fight back, who wants to lose this kind of power, this sexy thrilling fantasy that men have made for themselves — because we women let them.
I’m sure that Pedro has raised his daughters to fight back, but he owes me and every other woman he worked with an apology for his abhorrent language and falta de respeto. I”m sure he’s taught his daughters not to put up with men like him.
But it’s my fault too, because I should have sued the bastard.