He stood at the front of one of his bookshelves eyeing the collection of books that had accumulated throughout the years. He worked for many prestigious private corporations and he believed that by displaying variations of books in his office bookshelf, those who he came in contact with would be highly impressed. The books created a projection of his intelligence. He believed in all things that can help elongate his prestige. By elongating his image of such intelligence, it would blindside anyone who would notice that he stood at only 5’0 short. Men who have held positions in power are often expected to stand at the minimum of 5’11. He, on the other hand, needed to compensate this deficiency.
Therefore he did.
He surrounded his office with, not only the bookshelves filled with what he considers “intelligent and philosophical” books. He also surrounded his office with plants and artifacts that he had collected around the world. He had pieces of art from China, South Africa, Europe, etc. He believed that they are good distractions away from the fact that as he showed them the pieces of art, he could barely reach the very top most shelf of his bookshelves. He also took care to make comments of shortcomings that people in his office fail to recognize. For example, if so and so failed to sweep her hair in a bun, he would simply tell her “you know, pulling your hair back like that doesn’t do you much justice.” By making this simple comment, he ignited such insecurity in so-so that she would think about it all day and she would be too occupied to pay heed to his own insecurity.
He would also make snide remarks at women because he got away with it.
“Nice hair, does the color match downstairs?”
“Is that Chanel Vamp nail polish you’re wearing? You know what they say about women who wear that kind of color.”
The women who were recipients of such drive-by comments oftentimes were silenced by his unfathomable act. In their minds, they shook their heads while giving him the middle finger. As women, they have been taught to expect such treatment when working in an environment dictated by men.
When his assistant walked into his office inform him that his next meeting will be arriving in five minutes. She asked if she can prepare the coffee and documents for him. He told her to make sure to make cold coffee to accommodate his colleague. He knew full well that cold coffee was something that his colleague loathed. His plan was to illustrate to his colleague that his assistant was a dimwit and incapable of handling a simple task of coffee making. He would belittle her in front of his colleague as a way to remind her that just because God has given her the gift of height, for she stood at 5’7, he would not grant her the grace of avoiding such embarrassment. He smiled to himself with relish at the idea of knocking her confidence to the ground. He imagined that she would take five minutes to go to the bathroom so that she can look at the mirror to tell herself that she was indeed quite smart. He figured that she would pick herself up and go about the day as she would—only in her mind she would question that confidence over and over again.
Throughout his career, he found that he enjoyed meetings where he talked highly about his accomplishments. Those who came in to meet with him are on a quest to seek for his support to sustain their areas. His position was intended to listen to these requests and provide whatever means of support that he can. Therefore, when they come in, he made sure that he acted like he was listening to their needs, when in fact, he would respond by providing his elaborate stories of success and how they can be just like him someday: one who had met so and so, and had dinner with so and so and have built relationships with the top -most successful people in the industry and the globe!
He was quite rooted with his own stories that he failed to recognize that those who sat in front of him could give a flying fuck about what he had done in his life. In fact, most of them had hoped that one of the vases from China that he spoke highly of would suddenly fall right on top of his head, smashing his brain, if only to make him shut the hell up.
Fortunately for him, this had never happened.
Unfortunately for those who have met with him, this too had never happened.
He walked to his desk and sat down at his special chair that elevated him so that he can look down at the person who usually sat across his desk. He made sure that the chair stationed on the other side of his desk was much lower so that whoever sat in its place would find themselves looking up to the person sitting on the other side.
He decided to prepare for this meeting and he contemplated whether to inject the story of how he once met with one of the most controversial politicians, or perhaps he can talk about how he made a global impact by writing an article about the importance of measuring success by how high one climbs the corporate ladder.
Before he made his final decision, his assistant walked in his office with his colleague, a woman not only of statuesque height (at 6’3, no one can ignore her), but also of generosity and kindness, and possess a sharp radar to the bullshit factor. She was a respected figure.
As she glided in his office, she had only one greeting for him each time they met–which was simply, “I see that you are still using your special chair. Don’t worry about getting up, we both know you could barely reach my elbow.”
In Maxine Hong Kingston’s “Woman Warrior,” Kingston wrote about her experience with a boss who had a vile attitude towards her and mistreated her greatly. Kingston kept her anger towards her boss internally, and she soon realized that the pen is mightier than a sword, and she wrote about her experience instead.
As the world becomes more cognizant of the mistreatment of many women in the workplace, the hidden ugliness continues to expose itself.
I wrote this piece in 2010, and it’s a culmination of many experiences silenced by the internal realization that women were always taught to deal with such issues, and to survive it.
To survive such experience demonstrates a will for self-preservation.
To face such truth demonstrates a bravery that many others are continuing to find within themselves.
Here’s to all the women who are facing such experiences and demonstrating bravery.
I stand with you.