Friday, October 25, 2013

The Handmaiden Problem

One of my co-workers passed around this article from the LA Times, Sexism a problem in Silicon Valley, critics say, and in addition to the overall breathless tone of Newsflash, gender issues an issue in the workplace, and some weird statistics, I also had a problem with this comment:
Speaking before a gathering of women in technology, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg recalled an uncomfortable exchange with two men on a different stage discussing the scarcity of women in the industry.

One commented that he would like to hire more young women but not all are as competent as Sandberg. The other said he, too, would hire more young women but his wife fears he would sleep with them and, he confessed, he probably would.
I would like to call this The Handmaiden Problem; in other words, the urge this male executive has to visit one of his female colleagues and say, I'm so glad you brought your lady parts to work today! Let's take them on a test drive over lunch! and that the female person would, of course, screaming with eagerness, copulate with him until his nuts fell off. Or lunch was over. Whatever came first.

I'm not sure what Sandberg said when trapped with this nugget in an enclosed space. Hopefully, it was along the lines of, most of the men who worked in harems were eunuchs with some seriously potent stink eye. But her husband telling her, they told the truth and that now she has to deal with it, is ludicrous. I think I'm not here to have sex with you, no matter how nicely you ask, Mr Married Executive, should be a given.

This is not about anti-romance in the workplace, either. This is about how all females supposedly swish their tails aside when the alpha male arrives. The women he would have hired--once his wife gave him said permission, of course--were not obliged to sleep with him, even if he really, really wanted it. The assumptions are not only, "career girls" are available all the time, but also, women are just making time at work, but not really working. Handmaiden, come hither and service me.

I do think most men understand their female co-workers are a) here to work, b) are competent, c) are not obliged to have sex with them, but the persistence of this belief annoys me.

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