When I started out in journalism in the 1970s, attitudes toward sexual harassment among the token women sprinkled about in newsrooms were nearly antithetical to those we’ve heard from the women who have come forth in recent weeks with a flood of anguished revelations.
My first job was at the London bureau of a prominent international wire service. When I walked in the newsroom, the all-male staff gaped at me as if I were an oasis in a desert. They were soon disappointed. I responded with such aloofness, they called me the Ice Princess. I felt lonely, in need of a friend. I suppose this is why I responded when one reporter began to engage me in conversation. My hopes rose — until I felt the hand slowly sneaking up my thigh. I dispatched him with an elbow in the torso. And the guy who grabbed my butt the next day got a swift back kick into the kneecap and a couple of four-letter words.
My generation of women came of age amid the exhilaration of second-wave feminism: We saw ourselves as strong, fierce self-defenders. Inappropriate sexual advances, we told ourselves, were simply an opportunity to prove our superiority over the weaker sex. Few of us believed we sustained any serious damage, and most of us thought that with enough grit, we could defy the odds and find our way.
One night after work, a group of reporters invited me to the local Irish pub. In the space of an hour, we downed several big glasses of Guinness, with Paddy Whiskey chasers. I was terrified, but I knew how crucial this test was. I would absolutely deny them the pleasure of seeing me fall off my stool. I kept up with them drink for drink and didn’t pass out until I put the key to my apartment inside the door. But I collapsed with a warm feeling, giddy at the thought of their respect. It’s not that I wanted to be one of the guys — I just wanted to be a good journalist, with perhaps a place in the bigger club that ran the world.
Read more at The New York Times.