The phrase sexual harassment was not exactly vernacular in Chicago in the summer of 1985 when I had one year of college under my belt and was determined to become an attorney. My parents had moved from Naperville, IL to a small town in southern, IL after I left for U of I. I wasn't ready to leave Chicago. I had my own car and a new best friend (college is great for that). Her sweet family offered to let me live with them for the summer. I would pay rent and be responsible! (I did, in fact, pay the rent (: ). I sent dozens of resumes to law firms on the North Shore near Waukegan, IL, which is where they lived. The job I landed was with a small firm in Lake Forest, IL. Our firm was the "go-to" by players for the Chicago Bears. Their practice facility, the venerated original Halas Hall, was at Lake Forest College and many of them lived nearby. Depressingly—but not surprisingly—this meant we defended them in domestic abuse cases and got them out of traffic violations. This was the job that would expose me to sexual harassment for the first time—and lead me into a lifetime of activism as a feminist.
The primary partner to whom I reported was a graduate of VMI, Virginia Military Institute, which you've heard of thanks to Ruth Bader Ginsberg's decision in the United States v. Virginia Military Institute (1996). My first red flag was when he asked me to work late one night ..."to type [his son's] summer school final exam." His son and I were the same age. Yet, he apparently didn't know how to type, or more accurately, couldn't be bothered with women's work. The father was grooming an entitled sexist. I pity their wives. Later that summer, having made almost daily comments about my outfits and overtly and inappropriately blaming the domestic violence victims of his partner's professional athlete clients (he was a blurter, you see, liked to hear his own voice), the same boss, knowing I was working there because I wanted to go to law school, said "You should really consider being a secretary instead of law school; it's a better pursuit for women." And so it began. Or more accurately, continued.
A to Z in fact.
A ... Assaulted on Daytona Beach, spring break, during college. I remember what I was wearing, but not his face. Blocked his face.
B ... Belittled by opposing counsel ("No need to focus on her words, gentleman.") Hahahaha.
C ... Coached by a "mentor" to "say little, but dress sharp for the deposition—that black dress is good."
D ... Double standard applied, professionally throughout my career, and personally during and after my divorce (e.g., To him: "Hey buddy try to clear this up before ski week, okay?" To me the same week: "Maybe we can be friends again someday ... people die, get sick ... but it's a BIG maybe.")
E ... Expected to get the coffee in most meetings.
F ... Flashed in the alley behind my apartment in Brentwood, CA, on my way to work at a law firm in the summer of 1990.
G ... Given a choice by opposing counsel "I'll recommend settlement to my client if you will agree to go out with me."
H ... Harassed by the boss who had a framed nude photograph of his wife taking a dip a hot tub in his office and who said "You shouldn't quit teaching yoga; what's not to like about all those practically naked people in the hot room ... except guys have external genitalia so it's harder." (Whatever the hell that means.)
I ... Ignored, talked over because I'm the only woman at the settlement conference.
J ... Judged, early and often, because I'm a woman.
K ... Kept down, in the sand, against my will. See A above.
L ... Listed last on the brief, below male associate with equal tenure, despite have written the entire document.
M ... Marginalized for naming it, not drinking the Koolaid. ("[The male boss] is a crazy maker.")
N ... Never paid more than the male counterparts with equal or less tenure, despite having done lion's (lioness's) share of the work.
O ... Ostracized for speaking my truth.
P ... Privacy violated when then boyfriend had friend hide nearby to watch/hear while we had sex.
Q ... Questioned as a mother; compare the father.
R.... Raped. See A above.
S ... Shoved into mirrored master bedroom closet door.
T ... Thrown down in a parking lot at the McDonald's drive-through by then boyfriend; despite headlights from several cars shining on me as I laid on the ground, no one got out to help.
U ... Unemployed despite best efforts for periods of time, penalized for taking time off to be the primary caregiver for our three daughters.
W ... Weighed in weekly for three years (and BMI measured at bicep) by two male graduate students. (Dance team members and cheerleaders deemed insufficiently lean were held out of that weekend's Big Ten football and/or basketball game.)
X ... Can't think of an X situation, as ex- starts with E.
Y ... Yelled at, denigrated by aforementioned crazy maker boss when male counterparts never demeaned or publicly shamed.
Z ... Zeppelin, referred to as by a colleague, when pregnant with first child.