Are we all Bitches?
I know this comes off as being a tad controversial in the wake of the #Metoo movement. But I’ve been reminded recently about an industry that I spent all of my working life toiling away in, Radio. Yes, I worked in radio for over 25 + years and I’m sure it’s true of many other industries but the disdain and in gratitude that I felt from a lot of women in this industry was real and completely and utterly reprehensible.
Oh sure, I got it from some men too. Mostly the angry gay ones and the misogynistic straight ones, who believed that they were so much better than they actually were. Their egos so big that it actually overshadowed their work to the detriment of their staff.
The blatant sexism of one particular toxic-male boss that I experienced was when he called a ‘Jox Meeting’ (a weekly meeting that all on-air talent had to attend, me being one of only 2 women on the air, the other being a journalist) where he invited 2 young women introduced to us as new ‘Street Team’ members whom we needed to meet and be aware of. About 20 minutes into the meeting these 2 young girls dragged out their boom box, put some loud sexy music on and proceeded to strip down to their g-strings and barely-there bra. Now remember my other female colleague and I are in a room of about 10 male peers rowdily enjoying 2 female strippers. This was in the mid to late 90’s. We were pressured into accepting this embarrassing and humiliating situation. As distressing and juvenile as it was we had to comply otherwise we were going to be labelled ‘troublemakers’ and not team players.
Can you believe that? That was Misogynistic Guy.
Mr Angry Gay Man was another kettle of fish. Firstly he called women like me ‘Breeders’. Charming.
He fired me and my co-host from our successful night time show, replacing us with his angry gay friend and his co-host, who’s greatest claim to ‘fame’ was getting her clitoris pierced live on the air. Yep, true story.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. But throughout all this time (apart from my female Journalist friend and co-worker) no women whom I worked with came out in support or asked to help, or listened or actually cared. The reason being I thought at the time was that they were too busy trying to hold onto their own jobs. They didn’t want to be troublemakers. They didn’t want to rock the boat because if they did they might end up drowning. What a sad, sad situation. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
It’s interesting but the only female friends who supported me were those who worked outside of the industry. Record Companies, Public Relations, Executives in Entertainment these were the women who listened to me, helped me and gave me support.
Top female Executives in Radio are a very rare breed and when they reach the pinnacle of their careers tend to be as helpful as male executives. Actually, that’s not quite true. If a male executive liked you for you, they would be helpful. The problem with most female radio executives back then (and now to a certain extent) is they are not inclined to help a Sister. They would rather make the journey even tougher. I don’t know whether that is some sort of Navy Seal training they think they must encourage for fellow females but they want you to know your place and they will try and keep you in that spot for as long as they can.
I remember one particular young woman who early in my career, maybe 5 years into it, started working for the Radio Station where I was working. It was her first time away from home with a boss whom she had worked with previously and who she had a massive crush on.
I reached out to her and was friendly. I could see she was missing her family and her hometown so I asked her if she would like to go out. So as I recall she came to my place and we shared many drinks and as she was so naïve about radio outside of her hometown I shared with her some information about the Who’s Who of radio, and that where she came from radio was just a small pond, but there was a whole ocean of people she needed to be aware of. Somehow she interpreted this information as a threat. Not at the time, but when she got home. She promptly told the love of her life (aka our boss) about the information I had imparted. He interpreted this information as a threat, which resulted in me being hauled over the coals. As punishment I had to work the next month working both a breakfast shift and the late night shift. Illegal of course. Yes, completely opposite ends of the day. She never spoke to me much after that as I was considered a ‘hostile’ by our boss and not a team player. I had to be punished into becoming a team player. You reach out to a sister and then she stabs you not in the back but straight in the stomach.
One other so called Sister whom I thought was a good friend (in my early 20’s) had a stellar job doing breakfast on a very reputable city station. She got all bent out of shape when I accepted an offer to work at a rival station doing nights. She didn’t want to talk to me after that and went as far as confronting my boss at the time to tell him that he made a mistake in hiring me and that he should have hired her instead. Needless to say I never bothered to reach out to her after that.
One last example is a woman I worked with whom I got along with very well. She was supportive and kind. We became friends and she even came to my 29th birthday party. Years later I moved from that radio station and our friendship ceased to exist, because that’s how radio works. Nobody gives a shit about you after you leave. Anyways I was at a Radio Awards night and I saw her there. By this stage she had become a General Manager of a very prominent Radio Station. I saw her and proceeded to go and say Hi and she walked past me like she didn’t even know me. She saw me, I know she did, we locked eyes for a brief instant but now that she was in a position of power she didn’t want to know me at all. I spoke to another former female colleague that night about her and her success and she also said that she had been treated the same way by her also.
Of course there are many other stories to be told about other women I have worked with, but this is enough to divulge for now.
I have over my 25 + years in the industry and made some lovely female friends in the industry. The point is that not all women in radio are bad. Some are spectacular and it’s been a real privilege to work alongside most of them. But why, oh why do there have to be these stinkers?!
If we are to work together, we should seriously learn to ‘WORK’ together. We should definitely not undermine each other for the sake of getting ahead. Imagine how much better it would be if we worked together and be a force to be reckoned with. We have to struggle on a daily basis with half-witted male bosses, misogynistic goons and the angry gay mafia who only hire their angry gay friends. Why in the hell do we want to make it an uphill battle for our sisters, for each other?
We should be reaching out and helping each other up the ladder and not looking down and kicking the woman behind you down a rung with your Jimmy Choo’s.
We are better than that.
By nature we are nurturers, why do we block that part of ourselves when it comes to the workplace? Why do we fight our natural instincts to care for and nurture others when it comes to being a professional person? Did I not get the memo that day about being a bitch and only caring about yourself?!
I know the Radio industry is not the only industry that suffers from this dilemma. I’m sure many women have had similar experiences and I’m really sorry if you have.
There is nothing wrong with being a woman and using your distinctiveness to succeed at work. If anything I think avoiding this is what makes our work lives more difficult, because we pretend to be something that we are instinctively not..
Reach out to your female colleagues. Listen to them. Help them. Don’t belittle them. Don’t patronise your fellow women folk and call them ‘Sweetheart’ and ‘Darling’. That’s a sure sign of another female putting you in your place. It is not an affectation of their respect for you.
No condescension required. Respect is all that is needed.
Open your heart, let the light shine out.
Don’t be a bitch.
That includes you too Angry Gay Mafia.