Many of these questions have different responses depending on who you ask.
Clinton Lewis

Clinton — I thought about this feedback a lot. Thank you for taking the time to share it with me. I expressly wrote this to indicate frustration and exasperation — that was my goal. Two emotions I, and a lot of others have towards the trend of people in power asking those not in power to tell them how to be in power.

While I understand you get more flies with honey, at a certain point gently addressing this topic so that men feel comfortable counters the actual point. At what stage is it no longer the responsibility of those who are frustrated by systemic bad behavior, to address those who enable and condone the behavior with kid gloves?

When asked about sex in the workplace and what the “lines” are by a 40-year-old man who can make or break entire businesses shouldn’t I be a little outraged? If a 25-year-old who had never had a job asked the same question for the first time, I would likely be more gentle. Ashton Kutcher fights against human trafficking and still asks that question — yes it’s frustrating and I’m tired of being compelled to contain that frustration.

As a woman, I have tolerated so much in the workplace that I should never have had to contend with. During those periods I was forced to smile and gently try and persuade those in power what they were doing was wrong. I am not unique at all. Those of us who have experienced being on the receiving end of this kind of thinking often gently, kindly, pragmatically, (pick an adverb) try and evoke change. Often the result is those in power will reduce the situation to it being about the individual registering the kind concern.

Example: one of my clients insisted he hold my hand during a meeting because “you are just so cute.” That meeting had 50 people in it including a CEO, a CTO and CIO for a fortune 100 corporation. Not one single person in my company or the client’s company said or did anything. I held a grown man’s hand that I was barely even social with for an hour while also trying to present a new strategy which was my actual job.

I kindly outlined to the people (men) I reported to that this behavior made me uncomfortable and impacted my performance. The response “you’re in the big league now Alison, you can’t be so sensitive.” I have 100s of those stories indicating to me that honey only goes so far.

Women are angry. People who are not treated as equals are angry, and I think our right to express that anger is part of the process towards change. For too long we’ve been told we must be tempered and curb our “emotions” if we want to educate. I’m angry because I’m tired being told: “if you aren’t nice after I insult you how will I know I shouldn’t insult you.”

Equality is a straightforward concept; terribly hard to manifest, but simple in theory. With equality comes the need for every individual to equally assess their own selves and behavior toward that goal. If Ashton Kutcher had written his own responses to the questions and taken a shot before asking others to do the work for him, my tone might have been less frustrated.

That said, I did clarify that I didn’t know him, I did applaud him for the courage and bravery that it took to solicit responses. I still applaud him for putting himself out there. I also respect the work he does philanthropically. If I didn’t have some respect for him, I wouldn’t have taken my time to address him.

Thank you again for your feedback and for the time you took to read the response. I’m sincerely thrilled to be engaging in this kind of constructive dialogue.

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