I’ve been working in male-dominated industries throughout my career.
I started working in films in LA and then moved to work in technology in London. Being in a masculine environment I quickly realised I needed to bite my tongue, “be cool” and "play the game”.
My very first experience of what “playing the game” really meant was when I was 20 years old and an intern at a well-known Hollywood movie company. A married executive suggested we should go back to mine. I was shocked but kept it to myself. I thought I had to play the game or I'd be out and ruin my starting career.
Of course, there is a whole debate to be had on the act of sexual harassment itself but the thing that was the most painful to me about this situation was the fact that I couldn’t speak up about it.
The older I get, the more I realise that I have an obligation to react to any situation I am uncomfortable with and speak out. Fuck the game. What is the point of being part of a broken system? I believe we are all responsible for fixing it. We need to call men out when their behaviours are inappropriate, sexist or simply rude. Especially the men we love. If not for ourselves then for other women that might cross their path. When we speak out, we give them a red card, we force them to think again the next time they are in similar situations. And it has an even greater impact if these men are ones we are related to. Who better than the women they love to teach them what they seem to ignore or do not know that hurt us? I believe not speaking up is allowing the situation to persist and grow.
It's not easy though. It wasn't easy for me at 20 and it still isn't today. I am still confronted with situations, whether at work or in my personal life when I have to remind myself of my commitment not to let abuse slip by.
Whether it be standing up for another woman being mistreated by a boyfriend as I did when I confronted a close friend recently because of the way he was behaving with his girlfriend or facing up to an entitled date taking advantage of my inebriated state as it also happened just a few weeks back, I now know that we all have to be accountable and can educate men to be and do better. It is not about patronising them, make them "less male", but it is about showing a different perspective to this man's world and make it a better place for everyone.