Ever since the news about CEO of Penguin Canada, David Davidar's, departure came out, I've been thinking about making this post. About how much I could say, and whom it would implicate, and what would happen. In the end, I need to write this post, because it turns out a lot of women are silenced in publishing, by the small nature of the industry, and by the fact that most of the execs are men. I'm not in the industry any more, and I'm not going to name names. I am going to write about it.
I worked in a very small office, with a male boss. When I interviewed with my female soon-to-be-supervisor, we talked job experience, qualifications. When I had my second interview with the Boss, we talked about what music I liked and what I did on the weekends. This set up the "good cop/bad cop" dynamic I would work under for three years. She was mean, he would soothe our wounds. He was our buddy, she was the task-master.
I worked in an office of all women, save for the two six-month terms the two males lasted. Other than Supervisor, we were all under 30 when we were hired, and for most of us it was our first real job in publishing, after school and internships.
The atmosphere at the office was very casual. We were encouraged to view each other more as friends than co-workers. We laughed, we talked, we all went out drinking together. As friends, we were expected to talk about our relationships. So many many meetings disintegrated into conversations about whom we were dating. Those conversations often led to discussions of our sex lives, sometimes in graphic detail; the exact sort of conversations you'd have with your friends. We were young, we were among "friends," and we thought nothing of it. I'd often joke about "Boss's harem," though I was more right than I thought I was.
I have anecdotes, and hearsay about what my co-workers have gone through, with that Boss. I won't relate them here, because those are their stories to tell. I will tell you that on several occasions, outside of work hours, I was propositioned by the Boss. Once, at a club after a work dinner, all of us drinking till last call, he leaned in and said "You are a very sexy woman." I laughed it off. Like I laughed off the time we split a cab home from a publishing party and he said "Hey! Let's fuck!" I babied him, stuck in my own stupid Stockholm syndrome. "Now you know that wouldn't be a very good idea. You're drunk, and high, and I know you're not in your right mind." I got out of the cab at the end of my street, and let him go home alone. He apologized the next day, laughing about it. I told him not to worry, I wasn't "going to sue or anything." It was all just a big joke.
I flirted back, when he'd flirt, and I'm ashamed. But I blame him. I blame the way he manipulated us into thinking it was all part of the job, the "culture" of the office. We were often told to "entertain" people at our parties, like we were geisha. Dress sexy, be the first ones on the dance floor, get drinks. Looking back, I feel like we were supposed to represent not the brains and talent of our office, but the tits and ass. Lucky for him, we were a smart, hard-working bunch of people, and we managed to make that place work. That made him look good too. You know, I'm still not sure really what he does, other than take buyers to lunch. His tales of business trips always involved a lot of drinking, eating, and weed-smoking. At Book Expo, he'd point out all the women he'd slept with.
Some of my old co-workers still defend him. I can't begin to imagine why. Maybe if my termination from that place -- and let me make it clear I assuredly was not let go for my failure to sleep with the Boss* -- hadn't happened, I'd still give him a lot of leeway too. Maybe I'd still think he was a nice, but screwed-up guy. Right now, writing this post, I feel like my termination was a gift, so I could have the clarity to look back and say "No. You were wrong. This was wrong." I have been at my current job almost two full years, and no one's asked me if I like it up the ass yet. I'm pretty damn okay with that.
Edit: I had anonymous commenting turned off, due to spam. I've turned it back on, for the time being, in case you want to comment, but don't feel comfortable doing so under an online identity. I went through and removed all pictures of myself from this blog after publishing this post, so trust me, I get it.
*Shit, maybe it was.