The government of Saudi Arabia announced Sunday women will be able to start their own businesses without permissions of a male guardian. The announcement was made over Twitter by the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, saying “No need for a guardian’s position. Saudi women are free to start their own businesses freely. #NoNeed.”
This degree is part of prince Mohammad bin Salman’s Vision3030 plan, which aims to alter the economy so it isn’t so reliant on oil. To do this, the prince hopes to reduce female unemployment in the country and raise the number of women in the workforce from 22 per cent to 30 per cent.
This announcement is intriguing and somewhat startling for a society that has oppressed women for so many decades. Of course, little detail was released about enforcing this new decree and the challenges facing women once they decide to open a business, such as banking, employees, and sales. There is also a lot of pushback from more conservative members of state.
Back in September 2017, King Salman of Saudi Arabia issued a decree allowing women to be given driving licences as of June 2018. Since then, a Middle Eastern taxi app has signed up almost 1,000 female drivers in February. Their goal is to hire 10,000 by the end of the year. The Ministry of Labour is also reportedly looking into subsidizing car sharing for working women, as public transportation is so scarce.
Both of these decrees are positive changes to Saudi Arabian society; however, until they are implemented, it remains unknown as to how much of an impact they will have.
Alexa Samuels is the founder of Mercartto.com, a Toronto-based, female-led e-commerce startup that helps connect people with handpicked artwork based on their personality type. With a background in Latin American art and an MBA from Rotman School of Management, Samuels knows what it takes to run a business. Her idea — to offer original art to those who may not know what to look for — sprang from her own personal experience and desire to fuse technology with culture.
Samuels responded to some questions from Women’s Post about how she founded Mercartto.com and what advice she has for young entrepreneurs looking to run a startup:
Question: Your background is in Latin American studies and art – when did you decide to make the jump into business – and what was your interest in Latin America specifically?
Answer: I went to McGill University not having a clue what I wanted to do. When we had to declare a major, the cross-disciplinary nature of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies program intrigued me. I’ve had a long-term inexplicable interest in Latin America since I was young, perhaps stemming from the region’s history/archaeology, art, music, food and languages. As for jumping into business, it just seemed like the thing to do. My grandfather built a successful toy manufacturing business, so perhaps entrepreneurialism is in the blood.
Your career is a bit all over the place – marketing, social media, non-profits – what drove you towards entrepreneurship?
Initially, my career began after completing my Master of Arts degree when I joined Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. I stayed there for over a decade until taking a Global Executive MBA that stoked my interest in going independent. In 2009 I felt the time was right to make the change.
How did the idea for Mercartto come about?
The idea for Mercartto literally sprouted from an “aha moment” when out with a friend for lunch.
Years ago, shortly after I moved from a tiny home with no wall space to a house with a two-storey front entrance, I knew I wanted a significant piece of art to make a great first impression. But, I didn’t want to spend extensive time searching for art, especially wading through art that was out of my price range or art that just didn’t resonate with me. I had also spent a lot of time (and continue to do so) contemplating my own art decisions: Why am I drawn to certain types of art? What are the common elements? Finally, I wanted to create an experience which surprises and delights the user, but within a selection of art that she is more likely to enjoy. Mercartto’s been evolving ever since that lunchtime epiphany.
In terms of your personality quiz – is there a kind of art that is most popular?
Our data set is still small, so it’s hard to make generalizations this early, but if I had to narrow it down I would say that landscapes have the edge. What’s more interesting to observe is how diverse our users’ tastes are. I can tell you that at current, out of the 31 different personality types, the most popular are the Sensory Collector, the Social Collector, the Visionary Collector and the Closet Daredevil. I’m also happy to observe that so far we have one Nonconformist.
How has the company evolved in the last three years?
The last three years have seen the evolution from idea to a product. The most significant milestones have been:
Narrowing down the Mercartto differentiator and refining the art personality quiz;
Launching the beta as an iOS app in 2016; and
Integrating tester feedback into an updated web version launched end of 2017.
Tell me about the scholarship aspect of Mercartto?
When considering who is going to be drawn to Mercartto, we think of someone who is interested in introducing original art into their space, whether for the first time or to build upon a small collection, but might be unsure about “the whole art thing”. Our mandate is to help people learn more about art, both from general concepts and from things related specifically to Toronto. We want Canadians to learn about themselves, and others to learn about us. Our blog serves as an ongoing repository of this information, and once a month we send our subscribers a curated newsletter summarizing the best content of the month.
What advice would you have for budding entrepreneurs? Did you experience any drawbacks or challenges in the creation of Mercartto?
Ha! There are days (weeks!) when you’re an entrepreneur and everything you do feels like a drawback, challenge or learning experience. It’s especially difficult taking on a technology project when you don’t have the technical skills to build the platform yourself. If I had to narrow down my advice to a few points, I would say:
There will be rough patches. Lots of them. You will make mistakes. Expensive, painful mistakes. If you want stability and predictability, work for someone else. But if you love the challenge of creating something the world has never seen before, you believe in what you’re doing and you accept that the buck stops with you and you alone, entrepreneurship can be very rewarding.
It’s okay to change. Don’t be so rigid with your idea that you’re not willing to change. Really listen to others and not just hear what you want to hear.
Listen to your gut. If something is gnawing at the back of your brain, there’s probably some truth to it. Honour your misgivings.
Be very, very careful with whom you do business. As much as possible, set expectations up front. Deal directly with issues.
Tell me about #artistsneededhere.
#artisneededhere is our inaugural promotion to help build awareness. We’re on a mission to make your walls happy! Until Feb. 28, we’re giving people a chance to enter to win one of two prints by Toronto artist Jane Murdoch Adams’ wonderful Frida Kahlo series. Entry is done by sharing a photo of your sad, bare wall on a public Instagram account with the hashtag #artisneededhere, posting a comment to our #artisneededhere thread in Facebook, or signing up to receive our monthly curated newsletter. More details at http://ArtIsNeededHere.com.
How do you help women?
I knew I wanted to build my business if not directly targeted at women, at least in a way that women would feel like it was made for them, but not at the expense of excluding men. It’s a true “feminist” approach: one that believes in equality for everyone. I am particularly interested in ensuring we have female artists represented on the site – again, not to the exclusion of men, but by at least making an effort to be consciously aware that female artists are being approached on an equal basis to males.
What do you do when you aren’t working?
I don’t understand the question (just kidding.)
If I’m not working, my time is generally spent with my husband, daughter, and extended family. Now that my daughter is getting increasingly independent, I’ve realized that I need to invest in spending time with myself, particularly doing creative pursuits like painting, writing, piano playing. And on Sunday nights you can find me playing hockey at my local rink.
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In a tweet on Feb. 13, former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell made a comment about television news anchors and their choice or wardrobe. “Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas,” she said in the social media post, referring to female broadcasters who choose to wear sleeveless outfits.
I am struck by how many women on television news wear sleeveless dresses- often when sitting with suited men. I have always felt it was demeaning to the women and this suggests that I am right. Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas! https://t.co/plBRrrtqKV
The article Campbell references is a blog post written by Dr. Nick Morgan, a speaking coach, on his own private website. According to Morgan, a sleeveless outfit for women or a casual looking t-shirt for men will mean people won’t think you are as smart as you are. “We humans are pretty simple creatures,” he writes. “If you show up in front of us with skin exposed, we’re going to think about your body. If you’re wearing lots of clothing, we’re going to think about your mind.”
The blog post goes on to suggest people should spend “real money” at “a high-end fashionista place” prior to an interview or speaking engagement. Morgan mentions a study that compares photographs of naked and half-naked women and asks people about how competent they think they are. Ironically, the article was then tweeted out by Informed Opinions, a handle that aims “to ensure diverse women’s perspectives and priorities are equitably integrated into Canadian society.” That is how Canada’s former PM found the piece.
Let us first address the research — wearing a sleeveless dress is different than wearing a bra and nothing else. Therefore, I don’t think the study referenced in the original article provides enough context for the statement made by both Morgan and Campbell. To do so proves that society objectifies women to such a degree that showing shoulders or your arm is essentially equal to a woman being stark naked while presenting the news. Most people would agree this is a ridiculous statement.
The public response to Campbell’s support of this statement was mixed. While it is true that most women are judged 60 per cent by how they look rather than what they say, that way of thinking is not something that should be perpetuated.
What interested me the most was the response from television stylists, who actually urge women to lose the traditional blazer or pantsuit for something more personal. There were others who argued that blazers and long-sleeve shirts were more professional, but the general consensus was that clothing wasn’t an indicator or success or capability. Here are some examples of the response:
This article is not only ridiculous claptrap about how “showing skin makes people think about your body” (?) but is also classist AF. I am a stylist for women on the news and the fight to get them our of a blazer is real. Please stop policing women’s choices.
I train people for TV appearances and always recommend both women and men wear long sleeves and formal clothes for credibilty in interviews. That being said, news anchors and some politicians already have that credibilty, so clothes matter less.
I am a lawyer, which has some of the most antiquated traditions of any profession. And guess what? I wear sleeveless shirts to the office year-round, because MY SHIRT SLEEVES DID NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL. You know who cares? No one. You’ve dated yourself here and should be ashamed.
When I first heard that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau interrupted a woman during a town hall meeting to suggest she say “peoplekind” instead of “mankind”, because it was more inclusive, I laughed. I assumed it was a mistake, as to my knowledge there is no word or term in the English language for “peoplekind”. He meant “humankind” right?
Apparently, that wasn’t the mistake he made.
“I made a dumb joke a few days ago that seems to have gone a little viral in the room, on the peoplekind comment,” Trudeau told reporters after the fact. “It played well in the room and in context. Out of context it doesn’t play so well, and it’s a little reminder that I shouldn’t be making jokes even when I think they’re funny.”
This is disappointing. Essentially, he was saying his mistake wasn’t the word, but rather the Canadian prime minister, someone who describes himself as a staunch feminist, said he was joking about inclusivity. Not only that, but he interrupted a woman with a legitimate question to do so.
This is not just a matter of a joke not playing well. It’s proof that even the Prime Minister still has a patriarchal mentality.
Oh, and the international media is having a field day.
Trudeau’s comment, in addition to the way he injected his opinion overtop of that of a woman, is the reason why no progress can be made in the feminist movement. Women are fighting to be heard, to be considered active citizens and get involved in politics. Yet, they are being shoved out, belittled with fake expressions of equality.
This woman’s question was about a policy that would see religious charities lose funding, not a light-hearted topic. However, the condescending way in which she was treated at the town hall meeting diminished the importance of what she was saying. It also acted as an embarrassment technique. This woman was essentially corrected in front of a couple hundred people, told she was being sexist and politically incorrect.
Trudeau’s boyish charm will only get him so far if he continues to act so cavalier when speaking with the people of Canada, especially women. It’s important to remember that everyone has the vote now — and this silly, stupid “joke” may have lost him some.
Lisa Grybowski is a licensed customs broker and vice president of Hemisphere Freight and Customs Brokerage. Her role is mixed, everything from taking care of the company’s billings and government claims, setting up technology systems, troubleshooting issues with clients, and helping clear shipments for specialized boats and cars.
Hemisphere is a boutique firm with only three licensed brokers, but it prides itself on top quality 24-hour service. They take one-time clients, are fluent in US customs brokerage, and are responsible for a number of temporary imports.
“Our biggest competition is the large carriers like UPS and FEDex. As an in-house brokerage firm, they can do it cheap and increase prices in our freight where we charge per clearance,” she said. “We hold our own. We have five employees set up at home so they can clear shipping. Not 1-800 numbers. Why would I come to you if you are more expensive? You pay for service.”
Hemisphere is a family-run business. It was started when Grybowski was born in 1986 by her mother, Penny Downer. Downer was a secretary for a customs broker and, after a while, she thought she could do it herself.
“Hemisphere was her second attempt,” Grybowski said. “My mom is an incredible story. She started this company as a single mom with three kids, and in this industry, when she started she was one of three women in the entire industry in Canada.”
“She started it on her own and by the time Charles and I took over the company, she had tons of clients. They all ask about her.”
Downer was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and her health deteriorated quickly. Grybowski and her brother were thrust into the business, forced to learn the ropes quickly in order to keep the company afloat.
Grybowski has a background in general finance, so she was able to take on a portion of accounting at Hemisphere, but she had to learn a lot on the job. She eventually completed a course and received her brokerage license. It’s her job to be aware of what is happening internationally with trade agreements and how it affects the Canadian dollar, a challenge with the current political climate.
“Now, we just got a free trade agreement with the EU,” She said. “That has increased business for us because there are no more duties between Canada and European countries. A lot of our businesses importing clothing has drastically increased.”
Over half of the employees at Hemisphere are women, something Grybowski is proud of. “My mom was keen on giving women opportunities. I sit at her desk now, and I try to keep that in mind. Trucking and operating is still a manly world.”
Grybowski is a part of the Women Presidents’ Organization, which is made up of women who have ownership of a company or hold the role of President. “We do roundtable discussions each month and that is where we can start generating ideas on how we can help other women,” she said. “We can talk about if we have problems with an employee and everyone gives their two cents; what we give for bonuses or gifts for clients; what do we think of new taxes on small to mid-size companies; a lot of things. My mom never had something like that.”
Grybowski said that while she never hears from a female customs broker, and all of the executives she works with are male, she doesn’t like to think of those barriers. “I think you need to have a voice, show persistence, and not really think of any barriers like the glass ceiling or whether you are the only woman in the room…If I know what I’m talking about and I can do a great job for [these executives], they become loyal business partners.”
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The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party elected their interim leader Friday — Victor Fedeli, MPP for Nipissing, former mayor of North Bay, and the party’s finance critic.
The choice is a bit disappointing.
When former leader Patrick Brown resigned, Women’s Post called for the Ontario PC party to elect a woman to replace him. The publisher recommended Christine Elliott, Caroline Mulroney, or Jennifer Keesmaat — three capable women with vast experience in politics.
Instead, the party chose a 61-year-old white man. Can you see why I’m disappointed? The party had a real opportunity to change, to make the face of the PC party one that doesn’t make Ontarians think of an old patriarchal political system. It also would have marked one of the first time all three party leaders were female, a milestone that would have been celebrated by the media.
Of course, Fedeli is only interim leader. The PC party still has an opportunity to make the right decision and elect someone who will unite Ontarians and work towards creating a more equal, just society representative of the diverse citizenry within it. But with an election approaching in the next six months, will there be enough time to unify this province?
It’s unclear whether or not Fedeli will remain interim leader until the June 6th election. Either way, I’m not sure the PCs have much of a chance come election day.
Marie Bountrogianni is the Dean of G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University as well as a former Ontario parliamentarian. She has a wide variety of passions and a true desire to make a difference in the world, which makes her the ideal candidate for both government and academia.
Dr. Bountrogianni was a Liberal MP from 1999 to 2007, representing the riding of Hamilton-Mountain. During that time, she served as minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Democratic Renewal, Children and Youth Services, and Citizenship and Immigration. Prior to entering the public life, Bountrogianni was the chief psychologist for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. She has a doctorate in Applied Psychology from the University of Toronto and was recognized as one of the top 10 most influential alumni at the University of Waterloo. Last year, she was honoured with the Gabby Award in New York City for her contributions on behalf of refugees, minorities, and people with disabilities.
Bountrogianni reached out to Women’s Post following the Golden Globe’s and Oprah Winfrey’s inspiring speech to discuss women in politics. As an educator, she hopes to inspire young women to be more active in world affairs, and discusses why academics and leadership go hand in hand.
Question: Do you think Oprah’s speech and presidential campaign rumour will spark an interest in politics in young women? Do you think Oprah should run?
Answer: I am hoping young women – indeed, women of all ages – will consider running. It is very important for a democracy to be truly representative of its citizenry. If Oprah’s speech inspires women to run, then she should make more speeches. As for whether or not Oprah should run, that is really up to her and the American people. The fact that, like Trump, she is a billionaire TV celebrity (similarities stop here) may actually be an obstacle for her. Will the people accept another wealthy celebrity or will they want someone more experienced in governance?
Why do you think more women don’t run for office here in Canada? What are the factors?
As a former parliamentarian I can say it is challenging for women – particularly those with young children – to run for politics, for obvious reasons. My advice to young women is this: do not think of it as a life long career. Think of it as a term of service (or two or three terms), much like a military service to your country. Do it when you can “give everything you’ve got”, then leave. You will not only have made a significant contribution to your community but the benefits of your political experience will stay with you for the rest of your life. You learn how the system works. How it REALLY works. You will be able to assist any organization you work in or volunteer at.
You have a background in psychology and education, what made you run for office?
I ran for office because at the time I was the Chief Psychologist with a large school board and was frustrated by the effects of cut-backs on children’s lives. I was also on a hospital board and was similarly upset at how the cutbacks were affecting patients. I did not hold a party two membership and was never involved in politics before I ran. I had to ask, “How do I run?” I highly recommend the experience.
Did you experience any challenges as a woman?
The challenges I experienced are faced by working mothers every day. The guilt of long hours away from home, combined with balancing work and family life, etc. I did notice that younger male politicians experienced similar challenges related to their familial responsibilities, as it was more practise common for both partners to be in the workforce.
What needs to change?
Society has to once again respect the role of the politician. It is a challenging role when done properly. Politicians need to continue to remember why they entered politics and go back to basics. It was not (or should not be) for the partisan fighting, career and games – it was to represent their constituents. Social media often makes this difficult as everyone is under “a not so always fair“ microscope. We will all be better off if we bring civility back to politics. This takes leadership, however; when a leader takes part in rogue, self-serving and pedantic tweeting, “he/she poisons the well”.
How do we compare here in Canada to the U.S.?
Canada and the U.S have very different histories and political systems. We were born out of compromise and negotiations — the U.S out of revolution. There are pros and cons in each country. I am biased, of course, but I have to say that I am proud of our “just society“. We are a serious country.
As Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, you must witness the interests and drive of many students — do you think more women will run for politics in the future?
I hope more women will run. Ironically, what is happening south of the border has attracted more interest in politics and more chatter everywhere. I do believe, like Oprah, that things are shifting – the strong (finally) response to allegations of sexual aggression is a promising step in the right direction. This may lead to women feeling more empowered to enter fields that are predominantly held by men.
Why return to education after politics?
I don’t think I ever left education entirely when I was in politics and did not entirely leave politics when I went back to education. Politics comes from the Greek word that means “citizen”. We are responsible for each other and we have an obligation to one another. Education is a tool. Political knowledge is another tool. Both are needed to affect change. I have been very lucky to have both in my toolkit.
What advice do you have to women interested in politics?
Do it. Get support from family and friends. Be prepared to exhaust yourself. But I promise you this: it will be an experience like no other. You will potentially impact the lives of thousands of your constituents and if get into cabinet, millions of citizens. It will shock you. Next to being a mother, it is the best decision I have ever made. It was truly an honour.
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The need for change within the Ontario PC party is hitting them hard today as news that allegations of sexual misconduct have pushed Patrick Brown to step down as leader.
Many of the party faithful are wishing they had elected Christine Elliott, who challenged Patrick Brown in the 2015 leadership race. There is no doubt the party will have a tough time in the coming election. If they elect a man, the cloud of scandal won’t dissipate quickly and voters will go to the polls questioning his propriety no matter how clean his reputation. So, they must find a strong woman willing to lead them out of the scandal, someone willing to challenge Premier Kathleen Wynne.
It’s not a job many woman would want. Chances of actually winning the election are much lower today than they were yesterday. But, this morning Christine Elliott is probably giving it a lot of thought. Leadership candidates who don’t win are usually pushed out of the party by leaders who don’t like to be challenged. Patrick Brown didn’t like to be challenged, and Christine Elliott was pushed out of the party.
She has to know the chances of winning the election with just five months to go with the Patrick Brown scandal hanging over them are low.
Whomever steps up will have to work hard to build their recognition and public trust.
If Christine Elliott doesn’t step up, the party will have to think outside their conservative scope to find a woman with a voice big enough and strong enough to convince female voters that she is bringing big change to the party.
As I muse over who might be a strong candidate, some are suggesting Caroline Mulroney as a possible leadership candidate. She has a pretty terrific resume – a working mother of four, she has a degree from Harvard and a law degree from New York University. And she has experience in politics. She, like Justin Trudeau, will be accused of riding on her fathers coat tails when in fact she has a very strong resume and could make a very good leader. The only issue is that she may not have enough recognition to build the public trust the PC party needs to get out of mess they are in and actually win the election. But recognition can be earned quickly if she comes out with strong ideas that earn her support in the urban markets – like supporting dedicated transit funding.
Today I have no doubt that Ontario PC decision makers are frantically searching for the right leader – they’ll have to find someone with enough public recognition and trust to challenge Premier Wynne.
An out of the box idea might be to look further than the tip of their shoes to someone like Jenniefer Keesmaat. She has a solid reputation in urban centres. She has experience being under fire, and she understands the importance of building strong communities. And she is a woman who would give Premier Wynne some strong competition with her core supporters. That kind of out of the box thinking is what the PC party needs to show voters they are committed to changing the old boys club image that is haunting them today.
There is no doubt the party must find a woman leader. Whomever steps up to the challenge will be doing the Ontario PC party a huge service – I just hope the old boys recognize it.
Amazon is changing their hiring policies to ban managers from asking applicants about their previous salaries.
This is part of a US policy that is meant to reduce the gender pay gap. California, New York, New Orleans, New Jersey, Dalaware, and Pittsburg are a few of the states that have already implemented this policy. According to the Labour Code, the bill would “prohibit an employer from relying on the salary history information of an applicant for employment as a factor in determining whether to offer an applicant employment or what salary to offer an applicant. The bill also would prohibit an employer from seeking salary history information about an applicant for employment and would require an employer, upon reasonable request, to provide the pay scale for a position to an applicant for employment.”
The idea is that if potential employers don’t ask, then everyone entering the position will automatically be given the same starting salary based on experience and job title.
It’s an interesting concept, but there are many who believe the law could backfire and actually increase the gender pay gap. If previous salaries, or salary expectations, are not discussed, assumptions regarding the worth and value of the person being interviewed could guide the hiring process to offer certain people a lower salary.
For example, women could be offered less money than they earned previously, and be forced to either re-negotiate or accept the offer. The argument against this ban is that if women are able to firmly state their expectations and previous salary, the number in the original offer will be able to more accurately reflect their value.
The transparency element of this policy is admirable. Companies will have to provide a pay scale for the position to applicants, meaning those being interviewed will have an idea of what kind of salary they should expect.
While this is a state decision, national companies are now being forced to use this new hiring policy across borders.
It’s still a little early to determine whether or not a policy like this one will help reduce the gender pay gap or cause further challenges for women in the workplace. However, it’s an intriguing attempt by governments to take an active role in gender parity in business.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
A woman has made allegations of sexual misconduct against television actor and comedian Aziz Ansari. In her claim, she says the two went out on a date and when she indicated, using “nonverbal and verbal cues” that she wasn’t interested in having sex with him, he tried to seduce her over and over again. Eventually, he called her an uber and she went home.
Ansari has told the media that “it was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned.”
While the allegations may not be as serious as those against Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey, these kind of stories do expose an important issue of consent, or basic respect, on the dating scene. The criticism this woman is receiving online is reason enough why this story is so important. People are saying this woman should have been clearer about her sexual desires, and that it wasn’t fair to Ansari to ruin his career over something he didn’t know he did wrong. An opinion columnist in the New York Times actually said the only thing Ansari is guilty of is not being a mindreader.
Essentially, those responding to this story are saying that because this woman didn’t cry out “no” and push Ansari away, this story has no value to the #MeToo movement. I disagree.
This story is one many women, and probably a few men, are familiar with. Their date indicates a need to slow down, and are promptly ignored. You kind of like the person, so you try to express your consent in a different way. You do this by joking around, distracting your partner, suggesting alternative activities, and finally, by saying you aren’t in the mood. This can result in anger, frustration, embarrassment, and sometimes lead to dangerous situations.
I was dating a man for a few weeks I met online. He was funny, smart, and nice — pretty much exactly what I was looking for. During conversation at dinner, my date invited me back to his apartment. I said that while I liked him, I wanted to take our relationship slow. I like to really get to know a potential partner before jumping into bed with them, especially considering the dangers of the online dating scene. I was about as clear as a person could be about my romantic intensions, and my date seemed understanding. He said there were no strings attached to the invitation, and we could simply watch a movie, drink coffee, and spend more time with each other.
Isn’t that sweet?
Of course, once I arrived at the apartment, there was no coffee. He did put on a movie, but as soon as the opening titles started scrolling along the screen, he was blowing in my ear (is that a thing!!??). The next thing I knew, his hand was on the back of my head, pushing me towards his face. I broke away a few times, joking about how we were going to miss the movie. A few minutes later, his hand was on my cheek, guiding my face back to his.
I consider myself a strong and independent woman, but when I was confronted with such an uncomfortable situation, I am ashamed to say that I lied. Instead of telling my date that his behaviour was unacceptable, especially considering our conversation at dinner, I looked at my phone and said “my dad just called me. My dog is badly injured and he needs help lifting her into the car. I’ve got to run.” And out the door I went.
All that is to say it is not as easy to say “no” as people may think. When you are alone with a person in their home, you are vulnerable. Your partner has the advantage.
It’s also important to remember that consent is not the absence of the word “no”. Consent, according to the Oxford dictionary, means to give “permission for something to happen.” In the case of a sexual relationship, both parties must clearly agree to a sexual act and each person has the right to say no. Consent should never be assumed or implied.
Again, let me stress, consent is not defined by the absence of the word “no”. And that is why this conversation should be a part of the #MeToo movement. Understanding this definition is part of that patriarchal mentality women are trying to change. It is something that will take time and needs to be exposed in order for people to learn.
Could Ansari really not understand this woman’s non-verbal cues? It is absolutely possible. Should he be punished professionally and personally for his actions? I’m not too sure. His reaction is probably similar to hundreds of thousands of men out there who were in similar situations. Men who don’t understand what those non-verbal cues mean and are subject to retaliation in the media.
For those men, here is a very simple guideline: just ask. Ask your partner if it is okay to kiss them. Ask if they want to go to the bedroom. Ask if they are willing to have oral sex. Always ask. When you ask, you will get a firm answer. And continue to ask! Is this okay? Are you okay with me touching you there?
It’s really rather simple. And no, it doesn’t detract from the mood. Trust me, it’s actually quite attractive to have a man stand by your door, saying “you look absolutely beautiful, I would like to kiss you. Can I?”
Sexual assault and sexual harassment within industry and the workplace may be the foundation of the #MeToo and TIME’S UP movement, but it shouldn’t end there. Let’s add consent to the discussion.