29 September, 2006

Feminism: Flirting Your Way To The Top!!!

As a feminist of a certain flavour I'm all for women being integrated into the various corporate paradigms. Which is a fancy way of saying that I think women can hold the same jobs as men. The thing that gets me in trouble (okay, one of the things that gets me in trouble) is that I think women should achieve these positions of power in the way that men do. They should work hard and prove themselves worthy. If they want to buy into the (often very true) theory that more deals are made on the golf course than in the board room, the women should take up golf. And no, Golf doesn't mean "Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden." That would be an urban legend.

I don't think it's feminist to flirt your way to the top. I'm sure we've all seen it happen. The woman who homes in on the men in the room and talks to them from under her eyelids, with a hand on their forearm. I saw this little play enacted not too long ago and it reminded me of how much I despise this tactic of self-advancement. Now of course the first reaction of all you who read this is to think it is because I'm a bitter old crone who couldn't charm a dolly out of Santa, so I'm jealously putting down all the prettier girls who've both got it and flaunt it. Not true. First off, I'm not that bad looking and I have a pretty decent set of headlights, so If I wanted to go down that road I could. Unfortunately I also have a pretty decent set of self-worth and am not so eager to pimp out my feminity. Especially since I've also got a pretty decent set of grey matter.

What bothers me about the whole kiss-up is that it amps up sexuality in the workplace in a way that sends mixed messages. We cringe at the thought of a man telling his female subordinates that they will get a raise or promotion if they have sex with him. So why do we not cringe at the the thought of a female telling a man that he might get to have sex with her if he gives her a raise or promotion? Because that's what's happening. That's what all those signals mean.

Both situationsa are nasty combinations of sex and power. One abuses power for sex, the other abuses sex for power. It's craven.


At 11:00 AM, September 29, 2006, Anonymous bekah said...

I don't have a problem with a woman flirting her way to the top, because it's not a problem with her, it's a problem with the people who allow it to happen, which is who I have the problem with. The woman who flirts her way to the top is just the same as the person who lies their way to the top. It shouldn't happen because the people who are already at the top shouldn't allow it, but it does happen. I know that it's easy to say a woman should have more self-control and feel like she has more self-worth than to flirt her way through something, and rather she should earn a promotion with her skills at that job in that position, but the same can be said to the person who cheats, lies, scams, and screws people over to get to the top.

At 12:45 PM, September 29, 2006, Anonymous nm said...

I have sometimes flirted with certain specific co-workers when I believed the unspoken subtext was "we both find each other attractive but we're absolutely not going to act on it except by making this completely public game out of it." I felt it was a way of acknowledging the attraction rather than pretending it wasn't there. It seemed to take the real sexual tension out of things, and replace it with something less potentially dangerous.

I stopped doing it, though. Not because I was ever wrong about what was going on, or got burned or burned someone else, but because I realized that other people might not recognize it for what it was. And I didn't want to be misperceived in that way.

At 1:33 PM, September 29, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

bekah, I honestly think it's a problem with both. Yes, the people at the top should be more professional and put a stop to it. But the flirting woman should also be more professional than to go there in the first place.

And I agree, there's no difference between easing your way to the top through honey or through vinegar.

nm, I think that flirting with co-workers in an environment of psuedo-sexual tension is another matter altogether. Having a guy or gal in the workplace to whom you have a subtle attraction and following that with banter, etc. is more of a form of sex play. I leave the discussion of the ethics of that for another time.

The scenario to which I have reference is the one where there is no equal attraction per se but the woman will turn on the charm to any man who can grease the wheels for her.

At 6:00 PM, September 30, 2006, Anonymous nm said...

Oh, yes, if I didn't make it clear I'm sorry. I agree with you completely about using flirtation for the purposes of advancement. It's low. I stopped doing the other kind of flirting because I didn't want anyone to think that that was what I was doing. I just mean that not all workplace flirtations are being carried on for bad purposes, and assuming that a flirtatious woman is being manipulative in that way can be a mistake.


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