The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Sunday, August 19, 2007


SEX IN THE CITY © Duncan Graham 2007

In seeking help for a recently bereaved relative we spoke to a businessman friend of the family; could he please help find an office job for the young widow?

He'd talk to his colleagues and see what was on offer. He predicted no difficulties in her quest for a wage despite knowing little of her qualifications and work history: "She's beautiful," he said, "she'll have no problems."

For that sexist comment he should have copped a verbal knee in the groin. Instead he was thanked for his wisdom.

Do bosses really select staff on the basis of their bra size, so that a DD lady gets an AA rating? Is wearing a short skirt the best way to get on a company's short list?

Does a dearth of wrinkles on a bleached bimbo who failed kindergarten count for more than aptitude and intelligence with a dark-skinned MBA who wears glasses?

If you answered 'yes' to the above questions, take a bow. (After unbuttoning the top of your blouse.) You fully understand the realities of the Indonesian office workplace, a Jurassic environment where caveman rules, rule.

For these brutes of business a gender issue never gets on their agenda. They think emancipation is a synonym for emasculation, and suffragette the misery suffered from jet lag.

Kartini? Isn't that one of those new metro mini autos?

Don't believe me? Just check the sits vac columns: 'PT MegaGlobal Enterprises Inc. seeks secretary for President Director. Must be under 25, unmarried, 1.60 m tall. Send large full-color photo.' How about education and word-processing skills? Not important.

Having a secretary who can distract a boardroom of your mates as she pirouettes across the parquet ensures that it's not just profits that rise. Why bother showing off a trophy from the golf course when you've scored one from the typing pool?

Can't afford a BMW in the executive parking bay? A Big Mammary Woman in the outer office is a lot cheaper and will take your mind to places the automobile can never reach.

In this forgotten world by-passed by liberal philosophy, feminism and equality, business is a boys' club, and the girls are just extras in the background to stimulate limp egos.

Secretaries, receptionists, public relations' staff, bank-tellers and other customer meeters-and-greeters aren't selected on their ability to explain products and procedures.

They're chosen for the way they can smile lasciviously, directing gaze away from the small print, diluting the determination to lodge a complaint or go to a rival company.

The fact that many modern industrialized countries have now introduced laws prohibiting sexual harassment, and have abandoned compulsory retirement ages is proof positive that Western legislators are senile.

When reporting back to family on an overseas trip, I praised policies of letting people stay at work if they're capable and keen. The sight of grannies behind tills and steering wheels, and sixty-somethings taking your term deposit turns no heads elsewhere, but the information had heads shaking in the archipelago.

Instead of admiration there was pity. And this from women:

"Why aren't their husbands giving them enough money to stay at home where they should be? How sad that an older woman should have to work."

Explaining that the ladies wanted jobs – not just for the money but also for self-fulfillment, to assert their independence, to give them status, to use the education and skills they'd amassed and to make a contribution to society -had little impact.

For these matrons the only reason for a young woman to go out to work is to find a husband, to swap maidenhead for a Mastercard. Once married she can close down the computer and prepare the crèche.

Mamas who want their daughters to succeed in business without even trying offer silent prayers as their little girls mature: Dear God, may she be beautiful, not brainy.

Will things ever change? Not while the Government continues to call its employment department Manpower, and not till women start revolting. (OK, no smart comments, thanks.)

Don't expect any help from men – they're more than happy with the present set-up, claiming it's part of the culture.

So was slavery – until the enlightened and civilized ensured it was abolished.

Well it was, wasn't it?

(First published in The Sunday Post 19 August 07)

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