Drawing the line: Being Sexualised

I share with you extracts of an email conversation that I had with Kazeka. I am putting this out there so that we can share experiences and advice. We welcome your participation.

 

17 August 2015 – Email from Kazeka to Wendy

SUBJECT: BEING SEXUALISED AS A BUSINESS WOMAN

Ma Wendy, do women of your generation get sexualised as our generation of young women? I had a white female colleague who runs her own SMME almost in tears on how men dangle business and then want sex in return. I myself was almost raped in a similar situation where men want to meet us late in the evenings (sensing our ambitions and likely to decline) and then proposing sex. How does one navigate these issues? I have yet to hear women of your generation share their experiences, if any, and what advice would they give us. It is unbelievably prevalent. Add being single and unmarried and there are simply horror stories. How can we do business, have ambitions and realise them in such an environment where we as young women are caught in between wanting the bacon, men dangling it and wanting to maintain our integrity and dignity? My peers and I struggle with this one and would love to hear your views.

Regards,
Kazeka

 

17 August 2015 – Email from Wendy to Kazeka

Dear Kazeka,
Thank you for your e-mail and your request.
I have heard that this is a prevalent challenge for women. Fortunately, I did not go through that myself. My clients were predominately white companies when I started my first business in 1992, and the first person that gave me business was a white woman. This is not to say that white men don’t dangle the fruit as you put it. I think it cuts across the racial board. However, from what I have heard from women all over the world, it would seem that this challenge is mainly coming from black men.

I have not personally dealt with black men who are notorious for this. The clients I have dealt with over the years were mainly Caucasian and I never encountered this challenge. What advice would I offer?
In any relationship we need to draw boundaries. This translates to the following:

  • I would never meet someone on a business related matter outside working hours.
  • Secondly, if they made an approach I would record the discussion and report them.
  • Thirdly, I think women need to speak out about these issues and bring them into the light so that they lose their stronghold.
  • Lastly, I would insist on meeting only at their office, not for lunch, dinner or a drink…it’s inappropriate.

In conclusion, we must make sure we do not compromise ourselves and our values to get business. It is no different to prostitution.
Forgive my frank response to your question.

Blessings,
Wendy

 

18 August 2015 – Email from Kazeka to Wendy

Hello Ma Wendy,
I appreciate your frankness. Older women who have succeeded without compromising themselves need to start advising us strongly on this matter as it kills our esteem as young businesswoman. I have often been exposed this problem in my Times Media column and freelance writing but it still persists.

My own accomplished late mother was unable to advise me as she, like you, hardly experienced it. I like your boundaries of meeting them at their office (no lunch or dinner). Will execute that one!

It can be so hard though when they dangle business in front of you or when your business is experiencing a dip whilst keeping your ambition alive but I will keep this boundary in mind.

One more question, how does one report the issue when it is the President/CEO/Owner of the company whom you want business from (obviously having more money, reputation) and the buck ends with him? As a 30 year old and many ones younger, single businesswomen still trying to build their businesses up? And can I direct other young women to your site who experience the same problem?

Highly appreciate your honesty and your time.

Regards,
Kazeka

 

26 August 2015 – Email from Wendy to Kazeka

Dear Kazeka,

Thanks again for continuing the discussion. Operate on the basis that a man will make an approach, and if he doesn’t, then that’s an honourable man to work with. So if you move on this basis, it means going to all meetings prepared for that possibility. You don’t need any high tech devices to record someone. Today’s smart phones can do the trick.

But look, it’s not all men who are vile like that, but its best to be equipped in case they are. I’m sure you are fully aware of the challenges in trying to prove wrong doing in a he-said she-said scenario.

Just yesterday, I accepted a bunch of Friend Requests on Facebook. Here are some of the messages I subsequently received and deleted. I also reported them to Facebook and I also Un-friended them. I draw the line! So remember too to always draw the line. Ensure the lines are crystal clear… not thin or grey.

New Picture1

New Picture2

New Picture3

New Picture4

Blessings,
Wendy

Comments

  1. Vuyelwa Selekane says

    Hello ladies, I cannot begin to express how glad I was to see this post!

    The rules of the game are totally twisted, they go beyond what we learn in educational institutions, from who you know, where you hang around and, and, and… For women, the dynamics become more complex than the already prevailing complexities. I’m an ambitious 23 year old who is unapologetic about her intentions to build an empire, I’m the type to knock at every door (I figure what do I have to lose if I get declined?) and to some extent I’m beginning to believe that my being the instigator could be the reason why all the executives I’ve approached have almost EXPECTED sexual favors in return for business, this is both black and Caucasian men (yes, even Afrikaans men). It’s as though it comes as a shock to them when you refuse their requests, I suppose our fellow “women-in-business” have been giving in. But how then does one participate in business, pursue the profit motive and build a brand when the bearers to entry have been reduced to “how low can you go”? Another thing is how difficult it is to discern intentions because I’ve also been in a situation where negotiations had been done and just as we had to sign contracts, BOOM! I’m suddenly “so attractive”….. I’ve invested in what I call a ‘strategic ring’ although it’s also taught me that these men are so low they don’t care whether you’re married or not! What matrimony?! It’s all the same to them. However this ring has allowed me to be listened to and taken more seriously, especially being younger than most.

    But why must we brand ourselves and create non existent perceptions in order to get to where we want to get? It’s hard enough that we need to meet regulatory laws and financial bearers! Why must our gender be our curse just as much as it is our blessing?

  2. Dr Doma C Peacock says

    Hello all, How interesting to read the interraction above and certainly, Wendy, the posts you received are innapropriate, but sadly becoming more and more common.

    Firstly, this happens across the board, no matter age, race, religion, sexual orientation – being a woman in business requires a certain amount of tenacity and an enormous amount of Boundary setting. If we allow ourselves to be put into the category of ‘Female in Business’ as opposed to Entrepreneur or person of Business then we move ourselves into a situation where men will take advantage. Sadly ladies, things have not changed terribly much over the years.

    However, if we make the changes ourselves and are firm in our commitment to our Moral Compass, belief system, integrity and ambition, it really is as simple as setting the rules for yourself. I agree with Wendy, don’t fall foul to ‘late’ meetings or lunch meetings, business is business, stick to the basics of business, have an agenda that you are entitled to send in advance so that the intention of you interraction is clear from the outset.

    Be a lady, be respectful, be polite and use the appropriate buiness language and apparell, do not go to meetings in revealing clothes. If indeed you are faced with this issue, despite sending an agenda, and making yourself very clear on a business level, politely excuse yourself from the situation and walk away. The business offered by that individual who chooses to descriminate because you are a woman is not worthy of your time or energy.

    In my experience, there is one thing, we as women of all ages could learn from men of all , they know how to stick together and work as a united front. So why not look for women owned businesses? Why not support our sisters if in fact you are dealing with chauvenistic males. There are many Women owned businesses that cover all fields, if you are uncomfortable dealing with men, find a business owned and run by a woman.

    This is tantamount to setting yourself up for failure, if a man hits on you or tries to engage on a personal level that you are uncomfortable with – move on. No its not simpler said than done, it is possible to be succesful as a female in business in all arenas, I have yet to meet a man that is not taken with intelligent, co-operative, skilled and eloquent handling of business affairs, if this is the way you present yourself and it is not taken as you intended, then question yourself as opposed to the men presenting themselves as predators, get out of their camp and firmly back onto your road, take the moral high ground, don’t fall foul to idiocy, choose your path, behave like a Business person and take charge of not only of your life and career, but your image and your integrity. Be a person of substance and stop expecting others to respond to you in a manner unbefitting your integrity, show them who you are, what you are capable of and your intellect and above all, be open to all races, gender, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, do not prejudge, you may find yourself rather more succesful if your tack is non judgemental. Having said that, once again, if a man or woman makes sexual advances, get up and move on. The choice to be succesful is yours, the choice to be in business is yours and the choice of who you do business with is yours, look around and before you leap at everything, make your choices clear and your agenda even clearer.

    As Wendy says apologies for my abrupt honesty……but come on ladies, lets show each other a sense of sisterhood, no matter our age or race, delete those that will insist on marginalizing you for whatever reason and put your energy into your career and stand firmly in your integrity.

    I wish you all good business and all the luck in the world

    Blessed Be

    Dr Doma C Peacock

    • Vuyelwa Selekane says

      Dr Doma, I was nodding my head throughout your entire text! You’ve said quite a mouthful, pity not all women will see this (as I believe the issue at hand goes far beyond the borders of business). It’s so important that we stand together as women, support each other and help elevate one another but this is a culture that needs much work among ourselves. I have personally attempted to approach women owned businesses for various reasons, mentorship, collaborations, the works. But we are so quick to put each other down, it’s only a handful that would step up and embrace such a culture (which I am yet to come across). The very people that publicly profess being mentors and are so quick to jump up and say they want to pass the baton and impart knowledge when the cameras are rolling are the same ones that give you replies such as “I worked hard for this, I found my own path. Find yours” and then dismiss you- I’m already aware of that, I’m expecting difficulties along the way. Heck, I’m already anticipating making my first major loss and trying to come up with strategies to combat that. It’s this cyclical process that will have one going back to the very males that sexualize us, it’s this very thing that has one almost forced to need to find a way around the comments and the passes.

      Platforms such as these are very much needed, what Ma Wendy has done here is immeasurable!

      • DR DOMA C PEACOCK says

        Hello Vuyelwa

        Apoligies that you had to wade through my fairly lengthy respone!!! You are absolutely correct, we are our own worst enemies at times, which is why I said, we could learn from the very men who attempt to sexualise us, they have learned the fine art of support and having each others backs – ‘the old boys club’ regardless of age!

        I too have fallen foul of women owned businesses, I don’t know why they do it, the sense of cameraderie men develop, we tend to navigate around.. I have however also done business with some very cool female entrepreneurs, I guess its a case of just continuing to reach out and becoming an example to those who do reach out.

        Don’t set yourself up for failure, keep on chiselling until you find the ideal scenario, you are clearly eloquent and ambitious, I am firm in wanting to work with women and my business partner and I have ploughed away until we connected with the right businesses. Whilst as Wendy has said, not all men can be painted with the same brush and there are some very serious respectful businessmen around.

        Keep on keeping on, you are clearly headed for success, my very best wishes are sent with this mail, here is certainly one woman owned business you can reach out to eventhough we are still navigating through our own businesses, we have much to share.

        Blessed Be

        Dr Doma

        • Vuyelwa Selekane says

          I truly appreciate your kind words Dr Dorma and I most certainly receive your blessings with the most open heart. May all your ventures be multiplied!

          I look forward to one day meet and work with yourself and many other women of your calibre!

          • DR DOMA C PEACOCK says

            Hello Vuyelwa

            My pleasure in all ways, I would be honoured to meet you. If you would like to contact me directly you can mail me on dcp@mweb.co.za – I would love to hear what you are currently doing and all your plans – who knows, I have very diverse businesses, we may well have something in common.

            Alternatively, reach out and lets get this Village of Women working together, at the end of the day we only have ourselves to rely on. Please feel free to share your business with me and what problems you might be experiencing. Believe me it is never easy, I have 5 businesses all in the ‘hurry up and wait’ stage, but enormously satisfying when it all pays off in the end.

            Blessed Be

            Dr Doma

  3. Toniah says

    Hi Ladies, If I may share. I am in my 40’s and accomplished. I have always been sexualised from both males & females because of my body shape ( pear-shaped) I exercise and run h marathons just to keep my weight down. One would think that at my age I should be comfortable with my body but I am not. Just two weeks back a ” friend” I grew up with before we all got married and settled in different provinces got hold of my number. Upon seeing my profile picture on whattsup he contacted me and commented on how sexy I still look. I ignored the sexy comment and engaged him on family, kids and our mutual friends. After a few chats he sent me a picture of his naked self.

    I was traumatized I couldn’t sleep or eat for two days. I played the conversations in my head over and over again obviously trying to find out what could I have said that lead him to do that. I blamed myself. I have since removed my picture and that of my eight year old daughter on whattsup.

    My white immediate boss used to pass uncomfortable comments until I also passed a comment on how I do not like comments of a sexual nature.

    I personally do not think there is any instruction manual on do’s and dont’s to avoid these situations but to communicate clearly when one senses uneasiness. My work is that of people/ companies come to me for business and it is sickening how other men black & white complements me on my looks and request coffee meetings. I have learned not to do lunch meetings I do not not even go to their offices. Meetings I held at my place of work.

    But I do understand if it is the other way round if you are the one who needs business you feel the need to follow their instructions. Be careful out there if it does not feel good, walk away. I know it is easier said than done when you have targets to meet or overheads to finance.

    There is nothing wrong with you as a woman you did nothing wrong, some people are twisted and need help.

  4. says

    I’ve been I that situation a couple of times, I had to check myself and began doubting myself. I wondered if maybe I was sending the ‘wrong kind of energy’ , I knew my dress code was not provocative (I’m an Image Consultant ). My intelligence being turned into a sexual turn on isn’t a compliment, it’s a disgrace. Thankfully I’ve been raised by a strong woman whose strength I inherited. I have gracefully walked away, kept moving until I got a break from serious, professional business people. I can proudly say my success is through working hard & smart. The same losers who thought they held the key to my success are going nowhere fast. Beauty with brains, being female, isn’t a handicap. I won’t be victimised, I refuse to be victimised.

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