We have a social club in my town where the rich and powerful gather to make decisions for the public without the public’s knowledge or consent. It sits, like an exclamation point, at the end of a long, leafy park block near the center of town — white pillars and red brick that give it the stolid appearance of an institution above the common. In the 1980s, this bastion of male privilege was the only institution that had successfully ignored the demand for equal rights by the Woman’s Movement — a splendid isolation that became a bur under the saddle of a handful of elected female officials. They knew the Arlington Club was the retreat where well-heeled kingmakers could avoid hearing the woman’s’ point of view.
These ladies decided to make a fuss and picketed the establishment, standing on the street outside the black door with the polished brass knocker that barred them from entering. Someone inside was offended by the placards and called the police. When the officers arrived and saw who was causing the disturbance, they declined to haul anyone away, thinking, rightly, that an arrest was just what these women wanted. To avoid a lawsuit, the constables withdrew and left the Arlington Club to fight its own battles. The media arrived and stayed, however, fueling the controversy for several days. Finally, the public uproar became too much for members of the Arlington Club and a single female was invited to join the previously all men’s bastion.
I was reminded of this episode after reading about the on-going dispute between Senator Elizabeth Warren and J.P. Morgan’s CEO, Jaime Dimon, over bank regulations. Despite Warren’s extensive background in finance, Dimon is dismissive of her experience and insists she knows nothing about banking. Warren’s retort is that more women would know more about banking if more of them were admitted into the old boys’ banking club. Women make up 54% of the financial services workforce but only 16% are senior executives. (Click) She also notes that in her experience with the Congressional banking and finance committee, she’s always been the token woman. “Not many people thought about it or noticed it because this kind of imbalance is so pervasive across finance.”
Historically, men have kept women out of power by treating them like children, as if they were too stupid or too frail to do anything but balance themselves on 6 inch heels – which leads to another set of their assumptions. In a study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, men at a bar approached a woman wearing flat shoes every 13.5 minutes. If she wore high heels, the time frame halved to every 7.5 minutes. If she dropped a glove while wearing those same high heels, 93% of the men responded by picking it up. If the woman wore flats, the response fell to 62%. The report concludes, “the accentuated hip movements that heels can create may lead a man to overestimate a woman’s interest in him.” (Family Circle, July 2015, pg. 14.)
Judging a woman by her shoes? Come on guys, how bright is that?