We’ve now entered the second decade of the 21st century. American women have had the right to vote for almost 100 years, they account for slightly more than half of all professional and management jobs in this country, and they earn 81% of what men earn in full time salaried positions (compared to a piddly 62% in 1979). So there really isn’t anything that a woman in the US can’t do these days, right? Wrong.
Women can do anything they want—except be friends with a man. Yep, that’s right. The last impenetrably bulletproof glass ceiling hovering over the heads of women prevents us from entering into friendships with men.
I didn’t realize that this was the case until last week, when a married female friend of mine at the office got put through the goddamn ringer for the unspeakable crime of being friends with another associate. And not just any associate—a single male associate. Quelle horreur!
Here are the basics: my married friend works closely on two cases with a single male associate, which at first fostered professional camaraderie and ultimately culminated in (gasp!) a friendship that extends beyond the confines of the office. My married friend’s husband knows about, approves of (and sometimes participates in) the friendship. In fact, my married friend’s husband has a few female friends of his own. Nothing unusual there (or so I thought).
Notwithstanding the foregoing, a firestorm of sorts started this past week when someone (most likely, another male associate who was recently removed for doing shitty work from one of the cases my friend works on with the single male associate) made some snarky, suggestive jokes about the friendship to the lead partner on the case. Which led to the partner calling my friend into his office for a 7:45 a.m. meeting, wherein she was grilled on the particulars of the friendship and was left having to defend said friendship’s non-adulterous nature. Irrespective of the exculpatory facts listed above (which she painstakingly laid out for the lead partner in detail), she was warned to refrain from further acts of friendship with the single male associate, lest she give off “troubling perceptions” to others at the office.
Needless to say, this left my friend feeling utterly humiliated and ashamed—even though she literally did nothing wrong. And I’m completely disgusted by the whole thing because it reeks of Puritanical, Victorian-era bullshit that I no longer realized was relevant in 2011.
I seriously am at a loss. Yes, I completely understand that extramarital affairs are wrong, and I recognize the fact that sometimes married women have affairs with single men, but I didn’t realize that this meant that a married woman could not, in any set of circumstances, be friends with a single man. And I don’t completely know why, but this makes me incredibly angry, both for my friend and for women in general.