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Me, my sister Liz and my brother-in-law Phil (1943).

Me, my sister Liz and my brother-in-law Phil (1943).

BY ANITA JAFFE

Fifty years ago, my brother-in-law, Philip C. Lewis (pictured above), wrote and published a “playlet” called the “The American Dame”. It’s not a play with a plot, but a play with a singular theme that is read by different characters. His playlet traced an arc of how women have struggled for independence and recognition, respect and equal treatment over the course of history.

He even goes back to the Bible, referencing that within the story of Adam and Eve, Eve is set up because she is cast as the sinner; the temptress that causes Adam to fall from grace. He moves forward to the fight women waged to get the right to vote, and how the Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in 1923, remained un-enacted in 1964 (and I might add is still un-enacted in 2014).

For some reason, my brother-in-law’s musings on the short shrift accorded women struck home when I read an article in The New York Times about how Dov Charney, the founder of American Apparel, was finally dismissed for treating his women employees like chattel. This 45-year-old man conducted an interview of a prospective employee wearing a towel. Would he have donned such attire if the prospective interviewee was a man? I highly doubt it. Would any woman CEO anywhere don a towel for an interview, male or female? No way!

Later, the DovMan forced his employee to perform various sexual acts, and there is no way anyone can say such behavior was consensual when the pressure to do as you are told is coming from the boss. That the DovMan is fighting to get his job back is laughable. Talk about a disconnect from reality.

But he is not the sole culprit. The article in the Times also referenced Dennis J. Wilson, the founder of the fitness clothing company Lululemon Athletica. He was attached to the following quote with respect to how his company’s yoga pants fit:

“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work…”

It is fascinating to me, an octogenarian on my way to being a nonagenarian, that there are still corporate moguls running multi-million dollar companies who believe they have carte-blanche entitlement to treat women different than men, basically because they are not men. I am well aware that great gains have been made. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo are not oddities. Women have been and continue to break into the upper echelons in every field.

But the fact remains that the issue of women being seen for who they are, and not as objects for amusement has hardly been swept away. There remains a strain in society that still blames a woman when a man misbehaves. And that is not to dismiss the reality that there are also legions and legions of men who find the DovMen of the world abominable.

The Board at American Apparel did get around to ousting him The question of why it took so long is part of the issue and a different blog.