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The Sexy Career Barbie Syndrome

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Steve sunk into his soft blue director's chair. He eyed Sarah's appearance, started from her naturally styled dark brunette hair, her long tanned neck adorned with a tiny black Bvlgari pendant which rested above her cleavage. His eyes locked at where Sarah's skirt ended - exactly five centimetres above her kneecaps. He grunted and said: "Sarah, this is our new consultant. John, meet Sarah - my P.R. manager," and with a low voice - his face closer to John, he added: "Don't be fooled by the way she looks. She may look like a cheeky babe but she's actually got a brain." He rolled his eyes, as if it was such a worrying phenomenon.

Sarah heard that. But like always, she ignored the sexist remark. She had learnt to ignore them. Otherwise it would be too much to bear. She was given good looks by God and liked it - enjoyed it. Flaunted it. And she felt good about it. With her beauty she knew that she had the power to control things - from avoiding traffic tickets to making her bosses nod to all of her campaign ideas. A well functioning brain on top of it didn't hurt either.

Working in a huge mining company's headquarters in Jakarta was initially a challenge for her. About 90% of the office occupants were males. Most of the females who worked there were secretaries and office girls. Sarah was wondering why her company preferred office girls to office boys. In the end she concluded that it was the decision of the management who tried to remind the rest of female employees of who was in charge. Most of the girls were limited to carry out meaningful tasks such as making photocopies and stirring the bosses' strong black coffees in the early office hours.

In Sarah's corporate community, there were no other female executives but her. And this fact made her fellow colleagues cringe. Her presence was a thorn in their callused skin. Especially for the mighty board of directors. Like Steve, two other directors were also Americans. They probably had been brain washed by their experiences with local girls at their favourite bars or at secluded mining brothels up in the middle of nowhere at their base camps in Kalimantan.

They scribbled something like 'get me more cold beer!' on their notebooks every time they held a meeting with Sarah. What was this sexy woman doing in their empire? Her kind were supposed to be waiting for them at home with aprons on their waist and ladles in their hands cooking their favourite beef stew, or even better - waiting for them in bed. So what was this woman doing sitting in a board meeting talking about their company's future strategy? There's something wrong - they thought. They wanted to deny it but the untouchable proof was sitting before their eyes - with her legs crossed, exposing a bit of her black stocking wrapped thighs. They felt like screaming. Hated it - but loved it at the same time.

Some of Sarah's friends had even advised her to sue those men for verbal and sexual harassment in her own working environment. Sarah just looked at her friends in disbelief.

She said: "Get real. File suits against these men for sexual harassment in this male la-la land? Most people in this country believe that women are merely sexual objects, thus deserve to be harassed. These men appreciate their women by painting females' naked bodies at the back of their trucks. Blackened and adorned with smoke and dust. In fact they think that if men pay attention to you - no matter how lewd - then you should be proud of the fact that they pay any attention to you at all."

O, Sarah, that was a bit much. Were Sarah's actions against feminism? Or was she being sexist herself? How far was going too far? Too far in being harassed, or too far in flaunting her so perfect body?

One day Steve refused to see Sarah to discuss an important issue because of the uncontrollable bulge in his pants every time he saw her. That did it. Nobody could blame Sarah for being so bitter.

So if you have something nice, you show it off - there's nothing peculiar about it. Was it because Sarah is vulnerable, of the subdominant female species, then she could be victimised because of it? There are some males who display their manly bodies shamelessly. In super tight T-shirt and pants, the popped out Calvin Klein brand of their jocks or the ultimate one - their complete dark Armani suit and matching tie.

General regulation on office dress is too vague. Sometimes there are none. The unwritten rules usually described as 'polite working outfits'. But especially for women - how much skin do you have to cover to be considered 'polite'?

Unfortunately for women who have a Goddess look, a seductive-like face and body, these rules don't apply. Just a tiny bit of their skin, lose tendrils at the back of the neck or slight movements of the corner of their lips could easily make men drool. Just like how men dropped their jaws when Ling, a gal in Ally McBeal tv series, pronounced the word 'sex' - though without any sensual intentions whatsoever.

In the real world, Sarah could make a million bucks by suing her colleagues for sexual harassment. But maybe not in this society. This is the society that would say 'what was she wearing?' when they heard the news that a girl was raped.

To flaunt your body might be seen as a sexist act. But it is how the grey cells in men's heads process the information they gulp and the outcome of it that matters. If men would see a woman beyond her gender, beyond her voluptuous chest and her full moist lips - then there wouldn't be sexual harassment. Simple as that!

First published in the Jakarta Post.

Housing and schooling information for expats in Indonesia expatriate website for Indonesia Indonesian language translation of article

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