I have no idea whether that’s a recognized field of study. Well, perhaps it is now, as I’m a scholar of sorts, and I’ve been studying it. And I have found a “red thread” that runs among the angriest female voices in American life:
They have nothing to offer us but their anger. And what they’re angry about, in the main, is having been born female.
Controversial? Likely to evoke angry counterblasts? Of course. This is Liberty’s Torch, where hot buttons are the only ones we stock. But the notion seems consistent with the evidence.
Gerard van der Leun has found a remarkable self-revelation from one of Mankind’s most despicable sub-species: the “Human Resources” drone. I’ve known a lot of such…persons, and the case Gerard cites is genuinely representative of the breed. Please read it before continuing on here. I’ll wait behind a tastefully centered row of asterisks.
How about that, eh? Do you think the woman who uttered those sentiments will suffer for having done so? Of course not! She’s HR, and in one regard she cannot be contradicted: HR has the goods on everyone. You think you’re well connected? Pish and tosh. The women in HR – and the department is always nearly 100% women – have nothing to do all day but collect dirt. It’s what they’re there for. And you can bet your bottom dollar that they take their “duties” seriously.
I endured forty-one years in corporate cultures of several kinds. I could tell you a fount of stories. And I believe I will tell one. While I’ve recast it as fiction, it is true in all details other than the names of the participants and their employer. It’s a segment from my novel Statesman.
Stephen Sumner was about to head to the cafeteria for lunch when the intercom light on his desk phone lit. He sighed, sat back down, and lifted the handset.
“Steve, it’s Anders. Come to my office for a minute, please?”
“Right there.” Sumner returned the handset to its hook, grabbed a pen and a legal pad, and trotted down the hall to the office of Anders Forslund. He found the door open.
“What’s up, Anders?”
The founder and CEO of Onteora Aviation grimaced and muttered “Shut the door.” Sumner did so and seated himself in one of the two leather guest chairs before Forslund’s desk.
He looks anxious.
“Have you gotten to know Irv Grutstein?” Forslund said.
“The HR director?” Sumner shook his head. “I don’t think we’ve even exchanged hellos.”
Forslund nodded. “I’m not surprised. He’s not much for socializing, at least not outside his department. I’ve tried to stay well away from it.” He smirked ruefully. “Sometimes I wish I’d never created it in the first place.”
“I don’t think we’d be able to contract with the Pentagon without one,” Sumner said. “With all the rules the Labor Department has about equal opportunity hiring—”
“And a lot of other things.” Forslund opened a manila folder, paged briefly through its contents, and closed it. “As you don’t know him,” he said, “it falls to me to inform you. Grutstein loves rules. The vaguer and broader, the better. All empire builders do.” He slid the folder across the desk to Sumner.
Sumner opened the folder, glanced at the first page, and felt all the strength leave his body. He looked up at Forslund, hoping that his boss would assure him that it was all in fun, some sort of interdepartmental joke. Forslund shook his head.
“It’s no gag, Steve. It’s an official intracompany complaint by a software engineer named Violet Hochberg, alleging sexual harassment and sexual discrimination—”
“By Louis Redmond,” Sumner breathed.
“Exactly. Grutstein brought it and the complainant to me about an hour ago.” Forslund sat back in his chair, looking exhausted.
“Anders,” Sumner said, “there is no one in this company with better morals or ethics than Louis. You can’t—”
“Believe it? Not for an instant,” Forslund said. “However, OA’s HR director does. At least he’s pretending that he does. Shall I tell you what he said to me when he presented it?”
Sumner braced himself. “Go ahead.”
“He said,” Forslund measured out the words, “that if Louis would agree to resign without contesting the charges, he’d refrain from instituting a criminal case against him. Oh, and that he’d have no objection to my recommending Louis for a job with one of our competitors.” An incredulous laugh. “As if I wouldn’t slit both wrists to prevent that very thing.”
“With a rusty bottle opener,” Sumner murmured.
“Nothing, nothing.” Sumner delicately set the folder at the outer edge of Forslund’s desk. “I assume Louis hasn’t yet been notified?”
“He hasn’t. Would you please do so?”
Sumner nodded. “Of course. Anything else?”
Forslund’s eyes hardened. “Two things. First, find out if there’s even the thinnest shred of truth to this woman’s allegations, and notify me at once if there is. Second, if there isn’t, which we already know is the case, I want you to prepare Louis and yourself to defend him against this Violet Hochberg, against our own HR department, and should the worse come to the worst, against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the Department of Labor of the federal government of the United States.”
Sumner rose. “With pleasure.” He leveled a look at his CEO. “No holds barred, I assume?”
Forslund bared his teeth. “No holds barred. Grutstein’s people will go straight for the throat. Spare them nothing.”
Sumner mirrored the bloodthirsty grin. “Count on it.”
“They’ve scheduled Louis’s show trial for Wednesday after next, at nine AM,” Forslund said. “You’d better get started.”
Redmond listened to Sumner’s recitation of Hochberg’s allegations without visibly reacting. When Sumner ran down, he waited for a protest from the engineer. None came.
“Well?” Sumner said.
“Well what?” Redmond said. He shifted in Sumner’s guest chair. “Is any of it true? No. Is it adequately contestable? I’m not sure. We did have two conversations when no one else was present. She could allege that I fondled her or raped her during those chats. Only I would be able to contradict her.”
“But you would contradict her,” Sumner said.
“Of course. But to what effect? When the accuser is an attractive young single woman and the accused is a short, homely, thirty-two year old bachelor who’s never had even a girlfriend? When she accuses him of inappropriate private behavior and when he admits that they were together behind a closed door, with no one else present, on two occasions when such behavior was possible? Where does the preponderance of the evidence fall?”
“Well short of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Sumner said. “Hochberg hasn’t got any confirming witnesses, and not a shred of circumstantial evidence.”
Redmond shook his head. “This isn’t a criminal trial, Steve. She’ll claim that she told so-and-so what happened right afterward. So-and-so will be another young woman who’ll leap to agree that the conversation took place. There might be more than one so-and-so. They might even be telling the truth about what she said to them and when she said it. How would I look then?”
Sumner started to reply, checked himself.
He’s right. If Hochberg is out for blood and Grutstein is after a scalp for his trophy case, that’s the most likely course of events. And it won’t matter in the slightest that it’s all unsupported allegations and hearsay.
Redmond watched him impassively.
“Louis,” he said, “you don’t appear to be too upset about this.”
Redmond shrugged. “I suspected it was a possibility.”
“Why? What happened between the two of you?”
The engineer grimaced.
“I do have to know, Louis.”
Redmond nodded. “I know. It’s just that it’s really seedy.”
“For me? No. For her? If it were believed, it could end her career.” Redmond rose and nodded toward Sumner’s office door. “Coffee?”
Sumner rose and followed him out.
Sumner marched into the Human Resources conference room at 8:55 AM Wednesday morning and took a seat against the back wall. Redmond was already there, seated at the head of the table, studying a notepad on the table before him. He appeared perfectly composed. He nodded to acknowledge Sumner’s arrival and immediately went back to his notes.
A few minutes after nine, three middle-aged women filed into the conference room. As they entered they laughed at some jest told on the other side of the door, in implicit dismissal of the gravity of the charges and what the accused engineer might have to say in his own defense. Each noted Sumner’s presence without recognition, acknowledging it with no more than a swift glance.
They seated themselves along one edge of the table. The one in the middle, a buxom woman with abundant silver-gray hair, noted Redmond’s position at the head, frowned, and cleared her throat.
“Mr. Redmond, the committee is accustomed to having the accused sit directly across from us.”
“I’m quite comfortable where I am,” Redmond said.
“All the same, Mr. Redmond,” she said with a greater hint of asperity, “we’d prefer that you take the seat directly across from us.”
“We don’t always get what we prefer, Ma’am,” Redmond said. “As for preferences, may I have your names before we begin, or is this a Star Chamber accustomed to conducting its parodies of justice in secret?”
The ring of challenge in the engineer’s words was definite.
Bearding the lion as his opening ploy?
“I am Chairwoman Eleanor Montrose,” the harridan growled. “To my left is Miss Cecile Norman and to my right is Miss Deborah Lafayette.”
Redmond jotted the names on his pad. “Am I correct in assuming that you, Miss Norman, and Miss Lafayette are all employees of the Human Resources department?”
The tone of confrontation was steadily growing stronger.
“We are,” Montrose growled.
“I see,” Redmond said. “But where is Irvin Grutstein, who threatened to institute criminal charges against me?”
Sumner couldn’t interpret the sudden tension in the three women’s faces. Did they know, but expect that he didn’t? Or did Grutstein not tell them about his threat?
“He was too busy to attend,” Montrose said.
“I see,” the engineer repeated. “And what about my accuser, engineer level three Violet Hochberg, whose charges have imperiled my reputation and career? Was she too busy?”
Montrose bared her teeth but said nothing.
“You know, Miss Montrose—”
“Madam Chairwoman, please.”
“Ah!” Redmond smiled brightly. “Another preference, and another that will not be gratified.” He rose and planted his fists on the table. “As I was saying before I was interrupted, an offense for which gentlemen once exchanged pistol fire in the pre-dawn light, I am both offended and greatly imperiled by Miss Hochberg’s allegations. Were she here, I would cross-examine her about the behavior she has alleged. It appears that she decided to avoid that possibility. Or was that by your decision, perhaps?”
“Violet Hochberg has already suffered enough at your hands!” Montrose shouted.
“So she’s had an attack of discretion,” Redmond said. “But you’ve already decided the verdict, haven’t you? Or did Irvin Grutstein decide it for you? In either case, let’s get on with the trial.” He pulled a manila folder from his briefcase, removed three thick sheaves of stapled pages, and handed one to each of the women. They accepted them with an array of puzzled frowns.
“What you have in your hands,” Redmond said, “are printouts of a number of emails sent over the company network. As you can see, they’re stapled together in time sequence. Please take a moment to familiarize yourselves with their contents. I’ll wait.” He resumed his seat.
Several minutes elapsed in silence as the women leafed through the sheets. Sumner caught himself sliding toward the edge of his seat.
What has he got there?
Presently Montrose looked up, incredulous fury in her eyes. “Where did you get this correspondence?”
“From the corporate network, of course,” Redmond said. “They are fully backed up.”
Montrose stood, pushed back her chair, and started toward him. “How did you get access to—”
The words rang with command. They carried the authority of a god, one whose edicts need not be enforced because they could not be disobeyed. Montrose sat as if her tendons had all been severed simultaneously. She gaped in terror at the engineer.
“I am an engineer six, Miss Montrose. I’ve been at OA for sixteen years. I’ve had a system administrator’s privileges for the past ten. A system administrator has access to everything that passes over the network. Everything, Miss Montrose. Do you grasp the implications, or are you not sufficiently computer literate?”
The harridan started to speak, but restrained herself.
“It would be a terrible shame were those documents to reach the regional Equal Employment Opportunity office, wouldn’t it?” Redmond said. “Mr. Grutstein’s reputation would never recover. He probably wouldn’t face criminal charges, but he’d definitely have to resign his position.” He bared his teeth and twisted the knife. “Quite a lot of his underlings would probably fall along with him. Tell me, Miss Montrose, are you good at anything other than threatening engineers, or is that the extent of your skills?”
Seconds ticked past in bowstring-taut silence. Presently Redmond rose again.
“Irvin Grutstein,” he said, “has nursed a grudge against me, Rolf Svenson, Joseph Brendel, and Allan Reardon ever since OA brought me onboard full-time. He was furious about my being hired without a college degree. As the years have passed, his dislike of me has only grown. And as you can see, he’s been willing to threaten my superiors in this organization to get what he wants even when it’s averse to the interests and needs of the company. The occasions when the Software directorate has summoned enough backbone to defy him have stuck in his craw. As I was an integral part of all the incidents mentioned in those emails, he harbors a particular hatred for me: the young punk who was hired against his wishes and who’s dared to rise to the top of the directorate. And with that, Miss Montrose, I will await the committee’s disposal of the charges against me.” He sat.
The committeewomen knew they’d been checkmated. It was plain on their faces.
Presently Montrose stood. “We’ll let you know when we’ve reached a decision.” She looked at the other members, and they rose as well.
“No!” Sumner shouted. He stood and moved to the table. “You’ll decide and announce it now, with Mr. Redmond present and with me here to witness it.”
“And who might you be?” Montrose hissed.
“Stephen Graham Sumner,” Sumner said, “general counsel of Onteora Aviation reporting directly to chief executive officer Anders Forslund.”
Redmond’s gaze moved to Sumner. His expression was of wry approval.
“Miss Hochberg’s charges will be dismissed,” Montrose said. “I’ll inform her myself.”
“Thank you, Miss Montrose,” Redmond said. He stood. “Would you care to join me for a cup of coffee, Steve? I’ll buy.”
Yes, it actually happened to someone I knew quite well, and yes, he prevailed as Louis Redmond did in the segment above. (Where did you think I get the material for the tripe I write?) He was a brilliant engineer, respected by everyone who knew his work and loved by nearly everyone he’d ever known. I wish I’d taken pictures at his funeral. The crowd rivaled a Trump rally.
This is who they are. This is what they do. And the louder they are about it, the likelier it is that they have nothing of genuine substance to offer anyone.
It stems from being female and angry about it.
Not all women are angry about being women. Those with some substance, regardless of the specifics, tend to be far more pleasant than the viragoes in the segment above. But those without anything to offer, and who dislike having only their femaleness to trade on, are likely to be furious about it. They want scalps — male scalps – because those are the only trophies of achievement they’re able to collect.
And the Human Resources department is their ecological niche.