Title: Asking for Trouble
Author: Mary Griggs
Word Count: 3300
Summary: Andy comes home to find Miranda in the closet with Donna Karan.
Author’s Notes: Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox are the owners; I'm just letting the ladies play in my sandbox for a while.
This piece is in response to the fashion designer, Donna Karan’s interview in defense of serial assaulter Harvey Weinstein. She is quoted as saying, “How do we present ourselves as women? … Are we asking for it, by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? … I don't think it's only Harvey Weinstein ... We have to look at our world ... And how women are dressing and what they're asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/
Oh, and Bottomless Closet is a real thing – http://www.bottomlessclosetnyc.org
I want to thank Laura aka Brithna for challenging me to write this.
Andy tossed her keys into the bowl on the table by the closet that had once nearly gotten her fired. She winced, even after seven years the foyer still sometimes had the power to trigger bad memories. While she could look back on her days as the premier fashion editor’s second assistant with nostalgia, no rose colored glasses could hide the true terror she felt after she interrupted Miranda and Stephen arguing that fateful evening.
But she was also thankful for it. Everything started to change then. By rising to Miranda’s challenge, instead of sinking, Andy began to come into her own power. She knew she’d never have managed to walk away in Paris if not for the spark lit by the acquisition of the Harry Potter manuscript.
A spark that remained banked for more than two years before she re-entered Miranda’s orbit again. And, it was that spark’s ignition, which led directly to the carefully tended flames of their current relationship.
Smiling now at her memories, she stirred the contents of the bowl and saw Miranda’s keys in there, too. Andy rubbed the ring between her fingers and giggled as she thought of the things the two of them might be able to do tonight.
She walked into the kitchen and pulled out the meat that had been marinating in the refrigerator. Andy washed her hands before preheating the oven. She put a little olive oil into Dutch oven and placed it over medium heat. She was humming as she used one of Miranda’s super sharp chef knives to dice an onion.
Scrapping the onion in the pot, she reduced the heat and stirred before tossing in some minced garlic and salt. Once the onions were translucent, she then poured in a portion of Arborio rice. She stirred it while it toasted and then poured in a quart of chicken stock. After another stir, she covered the pot and slid it into the oven.
Washing her hands again, she decided to go change and check in with Miranda before doing any more dinner prep. After glancing into the study and seeing it empty, Andy practically skipped up the stairs to their bedroom. The room was empty. The door to the bathroom was open and the room was likewise unoccupied.
Her brow furrowed and she called out, “Miranda?”
She heard a faint noise. Walking over to the closet she called again, “Miranda?”
“I’m back here.”
There was a beat or two of silence.
“In Narnia,” Miranda replied.
Andy beamed. When she had learned that Miranda had the bedroom next to hers converted into a climate-controlled room reachable through her closet, she had immediately christened it with the name of the magical world of CS Lewis that the children entered through a wardrobe.
Miranda hadn’t seemed amused but Andy knew if she was willing to call it that herself, they must have reached a new plateau in their relationship. After the first kiss, first fight, first make up sex, and first joint purchase, Andy was sure making cute names for things and having inside jokes surely showed that she and Miranda were united in all things that mattered.
She took Miranda’s answer as an invitation and walked through the first closet and into the next room. It was artfully designed with beautifully lit display cabinets and shelving units with glass doors holding brightly colored hanging items. In the center of the room was a vintage round couch of crushed cream velvet, where Miranda could sit facing any direction she wanted.
Many nights, Andy had woken from a deep sleep to an empty space beside her and a faint light glowing from the room. She would find Miranda deep in thought, staring at some of the beautiful items she had collected over the years.
Miranda might be facing the black dress designed by Givenchy and worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Princess Diana’s sea green sequined evening gown that was designed by Catherine Walker. Or maybe she would be looking at an Armani Prive gunmetal grey dress, encrusted with Swarovski crystals, which had been worn by Cate Blanchet. Over in one corner was the letterbox red Valentino dress worn by Anne Hathaway when she hosted the Academy Awards that Miranda seemed to like best.
She had explained that she was both soothed and inspired by the art of fashion.
Tonight she wasn’t mediating. Miranda was standing in front of a display cabinet along the back wall. There was a rolling metal rack with several items on it and small pile of fabric on the floor by the fashion maven’s feet.
Andy walked over and embraced Miranda from behind. “What’s this?” she asked.
“This is the Seven Easy Pieces collection from 1985.” Miranda opened the front of the case and ran her fingers over one of the black bodysuits.
“I’m sorry, love, but I need more than that.”
Miranda heaved a great sigh. “Donna Karan, you plebian.”
“I know DKNY.”
“That’s the affordable line, she’d been distant from that for years.” She pulled one of the black pieces off the mannequin and held up to Andy. “This is what started it all for working women.”
“Is that a unitard?”
“It is a body suit that mixes and matches with the other pieces.”
“She freed women from the power suit.” Miranda sighed. “It is most unfortunate she has likewise failed to free herself from outmoded ideas about why women are assaulted.”
“Yeah, I heard her interview. So insane. I can’t believe a woman fashion designer of all people would blame what women wear for getting them into trouble.”
“Especially when the trouble was caused by an incredibly powerful man abusing women whose very careers were dependent on him,” Miranda replied.
“Their stories are so painful. I can’t hardly believe he was able to keep doing it for as long he did. Why did so many wait so long before coming forward?”
“It isn’t an easy thing to do. Many rightfully fear their reputations will be ruined, that they’ll lose their job or be blacklisted. They know they will be blamed for putting themselves in the position of being alone with him, even when he used honeypots to lure them in.”
“He had other women attend the meetings to begin with, so his victims would feel safe. He’d dismiss his assistants and then start the pressure, many times using force to get them to comply with his demands.”
“I can’t believe other women were helping him.”
“I would guess that while some didn’t know they were being used, many others were complicit because they, too, needed their jobs and his goodwill.” Miranda glanced at her. “Frankly, though, you’re making my point.”
“Even now, you’re blaming the other women instead of holding him responsible for his actions.”
“Wow,” Andy said, sinking down onto the couch. “I hadn’t realized I was doing that.”
“It is our default to blame the victim. She was alone, she had been drinking, she was wearing provocative clothes, she should have said no, she could have fought harder...” After ticking off the statements on her fingers, Miranda made a tossing gesture with her hands. “Why do you think so many maintain relationships with these men after the harassment?”
“I have no idea.”
“It is one way to rewrite the narrative. If they can make something of it consensual, then maybe it wasn’t so bad. Maybe you can get something out of it.”
“Worse is that most victims continue think it was their fault.”
Miranda started putting the items from the display case into a bag. “If they were too friendly, maybe he got the wrong idea. If they had been affectionate, they had been asking for it. If they allowed one thing to happen, then the rest was their fault, too. Maybe you were too ambitious and he could see you wanted it.”
Andy lifted her head and stared when Miranda changed to second person point of view again. “You?”
“You said you. Twice.”
There was silence before Miranda turned to look at her. “Yes, me.”
“You’ve never said before.”
“It was early in my career, when I was still young and vulnerable.”
“Everyone is young once. Not everyone has to pay for it, though.”
“If it’s a bad memory, you don’t have to tell me. It may help to talk about, though.”
“I’ve talked about it before but, clearly not enough.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Not enough if this whole Weinstein issue can rattle me so.”
“I don’t remember but you didn’t seem so angry when Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly scandals imploded.”
“Maybe because I never expected better from men who created and made careers in a system built on harassment, belittling and bullying. FOX was a known entity. There might even a part of me that thought maybe all those women deserve what they got.”
“Nobody deserves it.”
Miranda rolled her eyes. “I know that. And I know that I’m more disappointed than angry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m furious at Harvey and all the pain he has caused. But, Donna, she was…” Miranda flung out her arms. “Do you know she was championing a woman president back in 1992? Her advertising campaign was called ‘In Women We Trust’ and had a model wearing one of her double-breasted blazers being sworn in as president.” She sighed. “It was transcendent.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“She designed for real women’s bodies and made even those who weren’t five foot, ten inches and skinny feel beautiful. It was powerful. And, it didn’t end there. After she left her label, she started a foundation which empowers and educates children in Haiti.” Miranda shook her head.
“That’s bizarre,” Andy said. “How could she do one thing and say the other?”
“Her interview knocked me back. I felt like she pulled the rug from under my feet. And it makes me question if anything I believed about her was ever true.”
“That sucks.” Andy stepped up to Miranda and touched her shoulder. “Could you tell me more?”
“Mmm. I think part of it is that it makes me feel lot like I did after my harassment. He was a mentor. A man I looked to for advice.” She reached up and squeezed Andy’s hand. “I thought my boss was invested in my career and instead he was targeting me for my body.”
“I met with him after work. I brought out my portfolio and he brought out his penis.”
“Ew! Why do men think that’s what women want?”
“He didn’t care about what I wanted.” Her lip curled in a snarl. “He wanted his dick sucked and didn’t care what it took from me to get it.”
“What do the men get out of that? Surely there are plenty of women who would willingly have sex with them?”
“It is about power, not sex.” Miranda brushed off her hands. “They are predators who prey on women they can penalize if they say no and implicate if they give in.”
“Thinking about it makes me feel so helpless. I hate it,” Andy said.
“Unfortunately, far too many men are erotically excited by their ability to punish, humiliate and inflict pain on women. Their…” Miranda looked down. “I mean, our fear turns them on.”
Andy reached out and took hold of her hand. “I’m sorry. I know this must bring up bad things for you.”
“Sometimes it seems you can’t be a women in business without having to endure it. I was lucky to have other women and an HR department to support me when I was harassed.” She bit her lip. “I wasn’t demoted but it did slow my trajectory for a bit. I’m afraid it only stayed quiet because my boss had already been looking for work elsewhere.”
“They allowed him to leave?”
“With my blessing at the time. I wanted it over so I could move on.”
“But when they let them get away with it, the same thing could happen to someone else. How do you know he didn’t do it to someone else at the next job?” Andy asked.
“Sweetheart, sometimes there are no good options. Stay silent and you’re complicit. Tell a friend and nothing gets done. Go to someone in authority and you’ll face unfair consequences – men will be uncomfortable around you, thinking you’ll accuse them next; women won’t be any better, thinking that they’ll be tarnished by standing by you.” Miranda tossed her head. “I learned who my friends are.”
“I’m sorry you had to learn that way.” Andy stomped her feet, “Why can’t we support one another?”
“Because it is still a man’s world. They are in positions of power. They are the ones making the decisions and they’re the ones who refuse to believe us.”
“While not being believed is bad, the potential for retribution is worse.” Miranda glowered, “And, there will always be retribution, the power dynamics make it inevitable.”
“But you’re a success.”
“I am now. But I remember how my personnel evaluations, which had called me assertive, now warned that I was being aggressive. My decisions were questioned in a way they hadn’t been before and a promotion I had been expecting never materialized. They said it was because of restructuring after he left but it forced me to take a lateral move to a different office before I was able to really start moving forward again.”
“I’m glad they didn’t make you quit.”
“What choice did I have?” Her hands were shaking slightly as she transferred pieces from the display case to the rack. “I didn’t have any money outside of my paycheck and this was my career.”
“You’re a fighter.”
“Yes, but the cost was high. My long term relationship ended as I didn’t feel sexual any more and he was upset I was lumping him together with my harasser.”
“I’m sorry he wasn’t more sympathetic.”
“Me, too. But it was for the best. I wasn’t in a good place.”
“Of course, you weren’t. What happened was horrible.”
“And it wasn’t so much the trauma as the gas lighting.”
“What do you mean?”
“It seemed like everyone around me made me question myself. The male coworkers who told me it was good to be hit on, that I should take it as a compliment to have men want me. Female coworkers who told me it wasn’t so bad, that what they survived was worse and, if they could move on, so should I. I even had someone from human resources tell me he didn’t do or say or mean what we all damn well know he did.”
“Like mansplaining on steroids.”
“What can be done?”
“What makes you think anything can be done?” Miranda picked up the dress fabric from the floor and gently hung it on a hanger before setting it beside the others on the rack. “Think back on all the other times we’ve seen a mass of women finally come forth with their stories and what is the result? A hung jury or a mistrial, or even a quiet settlement is the norm. Most often, though, there is a new TV program or movie or a contract for a new sports team.” She brushed her hair from her eyes and glared. “Sometimes they get to take the oath of office as President of the United States of America.” She took a deep breath. “Three women made allegations about Bill Clinton. Ten women accused Roger Ailes. Trump has had fifteen women plus an ex-wife. Twenty-nine women have already come forward about Harvey. Fifty came forth about Bill Cosby. How many will be enough to effect change?”
“We can’t just give up all hope.” Andy scowled at Miranda’s smirk. “I know you think I’m a naïve mid-westerner but can’t we do something?”
“I’m not sure it can be solved with any single thing. It is all tied up in how we raise boys into men and the expectations they have about the women in their lives being available for their sexual pleasure.”
“You’re talking about rape culture.”
“Exactly. When sexual harassment and abuse is ignored, trivialized and normalized, even talking about assault becomes impossible.”
“I want to find a way to do more than just talk.”
“That would involve getting more men to discourage each other from harming women or thinking that dominating women enhances their status.”
Andy recited, ““In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.””
“Dr. Martin Luther King was so very right.” Miranda locked the now empty case. “But the fear about retaliation isn’t just a womans fear. Men face it, too, when they come forward. If they aren’t complicit, they know they will be mocked by their peers, even ostracized.”
“They are victims of toxic masculinity, too.”
“And their privilege will not protect them.” Miranda shrugged. “Maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps the young men of today will learn from the public falls of guys like Harvey Weinstein.”
“But those are the same young men who made Trump president, even after he bragged about grabbing her by the pussy.”
“True.” Miranda rolled the cart out of the room and reset the keypad after Andy closed the door behind her. “I’m afraid this administration has given many angry men carte blanche to abuse women.”
“But what about the resistance movement? Aren’t there women being empowered to speak up and demand justice?”
“Possibly in the same way the feminists of the 1970’s did so.” She nodded. “And they did get laws written to protect women. Corporate culture has changed. Maybe now we can go further.”
Andy grabbed her yoga pants and a sweatshirt and started to change. Her voice came out muffled as she pulled off her shirt. “If only there was a way to change their desire to do these things.”
“That’s easier said than done. Desire is such an amorphous thing,” Miranda drawled, her eyes on her younger lover.
Blushing, Andy fought to keep from turning away from Miranda’s knowing gaze. “So what do you suggest?”
“Honestly? I don’t care to change what’s in their hearts. I’m good with them being afraid of the consequences once they get caught.”
“I wish I could fix it, though. For you and all the others.”
Miranda said, “You can’t fix everything, darling.” At Andy’s mulish look, she added. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t fix some things.”
Pointing at the things Miranda had taken from the closet, Andy asked, “What about this stuff? What are you fixing with these?”
“I’m going to donate my Donna Karan collection to Bottomless Closet. They can auction the items to fund their work. They won’t get as much as they would have before she damaged her brand with her remarks but anything helps.”
Smiling brilliantly, Andy said, “You know, Miranda, I think the real champion of stylish working women is you.”
“Honestly, Andrea,” she said as her cheeks pinked. Straightening her back, she asked, “I’m starving. Are we ever having dinner?”
“Yeah, the risotto is baking and the steak is ready to go.” Andy ignored the look from Miranda as she slid her feet into a pair of cerulean Crocs. “You promised not to mock my style choices.”
Arching her eyebrow, Miranda sniffed then asked, “Did I say anything?”
“No but you were thinking awfully loud.”
“God forbid someone in this relationship think.”
Putting her fists on her hips, Andy glared.
Miranda shook her head. “Forgive me, darling. Reflex.”
“I know it has been difficult,” Andy replied. “I do appreciate the effort it must take to bite your tongue sometimes.”
“Sometimes? Only sometimes?”
Andy rolled her eyes. “I’ve gotten better.”
“And we know how high that bar was to begin with.” She leaned over and kissed Andy before she could do more than squawk.
As the kiss deepened, Andy could feel her mood shifting. Her hands moved from her hips to holding Miranda’s, tugging her even closer. Andy moaned and then groaned as her empty stomach grumbled.
Miranda pulled away and used her thumb to wipe away a smudge of her lipstick from Andy’s lips. “Why are you moving at such a glacial pace instead of feeding me?”
“Because I know how much it thrills you.” Andy laughed and stole another kiss before leading the way back downstairs.
They might not have solved the world’s problems but, when they came together, they showed that change was possible. And they proved, in many ways, that change could also be quite pleasurable.