Jasmine Lobe, thirties
Writer, actress and producerAlthough Sex and The City may have romanticised the term “sex columnist,” for actress Jasmine Lobe, it was a difficult career path to accept. “Often what you are most afraid of, is where the gold lies,” says Lobe, who pens “The J-Spot” in The Observer [Candace Bushnell’s former “Sex and The City” column], despite her initial hesitations. With the goal of opening up honest dialogue for women everywhere, Lobe has now set her sights on producing. And, like the illustrious Carrie, she’s optioned her writing for a TV show.
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
It sounds cliche but I didn't choose to be a sex columnist, it chose me. I was an actress in Hollywood and wrote about my crazy experiences to stay sane. I showed my writing to a good friend of mine who took a shot on me and gave me my first column in an online magazine called New York Natives. Shortly thereafter, the Observer approached me to be their new sex columnist. The Observer is where Candace Bushnell’s column “Sex and the City” originated so I had big shoes to fill. But I couldn’t think about it that way— I had to make it my own, otherwise, I would have freaked out. I called my column “The J-Spot”, for um, you know, Jasmine. I’m very proud of my column. And then, just recently I optioned the “The J-Spot” to Universal Studios through Full Fathom 5 Productions. So now “The-Jspot” may be a TV show!
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
I was told if I didn’t make it as an actress by the time I was 25, I should find another career. Of course, now it looks like I’ll be producing, so when the time is right, I’ll produce shows or movies to cast myself in. Also, I always knew in my gut I was a writer as well as a performer, and thinking back, it was the harsh words I told myself that hurt the most. How could an actress in Hollywood trying out for parts like "hot blonde #2 in push up bra", break into the media / literary world from her studio apartment in West Hollywood?
3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?
One of the biggest stereotypes of being a sex columnist is a lot of people assume you’re into orgies or are always up for having sex. One guy accused me of being a prude and a bad sex columnist because I didn’t want to have sex with him. “Do it for research,” he said. As a woman, if you don’t have enough sex your labeled a prude and if you have a lot of sex you’re labeled a slut. It’s really hard to “get it right” if you’re in the habit of pleasing men.
4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
It took courage to sway the narrative or at least my own narrative. I’d walk into a party in Hollywood as the sweet, pretty girl, maybe even on some producer's arm, and only when asked, I’d say,“ I’m an actress.” But inside I was dying. I knew I was so much more than getting rejected from so many ditzy, blonde acting roles.
I was sick of feeling powerless and not honoring the tiger within me. But I was also afraid to write about my inner most feelings about sex, power dynamics, social status, money and all the issues I felt compelled to unravel. I was afraid to show my anger. I was afraid people wouldn’t like me anymore and that I'd shatter that passive, sweet girl image I had cloaked myself in. Well, I think I shattered that and thank God!
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
I think my number one piece of advice is often what you are most afraid of, is where the gold lies. It can seem safer in the familiar, but the joy is in the expansion. So don’t be afraid to find your joy. I’ve always loved Elizabeth’ Appell’s line, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.