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I Was Told I Wasn't 'Strong Enough' To Be A Secret Service Agent

#SWAAYthenarrative

Evy Poumpouras, Ageless


TV Correspondent and Former Secret Service Special Agent

One of only five women to have won the United States Secret Service Medal Of Valor, Evy Poumpouras is a true renegade. “Even when you fail - which you will - it's not over until you stop trying,” the former Secret Service Agent remarks. It was with sheer determination that Poumpouras came to triumph in her career, and and now she devotes much of her time as an adjunct professor for The City University of New York instructing criminal justice to those that wish to follow in her incredible footsteps.

1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?

I followed my heart in the career choices I made, both in becoming a Secret Service Agent and then a TV journalist later in life. Although people want to give you their advice sometimes it can confuse you. In the end, the only opinion that matters is mine because I have to live with the decisions I make. For years all I have ever heard and still hear is ‘You don't look like a Secret Service Agent.’ My response, ‘Thank you.’

2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?

Most people have a stereotype in their mind that women have to look and act masculine to be in law enforcement. I maintained my authenticity and embraced the fact that I was a woman. I learned that I could still kick ass and be a lady about it. I’m someone who takes risks in life and that has always thrown people off. I constantly need to grow as a human being and that requires change. For me, staying the same is staying afraid.

"For years all I have ever heard and still hear is ‘You don't look like a Secret Service Agent.’ My response, ‘Thank you.’"

"What I learned is that true strength lives in the mind and heart. It is about your will to succeed and push on even when you want to quit."

3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?

I was initially told that I wasn't strong enough to be a Secret Service Agent simply because of what I looked like. I trained day and night, and ignored the noise around me.

Overtime I learned that you can't demand respect, it is something people choose to give. But you can command it in how you face adversity and carry yourself. We show the world who we are by what we repeatedly do.

4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative in your own life or career?

There is a narrative that women aren’t strong or tough enough to be in law enforcement. I never bought into that, nor did I care to listen. I wasn’t going to let a stereotype dictate what I did with my life. I trained relentlessly, pushed myself and made sacrifices. What I learned is that true strength lives in the mind and heart. It is about your will to succeed and push on even when you want to quit. I swayed my narrative by believing in myself and tuning out the bullshit. I define who am, not others. After all, I wasn’t a female special agent. I was a special agent. Period!

5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?

Don't listen to anyone because in the end you have to live with the decisions you make. Even when you fail, which you will, it's not over until you stop trying.

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Politics

Michael Bloomberg Can’t Handle A Woman With A Voice (aka Elizabeth Warren)

Elizabeth Warren majorly called out "arrogant billionaire" Michael Bloomberg for his history of silencing women through NDAs and closed-door settlement negotiations. Sound familiar? Probably because we already have a president like that. At this point, Bloomberg may just spend the remainder of his (hopefully) ill-fated presidential campaign roasting on a spit over a fire sparked by the righteous anger of women. A lesser punishment than he deserves, if you ask me.


At last night's Democratic debate, Michael Bloomberg could barely stammer out an answer to a question on whether or not he would release any of his former accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. His unsatisfactory response was basically a halting list of what he has done for certain nondescript women in his time at City Hall and within his own company.

But that certainly wasn't enough for Elizabeth Warren, nor should it be, who perfectly rephrased his defense as, "I've been nice to some women." Michael Bloomberg is basically that weird, problematic Uncle that claims he can't be racist, "Because I have a Black friend." In a society where power is almost always in the hands of straight, white, cisgendered, men being "nice" to a lucky few is in no way a defense for benefiting from and building upon the systematic silencing of all marginalized communities, let alone women. Stop and frisk, anybody?

Here is a brief clip of the Warren v. Bloomberg exchange, which I highly recommend. It is absolutely (and hilariously) savage.

But let's talk about the deeper issues at hand here (other than Warren being an eloquent badass).

Michael Bloomberg has been sued multiple times, yet each time he was able to snake his way out of the problem with the help of his greatest and only superpower: cold, hard cash. Each time these allegations have come up, in Warren's words, he throws "a chunk of money at the table" and "forces the woman to wear a muzzle for the rest of her life."

As reported by Claire Lampen of The Cut, here are just a few of his prior indiscretions.

  • Pregnancy discrimination—Bloomberg reportedly told a former employee of his to "kill it," in reference to her developing fetus.
  • Sexual harassment—You could literally write a book on this subject (someone did), but for the sake of brevity...
"I'd like to do that piece of meat" - Michael Bloomberg in reference to various women at his company.
  • Undermining #MeToo—Not only did he defend the accused, but he went on the disparage accusers every step of the way.
  • Defaming transgender people—Though he claims to support trans rights, he has also been qupted multiple times as referring to trans women as "some guy wearing a dress."
Yeah... That's not a winning formula for me, Mike.

Furthermore, Warren points out the simple fact that if, as Bloomberg claims, these instances were simply big misunderstandings (He was just joking around!) then why go to all the trouble to cover them up? Does Michael Bloomberg think women can't take a joke? Or can we only surmise that the truth of these events are far darker and dirtier than we could even imagine?

Certain commentators have called Elizabeth Warren's debate presence "agressive," especially in regards to this instance but also continually throughout her entire campaign. If asking poignant questions to known abusers who are seeking to further their own political power is considered "aggressive," then I am here for it. Bring on the aggressive women, please and thank you.

Calling a woman aggressive for being confidant and direct is a gendered complaint. You don't see anyone whining that Bernie is "aggressive" when he goes off on a screaming tangent. Also, have you seen our president? He's basically the poster boy for political temper tantrums. But still, it's Warren that is deemed "aggressive," for honing in on the exact issues that need to be considered in this upcoming election.

This type of derisory label is another aspect of how our society silences women—much like Bloomberg and his NDAs. Because "silencing" is more than just putting a "muzzle" on someone. It's refusing to listen to a person's cries for help. It's disregarding what a woman has to say, because she's too "aggressive." It's taking away someone's power by refusing to truly hear their side of the story. Because if you aren't listening, responding, or even just respecting someone's words, they may well have said nothing at all.

"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard." - Renecca Solnit

Nondiscolusure agreements are a legal gag for people who have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of those above them.

Gretchen Carlson, possibly the most famous person subject to an NDA, is one of these people. Her story is so well-known that it has even been immortalized on film, in 2019's Bombshell. Yet she is still forced to maintain her silence. She cannot tell her side of the story even when Hollywood can. She was cajoled into her current position after facing harassment in her workplace. She didn't have the power then to do more than accept her fate. And now, she doesn't have the power to tell her story.

She was, and still is being, silenced.

After her experiences, Carlson was moved to fight for all women to have the power over their truths. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times she declared: "I want my voice back. I want it back for me, and for all those silenced by forced arbitration and NDAs."

Carlson may still be tied to her NDA, but there are those who go a different route. Celeste Headlee, who wrote an op-ed on SWAAY about her experience, chose to break her nondisclosure agreement. Though doing so undoubtedly opened her up to numerous legal ramifications, she knew that she could no longer "sign away [her] right to justice."

Because that is what an NDA is all about, signing away a person's right to justice. Their story is their justice. Their NDA is a lock and key. Headlee may have broken through that lock, but she must face the consequences.

Neither Carlson nor Headlee are any less brave for how they have handled their journeys. They are both actively working to shift the cultural and political norms that led them here, and their work will, with hope and time, lead to real change. But they are just two drops in an ocean of women who are held hostage by their nondisclosure agreements, by men like Michael Bloomberg, and by a society that would rather silence them than let truth and justice be had.