Pushy, Bossy, Polarizing Woman: That’d Be Me

by francine Hardaway on May 18, 2014

Pushy, Bossy, Polarizing Woman I did whatever it took.

I am a pushy, bossy, polarizing woman. I grew up in New York City, and competed to get into Bronx High School of Science and college. That’s where I learned to be pushy. I kept on going until I had a Ph.D.


Besides being a professor, I’ve worked in advertising briefly, and started three businesses and a foundation. You didn’t do that in my day unless you were pushy and polarizing.


When I moved to Arizona from New York, I scared the shit out of every man I worked for while a professor because I refused to quit working when I was pregnant and “showing,” and came back to teach a week after I gave birth. I brought my baby to class. I nursed in public. I got thrown out of a fancy French restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona for nursing, and then got thrown off a city bus in New York for the same crime.


I terrorized the deans of the colleges where I taught, because I ran film festivals with films by people like Norman Mailer. In those films, characters said “fuck.” When that word was uttered, the entire administrative staff of the college I taught at left the room in horror.


I could never be fired, because what I did was not against the law. Rather, it was against the custom. I also walked into the Men’s Grill at the Phoenix Country Club to tell my husband something. Also against the custom. The men recoiled.


With two young children, I started my first business and simultaneously became a marathoner. At this, even my husband recoiled. He left. Or rather I left the house, but he remarried. He thought I’d fail, and it would jeopardize us. I couldn’t even conceptualize failure.


I set very high standards. My first company was a PR firm, but I absolutely refused to be a hired gun, or to lie. Even my clients were even afraid of me sometimes. Honesty really scares people.


My next company was a more comprehensive marketing company. Still, I said what I thought and I did what I said. During those years, I was rejected for membership by the same Phoenix Country Club I’d belonged to as a wife, because everyone remembered two things about me: I insisted on taking my kids into the showers with me(against the rules but practical for me), and I “invaded” the Men’s Grill. I walked outside the lines.


As for my employees, some of them are STILL afraid of me 20 years later:-) However, they will admit I trained them well, and many of my former employees are very successful marketers.


And I didn’t fail.I built the biggest marketing company in Arizona during the 80s and 90s. I didn’t build Facebook, but I didn’t fail, and Intel acquired us. That was not a sucky exit.


All around me during those years, people were trying to bring me down, hurt me, defeat me. Mostly I ignored them, or didn’t even notice them. They operated out of fear, thinking I had some hidden agenda. They always looked for my hidden agenda. People talked behind my back, excluded me from RFPs, warned clients about how tough I was.


That was a joke. Nothing about me is hidden. I’m the most WYSIWYG person on the planet. And I’m a pussycat.


But I am a person of determination, and I do what I think is right. Like Jill Abramson, I didn’t always bother to bring people along with me; instead I did what I thought needed to be done.


Until recently, I was too busy trying to get things done to realize how much discrimination I faced in my business life. As a woman, I had to play a bunch of games men don’t have to play: the dutiful daughter, the office wife, the mistress, the mom. It’s like being a whore whose trick wants fantasy role-playing. I did it all. I played all those roles for clients who could not deal with a woman outside those stereotypes.


And quite frankly, I’m not sorry. I got what I wanted: two wonderful daughters with independent spirits who grew up with a #pushy#bossy #polarizing mom. They’re empowered, and they’ll never have to go through what I did.



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