There is a very strong message in the movie thriller, “Silence of the Lambs” and I’m not talking about the one about how serial killers who devour their victims are not nice people, even if they top off the meal with a bottle of Chianti. It is the message about how Jodie Foster’s character, Clarice, deals with a non-stop set of male characters deal with her as a woman first, and a law enforcement professional second, if at all. This includes everything from men hitting on her to a striking scene in which she is the only woman in an elevator with much taller men.

It also extends to Anthony Hopkins' character, Hannibal Lecter, who has an astounding grasp of human nature. But the one place he is dead wrong, and repeatedly wrong, is in trying to interpret Clarice’s behavior in terms of sexual experiences.

The gauntlet Clarice endures is a parable for what many women experience in the work place.

This came to mind as associate editor Alexandra DeFelice worked on a story about women executives for the January/February issue of Accounting Technology. One important point made by Nina Smith, who was recently named as president of the Business Management Division of Sage Software, was the need for women to directly deal with behavior that seeks to demean or ignore women when it happens.

These are lessons that are particularly important in such male-dominated lines of business as technology and accounting. Certainly, another mark of Clarice’s character is her never falling for the bait and getting angry, as when she tells the obnoxious Dr. Frederick Chilton that “I would've missed the pleasure of your company.”

More appropriate to relationships is how she deals head on with her otherwise compassionate boss, Jack Crawford, who explains his behavior in telling a sheriff they shouldn’t talk in front of a woman, and later tries to rationalize his action because he knew she was angry.

“That was just smoke, Starling, I had to get rid of him. You did well in there.”

“It matters, Mr. Crawford. Other cops know who you are. They look at you to see how to act... It matters.”

 “Point taken,” he responds.

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