Step It Up
A fellow blogger, Amy Punt, someone I follow for her thoughtful, outspoken, edgy viewpoint, spoke to the ongoing problem women have being heard when they speak out against powerful, popular men.
They’re readily dismissed as attention-seekers or worse, and it can take a lot of substantial evidence before we’re willing to give up our idyllic beliefs about our favorite celebrities. A lot of evidence about some really perverse things.
She also wrote about her hope the millennials will step up and take a stand against this behavior. It got me to thinking about my first job, age 18, at one of the top banks in the nation. (I won’t say the name because things have changed way too much since then, and what I’m about to describe certainly doesn’t reflect their standards today. They’d be sued to high heaven.)
My boss, the operations manager, would ask me over to his desk for trivial reasons, just so he could watch me walk away. He liked the way I walked, and made no secret of it. When I objected, the asst. operations manager, a woman, called me aside and had a long talk with me, telling me to “stop being so uptight” and “get over it.” I never did, but I did shut up.
This was 1978, the height of the women’s movement. A lot had changed, but obviously we had a long way to go. Eight years later the Supreme Court found sexual harassment to be illegal, and included “unwelcome conduct” or anything that “created an abusive working environment” as sexual harassment.
More importantly, most people today would consider my boss’s behavior unacceptable. There’s no undercurrent of thinking that the law or company policies (many which are more exacting than the law) are too strict. Yes, the men may like the way the women walk, but they’re smart enough to keep quiet about it, or tell only select others. We can’t stop the thoughts, but the actions can be controlled.
That’s not to say it’s perfect out there, I know. I hear plenty of stories about sexual harassment, some subtle, some blatant, in work places all around me. But it’s better, much, much better.
The 1960s and into the 70s was an era of activism, heavy-duty, life-altering, extreme activism. We haven’t really seen that sort of push for change in the decades since, although some change has come. With this new generation stepping up, maybe we’ll move forward in our thinking once again at the kind of radical level we saw once before.
No amount of persuasive talk is going to change some people’s minds about some things. However, sometimes all it takes is intelligent people speaking up and letting loose all the other smart people who think the same thing but believe they’re alone in their convictions. Keep it up, Amy, you’re smart and you have something to say. We’re listening.
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