It has taken me weeks to write this piece, and that bothers the snot out of me. My mind has been exploding with raw emotions—anger, disappointment, betrayal, and a lot of confusion.
My sense of logic is being challenged. My belief in justice is in the toilet. And the womanist in me demands answers to a long list of questions.
Despite my jumbled thoughts, I have to get this out, even though I still can’t wrap my mind around it. Bear with me.
For the last month, report after report of sexual harassment and predation has popped up on my social media newsfeeds and timelines. Every day is a new man being accused/exposed, and a new flurry of victims step up, speak out, and subject themselves to public scrutiny. Every day, another man who I thought was too enlightened to disrespect any woman, let alone those in the workplace, has been called out for “inappropriate behavior”.
These are men whom I have come to respect on some level. To hear them admit to their behavior makes me feel—at the very least—like I’ve been backing the wrong horses. I thought that I was at the age where I could spot a man with creep potential. I was wrong. And that makes me mad.
I wish that I could get them all in a room and release the full payload of my temper. This is what I need to know from these men:
- Why are you incapable of going to work and doing your job without disrespecting your female coworkers? Don’t you have enough to do in the course of your day?
- Why does the sight of a woman bring out your most immature instincts? What gives you the right to subject them to disrespect that you would never dish out to a man?
- What’s behind your childish need to boost your ego at someone else’s expense?
I’m not here to speak on how much these men are guilty or innocent. At this point, the specifics of each case don’t matter as much to me as the wholesale degradation of women who are just trying to bring home a check. Why do we as women have to go to our workplaces having to put up with the jokes, sexual innuendos, catcalls, invasion of our personal space, and other things that men would never do to a male coworker?
In the case of Harvey Weinstein (and others), a lot of these women waited decades to speak up. I need help with that, because I was a child in the 1970’s, when the feminist movement really caught fire. I remember watching women declaring their newfound independence every chance they got: bra burning, insisting on being addressed as “Ms.”, refusing to let a man hold the door for them, Helen Reddy belting out “I am Woman”, and endless speechifying about how “women are people too!” I am having trouble accepting that at the height of that renaissance, there were women getting grabbed, groped, and assaulted by men at work who ended up getting away with it.
I’M NOT BLAMING ANY VICTIMS. I absolutely understand the desperation of not wanting to lose your job or needing a job badly. But I also understand personal dignity, teaching self-respect by example, and the necessity of punishing bad behavior. What I’m having trouble with is understanding how and why a man gets away with that level of bad behavior without the slightest consequence. How do you—liberated woman—let a man off the hook for that many years, even if the whole world is giving you the side-eye, as if you’re the one who’s wrong?
Could it be that we’re not nearly as liberated as we thought?
I think that too many of us are still trapped in that diseased mentality of “boys will be boys” and “a man is going to do what he’s going to do”. It’s bad enough that many boys are still being raised to behave badly towards girls; it’s even worse when girls (and everybody else) cosign the bad behavior as “what boys do”. When we excuse disrespect, we’re de-valuing ourselves more than the men do. Whether we intend to or not, we’re sending the message that it’s okay to mistreat us—and the other women who come behind us.
That doesn’t sound very liberated to me. I don’t understand it. Then again, I don’t understand why 53% of Trump’s votes came from White women. That’s why I declare myself a womanist….because feminism seems to be collapsing on itself.
Another topic for another time.
While I loved watching Matt Lauer on the Today show, I must say that I am impressed with the network’s unprecedented expediency in handling the situation. Before we even knew that there were allegations against him, Lauer was bounced from his cushy job without ceremony, negotiation, or a public poll. If all sexual predators faced that kind of swift justice, maybe it wouldn’t have taken so many victims decades to step up and #MeToo.
And maybe some men would think twice before “doing what men do”.
Let me close with a positive thought. Although it’s a little gimmicky, this “me too” wave is a good thing for women (and men) who were denied justice for so long. I wish that more of us had caught the real vision in the 20th century that we have power when we support each other. In the 21st century, WE have the power to clean house and drain the swamp. If we woman-up and stick to the courage of our convictions, WE can actually change men’s “inappropriate behavior” by no longer tolerating it.
I love that vision. Hope I’m not alone.