I had an interesting conversation with a male friend recently who compared the flood of women coming forward to accuse powerful men in the public eye of sexual harassment/assault/misconduct to the Red Scare of the 1950s.
Oh yeah – apparently, the ruin of men’s careers based on a mere accusation (or, you know, multiple accusations) not yet proven in the court of law is a disservice to men everywhere, driven by what I can only assume is some kind of feminist rage machine making a farce of our justice system.
Rage? Oh yeah, I’ve got that covered.
This conversation ran on repeat through my brain for days. This is an otherwise intelligent guy; a guy I’ve never felt is anything less than professional, caring, and supportive of women in many ways. I was shocked by his view on this. My first impulse is to believe a woman who has the chutzpah to come forward at a great cost to her both personally and professionally.
But there’s another reason that I believe women: because I am one. I have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace at an age where I didn’t even know what it was. My very first job was marred by a terrible experience with a man nearly 30 years older than my 16, who felt it was appropriate to proposition a teenage girl. I get it because I’ve been there – just as so many other women have. You know, #metoo.
I know when Trump was elected (an admitted sexual predator, lest we forget), it was like a slap in the face to women like me. When the famous “pussy grabbing” tape came out, I thought for sure that would be the end of him as a politician – but still, he went on to win. And that victory engendered a lot of distress in me and many other women. It set the stage for this moment, a moment where we tell the truth and demand accountability. The world is shifting and though we may feel unstable at times and like we have no control, we do. Because we’re banding together to demand that something is done.
The backlash is brewing, though. If you listen closely, you can hear it coming. The ironic claims by men that this is merely a “witch hunt” or modern McCarthyism are happening. Should any of the accusations be proven false, it won’t hurt powerful men; it’ll hurt feminists and every woman who speaks out in the future.
We can’t think in terms of what-ifs but choose to live in the moment. I want to concern myself with the here and now and demand more than just individual men losing their jobs -- I demand reform. In workplaces, formal and clear reporting mechanisms must be put in place. Push for real female power in industries and continue to hold men accountable for assault, but also hold accountable all the ignoring and enabling that takes place too. There should be a cost to groping a coworker and a cost for ignoring one coworker groping another. Period.
Women are tired of carrying the burden of sexual harassment and assault. So speak now to allies willing to listen and be heard, because this moment must be seized. It’s about more than #metoo; it’s about fighting for changes now so that the next generation doesn’t have to use that hashtag