I could not have escaped the coverage of Bill O’Reilly and Harvey Weinstein even if I’d wanted to. On principle, however, I didn’t want to. However, while researching the #MeToo movement, I discovered someone who elected not to post despite having qualifying experiences. A particular statement in a recent article from resonated with me:
“If I started going down this road, I felt like I’d need a passel of disclaimers: It wasn’t a family member. It wasn’t a boss or current co-worker, and so on. Two things occurred to me. One, that this is a variation of the train of thought that keeps victims of harassment and assault from reporting it in the first place. It’s embarrassing and there’s too much exposure involved, there may not have been enough proof, it could hurt people I love, it’s not worth the trouble, et cetera, et cetera. I accept that. Secondly, however, it made me think about all the men who have helped make me who I am today. My father, who worked hard to support his family and still had time to play, help with school projects, and teach me how to drive and many other things. I have never, ever seen him treat my mother or any woman with disrespect.”
I too have been personally lucky. I’ve witnessed discrimination and been discriminated against, but I have never been assaulted and any harassment was systemic and not directed specifically toward me. That doesn’t mean I can stop speaking out though. And neither should any woman or man who believes discrimination, harassment and assault are wrong … and believes that it isn’t just something women (or men) should “put up with” to accomplish our goals and avoid conflict.
As I sat next to a slightly older woman as we got our pedicures yesterday, the TV news covered the latest $32 million “secret” settlement paid by Bill O’Reilly. I mentioned how glad I was that women were speaking out even if they hadn’t felt able to when the incidents occurred. My pedicure neighbor commented to the effect that women filed against rich men for the money. My first instinct was to disengage. After a moments thought, I commented that, “Many women don’t file because the chaos it causes in their lives seem too great. Filing against rich men meant their experience would be publicized and they’d be compensated for both the chaos and their losses.” We didn’t speak much after that. I admit my comment was more casually worded, but remained essentially true.
This is the socialized response: Women only think speaking out is important when they can demand money. This is the fairy tale. The truth is that male-dominated societies only pay attention when the penalties directly impact male standing, i.e. reputation and finances. If that impact can be lessened by vilifying or demeaning the victim, they will. We all have to challenge that mindset when we encounter it … step out of hiding and into the light.