Has it really been just months since the Harvey Weinstein allegations hit the news? Since then, prominent men have been dropping like flies, losing their jobs as scores of women report aggressive sexual harassment and coercion in the workplace. Even our non-famous male friends and once co-workers are seriously rethinking how they behaved toward women throughout their careers.
The #MeToo movement has gone international, kept this important issue in the news, and birthed a new movement, Time’s Up. Hollywood celebrities founded the group to promote equality and safety in the workplace for all women and raised millions for its legal defense fund.
We oldies feel that this can be THE watershed moment. Women are speaking up like never before. Let’s not let this moment go by. Let’s solve this problem…now.
We joined the workforce with birth control pills in our medicine cabinet. The pill became the symbol of the sexual revolution and liberation. We read Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, which urged us to choose to be more than a housewife and participate in and enjoy sex.
The 1970s brought the Civil Rights movement, women’s liberation movement leaders like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, and Helen Reddy singing “I am woman; hear me roar.” We attended marches and protests for equal rights in the workforce. We thought we had made a difference. We thought we had “come a long way, baby.” Not far enough, obviously!
Yes, as young, working females, we were subject to sexual advances. We crossed our legs away from the male who put his hand on our thigh during a working lunch clearly indicating we weren’t interested. We put an end to unwanted flirting quickly and unambiguously. We dealt with it. We quit jobs when the boss was a jerk and told our friends not to apply. Today, we’d go to the Board of Directors and get him fired.
Interestingly, some are saying that the #MeToo movement has uncovered a rift between baby boomers—those of us who lived through the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s—and younger women of later generations. Rift? Hardly. A different perspective? Of course.
One area where we oldies appear to have a differing perspective is that we see a spectrum of sexual misconduct ranging from mildly offensive to egregious.
Many infractions do not come close to those of Dr. Nassar or Weinstein, or chronic abusers such as Ailes, Rose, and Lauer. Or wife beaters. That said, a man telling a woman she looks good is not the same as exposing his genitals. An unwanted hug is not the same as coercing a woman to have sex. Noting that someone looks tired is not body-shaming.
We want everyone to be smart, careful, and use common sense. Think twice about meeting in a hotel room. Clearly state what you want and don’t want. Say “stop” or “no” definitively. Sadly, research shows that 68 percent of millennials actively avoid face-to-face conversations. Young people apparently don’t know how to talk to one another. They could try this: step back and text “NO” in caps.
Let’s help our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and others. Let’s strongly support everyone who has suffered. Let’s advocate for inclusive, rational discussions among men, women, and LGBTQ. Let’s lobby for legislation that penalizes companies that tolerate cultures of harassment and against the use of the nondisclosure agreements that have helped silence victims of abuse. Together, let’s create dramatic, lasting social change.
Our wrinkled wisdom for today: Till all this is ironed out, we suggest a sports approach in both work and social situations since sports is a universal “language.” If someone does something improper or inappropriate, simply make a time-out sign with your hands. Use this hand signal as a teachable moment; and, hopefully, an entrée to or—to continue our sports analogy—the kickoff of a meaningful conversation. And, remember that American football has an illegal touching penalty. One could simply call “foul,” which would definitely be better than yelling—I’m calling a lawyer! Have another idea? We say go for it and let us know how it works out.