When I was in my teens my parents decided to move to South Florida. I loved my house and life in Philadelphia but realized that my parents had the right to follow their dreams, and I knew I would soon be leaving for college. The first few months in a strange environment were tough, and I filled my hours working as a “candy girl”in our local movie theater. I worked long hours selling popcorn and candy to hungry movie goers and quickly became run down. After a few lethargic weeks, my mother decided to take me to the doctor. He was a man in his fifties, I would guess, and as he began examining me while speaking to my mother, his hands wandered to places they didn’t belong.
At first I thought I was imagining things (why do women always believe they are imagining things); but I quickly realized that his hands were lingering way longer than my imagination could have taken me. I jumped away, and he smoothly continued talking to my mother. He took a blood test and quickly ushered us out of the room. I was in such a state of shock (no one talked about those kinds of things then, and I wondered if I was to blame), that I didn’t say anything on the ride home. When I did get the nerve, two days later, to tell my mother what happened, she assured me that I was imagining it. After all, he was a doctor.
Harvey Weinstein didn’t invent sexual harassment. It was being done long before he was born, and will unfortunately continue way after his embarrassment is forgotten. For some reason, men in power (and men who believe they have power) have convinced themselves that taking what they want is just fine. Most even convince themselves that their victims are enjoying themselves or “asking for it.” When an attorney asks a jury to assume that a women’s clothing or flirtatious smile can be an invitation, and a judge allows that as a defense, they are giving a dangerous message to young men that they need not take responsibility for their own actions, and they are telling young women that they carry the responsibility for both sexes. Clothing designers set the standards for what is appealing each year, advertisers spend millions selling that look and women are conditioned to keep up with the trends in order to be appealing to the opposite sex. A woman’s short skirt is no more of an invitation than a man’s aftershave lotion or the latest men’s cologne.
Unfortunately, through the years society has done nothing to protect women. When Anita Hill, many years ago, was brave enough to call out her harasser, she was doubted and humiliated, while he went on to become a Supreme Court Justice. Nothing changed because nothing had to change. Men could do what they wanted then, because their compatriots would protect them. When last year, Judge Persky sentenced Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious college coed, he showed the world that he believed “boys will be boys,” and society should not destroy the life of a young man for “acting out.” Nothing changed...the abusers are still being protected.
For some reason, after years of watching presidents, congressmen, business moguls and celebrities take whatever they want from the women around them, women have finally decided to ban together and say “ NO MORE!” When I woke up to #MeToo on Facebook and Twitter the other day, I felt that an important awareness would soon sweep the country. I believe that the majority of men would be (will be, hopefully) horrified to realize the extent of sexual harassment that their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters have encountered through their lives. Hopefully they will listen to the women that they care about and support them when they have been sexually abused - verbally and/or physically .
If women believe in themselves and report every instance of harassment without ever backing down, and if the harassers are made to face consequences as meaningful as those that Mr. Weinstein is now facing, then perhaps we can change a culture that has prevailed way too long.
Sandra Brown in an author who I go to for simple escapism reading, and her latest book, Seeing Red, did the trick. The stresses of the last few weeks started to get me down, so I curled up in my bedroom chair and alternated staring at the lake and immersing myself in an exciting mystery. The mystery won out, and I quickly finished this fast paced story and went hunting for another.
As always a complete review follows this blog.