I’ve heard concerns that the women’s movement is losing steam. Allow me to dispel that notion.
The women’s movement was never about a march or a social media hashtag. It is a movement that began nearly a century ago. It’s growing stronger and is more necessary than ever. Since the 2016 presidential election, millions of women worldwide took part in the Women’s March. A record number of women are now running for public office and winning.
Last summer, an actress asked women who have been sexually harassed at work to tweet #MeToo. Immediately, social media exploded as millions of women, including me, shared their stories. Scores of men in high places have been toppling from grace ever since.
Sexual harassment is not about political correctness; it’s not about flirting, or an office romance. It’s not even about sex. Sexual harassment is about having power and control over someone else, often someone who can’t say no or do anything about it for fear of reprisal. This causes one to wonder if it’s even possible to freely give sexual consent to the person who signs your paycheck.
It’s not easy to hear stories of sexual harassment every time you turn on the news, but resist the urge to tune it out or wish it away. It’s an issue women have been dealing with for a long time and we didn’t have the option of tuning it out. Now, thanks to the women’s movement we have a voice.
Silence is the thing that allowed sexual harassment to grow and fester unabated. Ripping away the veil of silence is the only thing that will prevent it going forward.
The thing about lifting that veil is that it’s like ripping the scab off an infected wound — it might not feel good but it has to happen. Now that we know, we can’t go back and unknow this terrible truth, we have to figure out what to do about it. The continuing revelations leave us with a lot of questions and few easy answers.
We will have to work together as a society to better define which behaviors are acceptable in the workplace, which demand change and which behaviors are criminal. But perhaps we can start with the basic premise that exposing your private parts in the workplace is not okay.
Here are two things to consider when we’re exploring ways to end workplace sexual harassment: End the practice of forced arbitration and non-disclosure clauses in employment contracts, and have an outside, independent, investigative source where employees and bystanders can report workplace harassment without fear of retribution.There is power and beauty in speaking out in one voice, but for every woman who has said #MeToo there are thousands who can’t because they could lose their job.
This movement has revealed that all over the country there are women who do not feel safe at work. They learned early that this is just the way it is in a “man’s world” and they feel powerless to do anything about it.
It’s infuriating that women have to go public with their painful, humiliating stories before change happens, but I love them for having the courage to be the catalyst for change and giving voice to those who don’t have a voice.
As the women’s movement continues gaining momentum, let’s work together as women and men to turn #MeToo into #NoMore.