Perhaps we actually are making progress. Hugh Hefner is dead – not that I wish him any ill, but his passing did engender some reflection – and Harvey Weinstein is en route to some self-prescribed loony bin.
They may be the emblems, but the progress – if there is some – is in the form of the thousands of #metoo ‘s and the reports that sparked them, women and men all over the world coming forward with their stories, some of them long muted.
When I heard the #metoo’s included stories of groping, at first I was bemused (Sister, weren’t we all?), being a woman of a generation where you were routinely humped from behind by some nameless stranger on a subway so packed you couldn’t even turn around to face him.
He wasn’t your main concern. Your main concern was whether you could arrive at work with your hair more or less in place and without any big sweat stains under your arms from riding the Sardines Express on the Lexington Avenue IRT. Because in the world of men where you were lucky to have any kind of job, keeping that job depended mostly on keeping up your appearance and knowing how to keep your mouth shut.
In the world of New York corporate broadcasting, you didn’t get groped most of the time. Sexism, though, was definitely there, suffusing the very air we breathed, determining who got to drink out of a china cup in the board room and who took coffee in Styrofoam from the cafeteria. If you should chance to find yourself in an important meeting, you were in the midst of a verbal game of “keep away.” You might come in with a list of story ideas, and the men would jump right in. But as a woman, just try to make eye contact with the man who’s running the meeting. And if you did get a word in edgewise, it would likely be ignored, and then ten minutes later a man would present YOUR idea, get credit and a big pat on the back.
Like abuse, though subtler and at least physically less painful and dangerous, exclusion was an instrument of control. And both have been in effect, pretty much, as long as we’ve been running the world as a patriarchy.
There, I’ve said it, the P word, and some of the ears in the room have shut down. That’s not what we want, so let’s start over. Everyone keep your voice down. Speak slowly and distinctly. Avoid injecting attitude. Try to sound thoughtful and deliberate. Make eye contact.
Oh, and the gavel? Symbol of order in the court and of whose turn it is to speak, the talking stick.
So here goes. We meet today to discuss some major issues. They include:
- The possibility of nuclear war and how we’ll deal with its aftermath.
- The threat of fascism, here and globally.
Those are my top three. Women’s rights and sexual equality aren’t even on the list, but they are embedded in it. What are yours?