Sexual harassment has existed under the radar in many forms for many years. Men, for the most part, have enjoyed this play of power, but in a way we are all guilty, to some degree, that is has continued.
So, it’s about time the culture of “the good ol’ boys,” “it’s just locker room talk,” “boys will be boys,” comes to a screeching halt. I believe we are seeing the beginning of a new era of mutual respect, albeit demanded.
I encourage all of you, women and men, to carry this message forward for every man or woman who has been sexually harassed, intimidated or physically preyed on in the workplace. #metoo is for all of you. If you are in a situation where you see this happening to you or someone else, do something.
A few weeks ago, when Harvey Weinstein was called out for his pervasive and persistent sexual harassment, basically pay for play, and women finally had the courage to speak out, there was a huge paradigm shift in America. Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, U.S. Sens. Al Franken and John Conyers, and Matt Lauer have all been accused, many fired for their reckless and “above the law” behavior towards women. It’s about time.
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Years ago, those who should have done something looked the other way when our own President, Bill Clinton, got away with his sexual indiscretions — and worse. He lied to his countrymen with few reprisals. It was and still is disgraceful and dishonorable for a man with his power.
We then learn that Congress, those whom we have elected to represent us, has used taxpayer money in a “hush” slush fund to pay off women who have brought sexual grievances; this is both shocking and unacceptable. That this has been allowed to go on for years is truly an affront to constituents who not only elect representatives they trust but expect integrity, honesty and transparency.
There are times in my life where I have seen this abuse of power, yet the fear of retaliation for coming forward for these women was huge. It has remained a serious imbalance of power, primarily men over women. If a woman complained, she was ignored, mocked, ridiculed or worse, forced from her position from sheer ignominy.
I have a close friend whose daughter — smart, bright and to this day highly successful — was stepping out into the world as a stockbroker. She worked for a large brokerage firm we all know. She began as an intern, studied and passed the Series 7 licensing test, and began her career as a broker.
Barely into the world of high-power trading, she was invited to lunch by two fellow stockbrokers, both of whom she had grown to like and trust. They hailed a taxi to a pier in San Francisco for a traditional celebratory quick lunch on board a boat. Champagne was poured for the occasion, but at the last moment, she was abruptly left at the dock by the younger business associate with an excuse that he had been called away.
At first, she was baffled, but in her wildest dreams she never considered that this nice, older and married gentleman, the top local salesperson for this worldwide firm, had any ideas other than lunch. Not the case. She was accosted and had to physically free herself with a resounding “No.” She agonized for a month, during which time she learned she wasn’t the first. She sought an attorney and soon had an appointment with HR. The abuser was put on a three-day leave with no other consequences, basically a hand slap. She felt alone, betrayed and humiliated. She left the firm.
#metoo. Tell your stories. Shoulder to shoulder women are coming forward to stand with you and support you. The climate of the American workplace, all the way from the local sushi bar to the Oval Office, has had too much free rein for far too long. Now you have a voice to be heard. No more silence, no more fear and no more humiliation. You have a right to feel safe and unintimidated in your workplace. It’s about time.
Susan Ritter is a semi-retired business owner and a member of the 2017 Olympian Board of Contributors. She may be reached via Susanhritter@comcast.net.