Is This Man A Tipping Point for All of Us?
In the last few days, I’ve made a couple of feeble attempts to say anything about the sexual harrassment scandal with Harvey Weinstein as well as our President. But, I actually have quite a bit to say. When I was in my 20s & 30s, I worked in business development. I got hit up all of the time by men and women. But, after having a childhood where I felt victimized all of the time, I did not nor would I respond as a victim if someone, man or woman, harrassed me during the course of business. Some of these interactions were quite funny but many would pressure me to avoid any humor on the topic. That angers me. But, I am more angry at the slow progress we have had to endure on equal rights for all. Years ago, I was in a heated debate about sexual politics. I blurted out that as a gay man, I still had more power than women. That made me quite sad. But now, it is my hope that women, just like my tribes, are at a collective turning point.
I work with individuals on their careers and organizations that want to become better places to work. Here are a few practical suggestions about sexual harrassment. If it happens, document everything. Write down the circumstances, what was said and done. Establish context around what triggered the event. Inform several people near you and outside of work. Contact human resources. Document their response. If it continues, or escalates, contact an attorney. Be sure to research and find an attorney with a track record of plaintiff employment law and positive results. If the harassment has escalated to assault, call the police at once. Remember that predators seek out people they feel are easier to pick off. This statement isn’t about blaming the victim. However, I suggest that if you are the target of harrassment, this could be the ideal time to evaluate how you can shed any hint of being a victim.
On a bigger scale, here is what I propose. I am prepared to take flack for it. Our culture seduces many of us into becoming victims. One of the fundamental reasons people negatively reacted to my jokiness about being sexually harrassed is that we are given no room to smile when someone responds to harrassment with creativity and a sense of power.
When I became involved with civil rights in the 80’s and 90’s, the most homophobic people that I met were gays and lesbians. If you question my linkage to internalized homophobia to this topic, remember that quite a few women voted a sexual predator into national office. I invite women to stop embracing any form of victimhood because that is essentially voting against yourself. But, no one is going to do that for you. We are at a tipping point and the final “tip” will come out of women responding to harrassment, when it happens, with power and dignity. Call it for what it is on the spot. Recognize that if someone like Harvey Weinstein can have the world turn against him so quickly, that the world around women is much more aware and supportive of just how wrong it is.
This is the time to shed the last vestage of victimhood. But first, let us recognize there are payoffs in our culture for being victims. Many of those payoffs are shielded with righteousness. Perhaps this is the time to shed that weakness because there is no longer a reason to settle for anything less than great. If we wait for more evidence, we slow down the equality that everyone has earned. Many of my readers expect my articles to be linked to sound research. But, tipping points rarely offer up research. No, this narrative is coming from my own history and my gut. Civil rights, employement law, culture, attitudes amongst men, diversity and access to information are offering us a turning point for women. Enough of us are in your corner.
The rest, is up to you.
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