I answered this question on Quora recently and thought it was a good idea to share it here, too.
Here is what rolls around in my head on the topic:
Just the idea that presenting women’s experiences under a branded name is a key to being taken seriously says A LOT.
Why do we have to stand in a group and slap a logo on it to be heard?
Our words, historically, haven’t been received as valid on their own way too often – one woman – one experience at a time.
The word SYSTEMIC is key in the answer to your question.
It’s a rare personal story that can drown out the noise of an engrained cultural habit.
We have built lifetimes of stories on certain ideas we rely on for predictability and perceived safety in our marriages, families, friendships, workplaces, movies, marketing campaigns, music industries to name a few. When people construct the foundation of their lives on certain ideas, crumbling those ideas with earth-shaking new ways of thinking is hard. Some people are doing it! It can be outrageously painful to move the needle. It requires us to look inside for answers.
This week I heard President Trump tell someone being removed from a Minnesota venue to go back to their mother. I’m not even going to get into the fact the guy had a man bun and was heckled for what was perceived as nebulous gender which is its own problem. The mom part stuck with me. It’s as if women are either toys/pawns/puppets to some men or a threat to his independence via maternal care or something. I haven’t figured it out.
I say this as someone independently-minded politically, before this answer gets derailed by mere mention of a President. Whether I like it or not, a President’s words have cultural relevance, no matter their party.
If American culture allows the view of woman only as lover, cover, or ‘smotherer’ vs multi-dimensional human being with agency respected for her individual voice and vital role in building a better world – we are in trouble.
All of this plays into the big picture as I see it in your question.
Some people are heavily invested in status quo. It’s as if you challenge their self-worth when you lack reverence for sameness.
The battle for better treatment becomes less about what’s actually happening and more about protecting comfort zones.
In recent months – one thoughtful professional woman told me she understands women having one case of sexual misconduct behind them, but 20? 30? Then she thinks the woman is the problem. The word systemic isn’t in her thinking. Wildly disheartening.
Well, I’m one of so many women with my 30+ stories of varying degrees of mistreatment. I say with confidence it’s systemic and corrosion of the spirit can be hard to remedy no matter how smart, wise, aware, connected, capable, resilient, and seemingly prepared you are at overcoming what is before you.
I think about how we attempt to address and resolve these #MeToo movement-related topics all the time.
The #MeToo movement was key to my own realization that when I was grabbed, hugged, and/or kissed against my will, that was sexual assault.
I was raped at the end of college by someone I didn’t know. So, I am well aware of the wide range of experiences under this umbrella. Given my personal experience and, as distinctive as each experience is, there have been commonalities in all of it.
I wasn’t a bad sport for not playing along in any of them. No wonder I’ve gone through the internal psychological processes I have in these situations.
I was a conscientious person walking into my career fully aware of what was ahead and I was still a frog in a pot of water heating up – so to speak.
You can’t anticipate all outrageous behavior before it happens when it’s not how you would treat people. That’s an anxiety-provoking standard to expect of women.
I saw sexual harassment incidents as a pesky frustration and something for me to personally overcome – hoping it didn’t impact my career and reputation – merely an occupational hazard. It’s warped and how way too many of us are conditioned in career. Suck…it…up.
It became so pervasive that learning to navigate around it, avoid it, challenge it, call it out, and diffuse it has been as vital a skill set in my work life as anything else – likely MORE important because it keeps me safe and alive.
I have never wanted court cases. I have wanted a successful career working with good-hearted people.
I have never wanted to put people behind bars. I wanted a successful career doing meaningful work.
Navigating this disrespectful treatment has, at times, been scary – all…because… I… knew… my… worth.
I have wanted the respect that comes with doing my best and feeling good about my contributions.
The idea many men along the way had the privilege of assumed competence in the workplace and higher pay because of their gender is maddening.
Knowing they’ve had leeway to support or not support me based on whims of their view of my datability has aggravated me.
Awareness they had the luxury of viewing me as a fun little flirtation absorbing distraction from boredom of their day when I wanted to feel safe and able to build a retirement nest egg knowing stats show women more often alone in later life – makes my blood boil.
Human dignity has to stay central if we survive as a culture.
Kindness and decency are HUGE components.
It seems like a no-brainer to me.
I want the problem fixed and I don’t want my career or my children’s eventual career usefulness based on sex appeal and sexual availability.
I have no need to see oodles of people in courts and behind bars.
It makes sense in some cases, of course.
But, much of this solution is about drawing a line and requiring colleagues to grow up and understand they have power to stop this by calling it out and not playing along.
We need to raise children with the confidence to lift each other up, not diminish each other.
The frank fact is some people will dislike my answer based on their unwillingness to look at their own behavior. This is not about attacking anyone and those who feel attacked might want to ask themselves why they take my experience personally. Perhaps, the best reaction would be to see it as a great opportunity – a reminder to keep workplace behavior in check, because it matters and you matter in this process to help fix it.
This is a collective effort. We impact each other.
Plenty of women prey on male weakness and it has to be called out, too. Make no mistake. Let’s show them they don’t need to reduce themselves with this phantom power and phantom it is, because there’s little to no lasting substance in it. It hurts all of us. Don’t accept the behavior.
There are so many seedy squirrelly well put-together charming ‘so-called nice’ and ‘not so nice’ guys out there who think looking the part and/or having big money gets them off the hook. Honest dealings are not a game.
BUT, there are many many more kind, caring, respectful, hardworking, good-hearted men who don’t like this behavior either.
Please keep calling it out. We will stand up for ourselves, but need your help.
We see you and appreciate you more than you know.
Pros and Cons? I see only an excellent opportunity to commit to doing right by each other.