To the editor:
It's been barely two months since the centuries-old secret of everyday sexual harassment and coercion began flooding into our nation's everyday consciousness and conversation. With Harvey Weinstein and the numerous public firings and dismissals, there is probably not a male alive who's now-awakened memory has not startled him into some level of anxiety about an untoward wisecrack he has quipped, or an ungentlemanly behavior he has enacted, long ago — or recently.
In the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions of repentance, this is undoubtedly the largest 60-day period of mass "examination of conscience" in the long story of human religion.
Among social pundits there has been some discussion and questioning of the lasting effects of the epoch revealing of this hurtful and harmful public secret. Is this a turning point in our culture's female/male relations? Or is it just a publicity blip — something that has grabbed the headlines just long enough to make history, but not long enough to foster and generate an actual course correction in our day-to-day relations and behaviors.
I am voting for the latter. I believe it will serve as course correction, in part because of the mass examination of conscience by the men, and presumably, their now lower level of tolerance when they see harassment occurring. But mostly I believe it is a turning-point because more and more women "aren't going to take it any more" and the HR departments of institutions public and private are tightening up harassment policies to make it safer and easier for this type of behavior to be reported and dealt with fairly.
A form of bullying
Wikipedia offers a piece of "bullying theory" which I find helpful in understanding the larger picture of this centuries-old secret of sexual harassment.
Paraphrased: Bullying is a social behavior dynamic that requires both parties to believe, consciously or unconsciously, there is a real or perceived power difference between them. As soon as either party finds a way to burst the bubble of this power difference, the bullying dynamic can no longer continue.
Bullying isolates victims physically and psychologically, and then attacks and erodes their identity — who they know themselves to be as a human being, in this case attacking the feminine nature of a female. (Doesn't that sound preposterous!)
The only reason this ruse works and has continued to thrive is because our culture has no formal social structure for the woman to seek justice and healing for being bullied. In this sense, we can view sexual harassment as "cultural bullying" — where our entire culture believes, consciously or unconsciously, there is a real or perceived power difference between women and men. In other words, we as a people do not view women and men as equal human beings.
The reason women who did report harassment — to HR, police, attorneys general, church authorities, union officials, whomever — but almost never received true justice: Either paid off in secret or dragged into oblivion by non-action.
They almost never received true justice and healing because our culture and all of its institutions have supported a perceived power difference between men and women — with women having less power, and less "equality."
And the reason most women did not harassment is because they knew the culture itself and all of "'we the people: within the culture, would not value their story as one of real injustice.
What we are all learning in the past 60 days is the collective voices of millions of women are creating their own social structure for justice and healing. And in the process, they have generated enough energy to burst the bubble of power difference for us all to clearly see, hear and feel.
We are changing and bullying is fading.
RedHeart is an educator, farmer and transgendered human living in the rural Red Wing area.