In 1992, as an elected School Board member, I watched with other women, as Anita Hill, a witness to testimony against the confirmation of Clarence Thomas (who eventually became a Supreme Court Judge) with great hope. We watched hopelessly as the media and the Congressional patriarchy condemn her and "slut-shamed" her into submission. She stood her ground. She eventually quietly immersed herself back into the academic world of being a Professor of Law. She brought forth the conduct of men who work with women that dialogue of sexual provocative dialogue that commonly took place in the workplace. Words said that couldn't be unheard. Dirty jokes, touches without permission, and certainly a "quid pro quo" atmosphere. I myself, in the business world, witnessed it and said nothing. Because we just didn't. That would have made us the complainers. That also would remove any opportunities for advancement.
After the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, women took to the ballot box and elected in California, Dianne Feinstein AND Barbara Boxer as our Senators. Last year, Barbara Boxer retired and Kamala Harris (our Attorney General) took her place. Dianne is now running again at the ripe age of 84. Men in my state are running against her. I encourage all who can...support this woman. She has the wisdom and the earned respect of battling at our Senate patriarchy, with pragmatism and knowledge that most of us don't have. I stand for my conviction, (I as I swat my head several times), that "ageism" can be just as devastating for our cause of representation for women, if we decide a younger Senator should take her place. Pair that with sexism, we women, who have the power at the ballot box must support women who run for office.
The #MeToo campaign has brought forth a lot of emotions for me. Starting with a "ogling Uncle" in my young age. When my sister and I finally complained to our mother, we never saw him again. (As did our Christmas presents). Then at the age of 14, standing with my mother and younger sister on Market Street in San Francisco, while waiting for a bus, a strange man stood behind me and yes, grabbed my ass. It shocked me. I could not respond. My mother was right there and did not see it. When we climbed onto the bus, I squeezed in with my mother and sister on one of the bus seats. Mom, kept trying to encourage me to sit with the man behind us, telling me he wouldn't mind if I sit there. I refused, stubbornly.
When we got into our car, I finally told my mother what had happened. I understand why we laugh when we don't know how to respond when a child says something that you might not have seen. How does one respond? She laughed at me, as she laughed, I felt that she was diminishing my feelings. What she said to me set me up with a lifetime of distrust for men and their intentions when flirting would start. "Oh my" she said as she drove, "You will be confronted from time to time when men do this." Then she went on to explain that because I was a redhead, that men seem to be attracted to redheads. Later in my life this happened to me three other times. The most blatant was at work when I was about 36. I filed a letter of complaint which was immediately lost in Human Resources. Two years later, the man was reprimanded and directed to classes on sexual harassment. He stayed there until he retired. Most women avoided being in the room with him.
My experience at the age of 14 became a direct memory I will never forget. Conversations about these instances with the #MeToo are vital to open and frank discussions with men. Especially those in your life. Power has a lot to do with this behavior. If you are being bullied, harassed, and abused, speak up. Talk to your supporters. Find solace that peeling the layer of this onion on this topic should NOT be a hot-topic, but a conversation of change and perpetual dialogue.
So here I am. Revealing something that has be inert and building in me for over 52 years. Still there, percolating. And here I am posting this in my blog of finding happiness. Perhaps telling and letting go is part of the process. One would only hope.
As they say often, "If you aren't sitting at the table, then you are on the menu". Younger women, I plead with you to run for something. Commit yourself by starting on a commission (recreation, youth, homeless, school PTA). Get on the School Board. You participating at those levels balance the real issue of fair representation. Your voice and intelligence should be heard. Continue to speak out on behalf of other women. Activism works. Writing helps!
I look forward to when society will accept all humans equal. I only hope that all of this will be in the history books and my grand-daughters never experience what the #MeToo organization is unveiling today. Stay engaged. It takes work. Complacency will never get anything done.