I am a proud member of the Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem fan club and my feminist “creds” stack up high against any of today’s raging “fems.” I have quietly endured the silence of the pre “#metoo”movement when it was just as accepted for men to demean women in all sorts of subtle and not so subtle ways, as it was in the early 1900s to accept sending people of color to the back of the bus. We have traveled many miles since those days, but we have not yet reached an acceptable destination.
In the 1950s when I was ecstatic to have landed a job as creative director in an ad agency (when all my friends were teachers) I discovered, after having achieved several proud moments on the job, and after having been literally chased around the huge ”important” desk belonging to the boss, that I was facing two choices: “fool around with” (translated: “have sex” with) the boss, or find another job. I found other jobs some of which placed me in that same exact predicament. I have no lasting painful affects from those experiences. They seemed as natural to me as asking the grocer for 3 pickles. I learned how to quit jobs.
Fast forward to #me too and today. V-e-r-y different, thanks to some kind of human evolution as well as some very brave women willing to take risks. Many of them now speak up about the unspeakable. As a result, many men are punished and all men are cautioned and educated about what is and what is not appropriate. They are learning – but some of them, the hard way. Some of them are now subjected to the extremes of change.
I personally know of two instances where male behavior was totally misinterpreted, reported as sexual harassment, only to be justifiably dismissed after many months of “investigation,” as frivolous and unsubstantiated complaints– and the reason for the “many months” seems to be the avalanche of complaints that require “investigation.” With reputations tarnished, in some cases, economic stability ruined, and emotional trauma gone unacknowledged these men have experienced major suffering. I am not blind to the difficulty of proving such complaints, nor am I unaware of the many years when women’s complaints were dismissed unquestioningly. I am merely pointing out the ways in which extremists can destroy an important movement.
And there is another potential down side to frivolous accusations. It is not that women don’t like to be “touched.” We just don’t like to be touched inappropriately, by inappropriate people. But let us not devalue the importance of “touch” in our lives. It is enough that we have come to accept as a value, expressions of love and affection through texts and emails and www.flowers. No physical touch there. In recent years, we have seen an abundance of scientific studies that handily confirm emotional and physical benefits from touch, suggesting that the act of touch is fundamental to human communication, health and bonding, as it is a primary means of spreading compassion.
We don’t want men to stop touching us. We just don’t want the wrong men to touch in the wrong places. And we don’t want #metoo to scare away or inhibit the wonderful touchy-feely expressions of good friends who give good “hugs.” I, for one, attribute my longevity, in part, to some really good hugs.