Maybe women shouldn’t be alone with men in the office.
For years that has been the refrain of how to avoid being sexually harassed in the workplace. Along with dress codes that prevent women of all ages from wearing skirts, dresses, tops, pants or even shoes that could be seen as provoking to men. Despite these so-called preventative measures surveys have found that nearly 1 in 3 women from ages 18-34 has been sexually harassed in the workplace.
This staggering number was especially prevalent this year. Looking back on 2017, it would be easy to be angry. It was a hard year. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, it was a big year for women who had been victims of sexual harassment. It seemed like every time you opened the news or social media, harassment had a spot in the headlines. From Forbes “This is the end of patriarchy” “the male domination of humanity”, to Twitter, whether good or bad, 2017 cast a bright light on the realities of sexual assault.
The year of the #MeToo phenomenon spurred women all over the world to speak out about their experiences. Of course, it’s a good thing that Harvey Weinstein has been exposed and that the potential Harvey Weinstein’s will maybe stop and think before harassing women. Can we say, though, that it’s really “the end of patriarchy”?
The answer is no. It’s not the end of patriarchy. The 45th President of the United States was caught on tape discussing the inappropriate things he has said and done to women, brushed it off as locker room talk, and was still elected. Politicians continue trying to control women rights over their bodies, stopped monitoring the wage gap, and made it more difficult for them to receive the health care they need. The patriarchy is still strong.
However, #metoo is toppling patriarchs. Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly, Kevin Spacey, the list goes on and on. Even with all of this, the #Metoo movement was never about the Harvey Weinstein’s, the media simply loved that angle because of the gory details — it sold their stories.
In fact, it was never about the men at all. It is about women. The process of regular women speaking out about their experiences with harassment, discrimination, and assault was, and is, about a systemic cultural problem that prevents women from having equal opportunities in the workplace. Maybe the massive outpouring of shared trauma didn’t develop into a political movement but that’s not to say it won’t.
Toppling a few powerful abusers is a good tangible result to start. Hopefully, it’s the beginning of a collective decision to stop tolerating the abuse that has been around for years. This choice will slowly lead to bigger changes in everything, from policy to leadership and even in culture.
These “silence breakers”, as Time magazine dubbed them, cry against individual harassers and the push for gender equality across the board may seem mundane, especially now. When President Trump is leading the way as head of the machine, it’s easy to picture the machine itself having bad hair— and that to defeat the Matt Lauer’s of the world is to win. But the patriarchy is bigger than the patriarch.
Since Mr. Trump’s election, women have been trying hard to fight harassment and inequality: the #MeToo campaign, Women’s March on Washington, black female voters helping to send a Democrat from Alabama to the Senate, and an increasing number of female candidates seeking office in elections across the country.
That cultural change will be important in winning the coming battle against sexual assault. #MeToo will continue to topple patriarchs, and while the patriarchy continues to have power, the day is coming when that might always be the case.
Maybe men shouldn’t be left alone with women in the office, because women are speaking out, and they are coming for the patriarchs and the patriarchy.
The Law Offices of Stephen B. Morris, located in San Diego, is a vigorous defender of employee rights, including those who have experienced harassment or a hostile work environment based on sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Contact The Law Offices of Stephen B. Morris to discuss your legal options and rights.
These views do not officially represent the views and opinions of The Law Offices of Stephen B. Morris.