Well, these days you cannot swing a dead possum without hitting a gal who has waved down and climbed aboard the #metoo train. For those of you from my generation, once removed, that’s shorthand (Twitter-hand), for the movement now sweeping the country, whereby every female from Eve in her garden to Ashley Judd has been publicly making claims of verbal sexual harassment and abuse by their superiors.
You know what I say?
I’m a woman. I really am — despite my depleted chest area. And I am not, by any means, diminishing the validity of such accusations. But I am asking: why now?
I don’t doubt their accusations in the least bit, but I’m pondering why, years later, they are making these claims and forcing themselves to the forefront of American media. They are, for better or worse, now becoming a relevant piece in the chess game called #metoo. Is relevance part of the plan, I wonder? Maria the feminist hopes not.
If you were a woman working for a man in the 1980s and your name was Maria Jiunta, you were sexually harassed. I hate to say this, but we all were. Yes, it was awkward; it was painful in some cases; but mainly, to me, it was just a damned nuisance.
It never affected me to the point of throwing my life into disarray; it just didn’t bother me that much. I’m not the type of woman that men generally make advances toward; I am short and stumpy with a squawk that can shatter glass. If they want to harass me, it’s called desperation. But even back in the day, I was nonplussed.
I was the director of marketing at a job I adored, once upon a time. I traveled quite a bit and usually stayed in the same hotels as my boss. On one occasion, I needed to borrow his iron. When I knocked on his door, he opened it wearing nothing more than a smarmy grin, and another kind of iron. I grabbed the damned appliance (the one necessary to save my wrinkled shirt, not the other one), rolled my eyes and said: “Please. Put some clothes on. You’re obviously cold.” We never spoke of it again, but his commentary toward me was always before, and ever after, peppered with uncomfortably charged remarks and disparaging commentary. And I, in a more socially acceptable manner, gave it back.
My point is this: Naming it gives it such power. It makes it something. Something large, with tentacles that reach far and wide. The verbiage is disgusting and misogynistic, but if the you-know-who-in-chief can do it, with zero repercussions, I guess we cannot hold out much hope for the common superiors. I think that if we all roll our eyes and walk away, it may sometimes be a more commanding commentary. Emasculation is powerful stuff. I embarrassed my boss enough that he never opened a door to me again, unclothed. I understand the need to name names and come forward, but it would be a hell of a lot more profound if we do it at the time of the incident.
Also, I’m truly concerned that the negative byproduct of all this finger pointing may be the elimination of females from being hired for positions for which they are more than qualified. I have been in the company of men recently, who have admitted their concern about hiring females in the currently charged climate — that it is just not worth the risk. Along with this statement screaming of illegalities, this is so not what the victims have set out to accomplish. Sometimes, what begins as a social movement, ends as a backlash from which there is no recovery.
In a world full of predators, and since the beginning of time, when Adam told Eve he liked her apple, let’s all decide to be warriors and not victims. We are women. Hear us roar. And also: Pack your own iron.
Maria Jiunta Heck, of West Pittston, is a mother of three and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life. Send Maria an email at [email protected]