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Elders, Education and #MeToo

Sitting in the waiting room while my car is being serviced. I'm having a tow hitch installed so in the spring we can transport the family bikes to a local bike trail. Since I'm waiting for it to be installed I figured now is a great time to do some writing while I wait.

Most recently I read in the New York Times the interviews of the women who worked in the Ford Motor plant in Detroit, Michigan. The article was about sexual harassment in the Ford Motor Plant. As I was reading the article I felt sick to my stomach and angry. Angry that this was a part of the culture in the Ford Motor Company Plant. The women involved in the settlement received approx. $200k in exchange for no longer being able to keep their job? How is that even possible?   According to the New York Times article titled How Tough Is It to Change a Culture of Harassment? Ask Women at Ford  "Many of the women back then felt betrayed by both Ford and their lawyers, and said they were pressured into giving up their jobs. Their lawyers told them Ford insisted they resign as a condition of the E.E.O.C. settlement, for an additional payment. Ford lawyers later told a judge that was optional. Ms. Gray resisted but many of the others gave up the largest paychecks they would ever earn."

Since the New York Times article published there has now been a public apology by Ford Motor company. There are thousands of other working women in society who are subjected to mistreatment but say nothing. Why? much like the women who worked for Ford, they need the paycheck.

I recently had a conversation with an older gentleman about all the reports in the media of men who have been fired or resigned from their places of employment. In conversation, I kept a thought in the back of my mind that this person was much older than me. I imagined our culture and how women in it have changed a lot over the decades in comparison to how women were treated when he was growing up. During the conversation, I sensed a defensiveness coming from him as to what is really considered sexual harassment? It seemed as if his perception of sexual harassment was a very gray area and anything can be considered sexual harassment. There was even mention that women could lie about sexual harassment to manipulate the system in order to gain financially. I was stunned by that statement. In theory, anything is possible HOWEVER I've yet to hear a documented case of a woman saying she lied about being sexually harassed or raped. It has been published that a woman was coerced into saying she lied only to later have evidence showing proof she wasn't lying.
Puting myself in this mans shoes, how do you go from what is accepted amongst men (harassment or disrespecting a woman) to then respecting a woman? I believe we are all products of our environment and the power lies within us to change our thoughts and behaviors regardless of our upbringing. Since my conversation with this gentleman, I shared with him an article from a law firm describing what constitutes sexual harassment. He is now clear in his understanding and thankful for the well written definition :-)

In the end, it's about common sense, education and as the motto in my son's elementary school says to follow the golden rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Another good rule of thumb is this: would you say 'this' or treat your boss at work that 'way'? If the answer is no then don't do it :-)

If we all open our eyes, ears, and speak out change will continue to happen. I'm hoping for future generations and perhaps by the time my niece reaches adulthood that this will be a 'remember when?'. In the meantime, I educate my sons on what it means to be equal for women and to break the cycle of the mistreatment and injustices woman have faced over the centuries and decades.


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