Michele Spencer: The Only Way Forward

November 13, 2017 – I am 72. As a young woman, events of sexual misconduct toward women were not uncommon and even tolerated unless criminal, particularly in the workplace where males were generally in power. There was little recourse.

To my mind then much of it was simply another expression of male entitlement that was culturally acceptable. For example, when I worked in the financial district in San Francisco, it was not unusual for female secretaries or receptionists to be having affairs with their married male bosses who went home to their wives and families whom they had conveniently planted in Marin County. These women acquiesced because they didn’t want to lose their jobs and perhaps hoped for advancement. Some young women were just inexperienced and didn’t know how to handle the situation. No one talked about it.

Many in my generation made their boyfriends conspicuous or even married, in part to be protected, knowing that males in general respected the primary right of boyfriends and husbands to have exclusive access to their women. I thought that I was somewhat protected by the fact that I was tall (5’9”), verbal and assertive and therefore intimidating or so I was told, often critically. I frankly didn’t know what else could be done. Men just had all the power. If we wanted to work, we just had to accept it. Many men did not see this as abuse but simply their privilege. They did it because they could.

I am deeply saddened but not surprised that this kind of male behavior (an even worse) have continued. I am amazed that other men are shocked that it exists. It is no small matter. I’ve learned that tolerance of and silence about sexual misconduct are interpreted by some as permission and acceptance of it.

I’ve learned that it also truly taints and limits relations between the sexes as well as other rights including reproductive. We must all now know that allowing this kind of inexcusable exercise of power by some males over women is utterly unacceptable.

I am heartened by the courage of young women to speak up and expose these sexual predators. They found their voice. But I think more is required of this generation if they really want to bring about change.

Parents need to teach their daughters how to protect themselves and preserve their boundaries and their sons how to properly treat women. Women must challenge themselves and assume leadership roles. Women need to stand-up, object, vote and run for office and men and women need to support them. We all need to be involved. It is the only way forward. Everyone should have the right to dignity and respect of their person.