Though we do have our share of heroines who fought for women’s equality way back, the fact is that our drive did upend the structure of business and industry – male power structures – as they had been run for centuries. This demanded lots of adjustment and compromising on men’s part as we kept pushing our way in. They needed to think about these new kinds of male-female relationships and how their lives would change. How would they adjust? What would the new roles be that they would have to play with women who worked with or for them? “This is not what I expected when I grew up and moved into the places I assumed were waiting for me. After all, growing up as a boy and a man in the U.S. imbued them with the sense of power they “inherited”.
I have been involved in the women’s movement from the beginning and hosted a pioneering women’s daily TV talk show in Boston in which we not only showed the first full-fledged birth of a baby but dealt with every phase of politics and the power issues of the day. And I was always aware of the fact that we were creating quite a social upheaval. That we do need to keep remembering that we were not invited in to share men’s thrones! That was our idea as we started making inroads into what had been a totally accepted societal norm till the late 60s and 70s.
The triumph women feel in this truth-telling time is long overdue and certainly moving in the right direction. But I often wonder about the effect it is having on men.
Till not so long ago, Mom stayed home and Dad worked. The early resistance and resentments were therefore understandable but were not given much thought. In our zeal, we only saw them as unfair, old-fashioned, and often as the “enemy” because they wouldn’t exactly let us in. Even now, as women have moved far ahead and are much more actively running for office, we must continually deal with the still fairly common prejudice against continuing to cede power or grave responsibility to women…
So now we come to the Time’s Up Movement. And the #MeToo movement. Effects? Well, the prurient secrets are out in the open. Although I was also a victim, lots of other folks have finally begun finding out about the rampant physical disrespect for women and the use of men’s power against women that has gone on for generations. The noise of #MeToo allowed many women to stand up and tell about their experiences and let the public know something that was hidden for so long. And the effects have been powerful and fairly shocking – like bankrupting Harvey Weinstein’s company and several really important TV and theatre stars losing their careers.
But moving this information into the light of the major public arena has made a difference for women. One of our big problems is now shared by the world! That SAG-AFTRA award show where everyone talked about it and the women all wore black and the men wore the Time’s Up pin was enormously effective. A kind of shared “fists in the air” with steam building. What must that this have done to men? Well, I have heard defensiveness from men as well as lots of Bravos. But here it is again. We not only pushed our way into their world but now have the ability to get public notice for telling ills we have long suffered. From them!! Of course this is generalizing but when you talk of group-think, that happens. But notice the power that has recently been given to women!
So, alongside the triumph of getting to tell the truth out loud, I think we should also consider in how many ways men have had change thrust upon them. That their natural resentments and defensiveness can create a bit of a backlash. But the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are spreading new information and creating change as the cover gets blown off this long-held secret.
I cannot leave before I recognize and applaud the younger generations. Born into this new world, they have accepted these changes: Moms working, Dads sometimes playing Mom’s roles, new levels of sensitivity and openness to the many variations the human condition can create as the norm. Accepting what has happened to women’s roles, they did not pay the costly price of intrusion and change thrust upon previous generations.
So, it’s interesting to ask the men you know, how do they really feel about the changes the women’s movement has wrought and which side of Time’s Up are they on?