Back in ancient history on college campuses all over the land, there were separate dorms for men and women. When a gentleman caller came on the premises, he was told to wait in the lobby while the call would echo through the hallways and corridors all the way to the top floors of the dorm: “Man on the floor!”
I know, I know; what could possibly be the relevance of that? It had something to do with some stuffy, archaic notions of modesty, propriety and manners, which may have been less stringently observed at the subsequent frat house drinking party but was upheld at the beginnings and ends of social events as a holdover homage to mores that were under siege but still holding, holding.
Ladies were to be respected.
The boys were expected to be boys, but the ladies in the dorm were to be protected by survivors of previous generations of good sense and rules of deportment between members of the sexes. The ladies had been favored with admission to most schools, with only a few all-male bastions holding the line against the sanctity of the proving grounds of commerce and competition. Even so, it was generally expected that the female graduates would be more suitable for careers as teachers, nurses or administrative assistants to male corporate overlords and political leaders.
Again, the question: What’s the relevance to this ancient history?
The relevance is that it is not so ancient. In fact, many of the tunes in the earbuds of today’s high school students were composed and performed by people just like them who are still living — and wondering how things changed so fast.
Twenty-seven years ago, a panel of males full of more than ample self-estimation decided to disregard allegations of Anita Hill that she had been inappropriately subjected to sexual pressures from one Clarence Thomas, her workplace superior, who was a nominee for a seat on the Supreme Court. If this sounds familiar, there is a reason. It still happens every day, everywhere.
Some went so far as to invoke biblical authority for the relations between men and women; God made Adam and then decided to make him a … friend.
Imagine being born female and coming to grips with that concept for the first time. And time and again.
But times are a-changing, and the agonizingly slow transition of roles and opportunities for females will scour the shores of the American continent like a tsunami in the upcoming elections.
The “Me Too” movement will add to the groundswell, but the timing of the elections combined with the displays of arrogance from conservative politicians, and many of the men and women among their base support will inspire a coalition of support for more thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent, less partisan and centrist and progressive-thinking female candidates for public offices from town councils and school boards to governorships and Congress.
The Supreme Court hearings and the outrageous but aborted attempt to ram through — a term used by Senate leader Mitch McConnell — the nomination of the darling of the right created earthquakes and aftershocks that will roll ashore at polls near you on Election Day, sweeping the land clean of many of the old partisan guard and bringing about that swamp-draining that so many people have claimed was overdue.
It may not go the way that conservative absolutists foresaw, but that’s the great thing about American politics: If you don’t like how things are going now, wait for the next election.
That biblical assumption about the creation of man first and then woman was, after all, written by a male. Maybe women were created first.
In any case, it matters not today. They are of equal ability and status, and here to claim respect.