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'#MeToo' movement requires perspective

Supporters of the #MeToo campaign speak out

Last year will be remembered as the “me too” year of the “me generation.” So many men have been accused of bad behavior and harassment toward women and/or sexual exploitation and abuse. Brave women from all walks of life are speaking out and sharing experiences from years to decades ago. One of the most striking things about this phenomenon is that many of these women are otherwise considered strong and self-confident. How could this have happened to them (“Media miss Oprah’s point, and the movement’s,” Jan. 9)?

There are many theories to consider and also some facts. For example, if you are a fan of older movies, you probably noticed that Sam Spade, Nick Charles, James Bond and other macho male characters always ogled the females, made suggestive comments, slapped them on the fanny as they left the room and so forth. This 21st century bad behavior was ingrained into 20th century culture and emulated by the masses. Is it any wonder that movie moguls are at the crux of the “me too” harassment complaints? A key driver for American culture is and has been the entertainment industry. There was also acceptance of unfair practices until people spoke up and ushered in new laws and regulations of equal opportunity for gender (as well as race, religion and nationality). I recall asking my employer 40 years ago why my male counterpart with the same training and job description made so much more money than I did. I was told that it was because I was single and he was married with children and had a family to support. This statement could not be made in 2017. It was addressed through legal and regulatory channels and progress has been made.

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There is also the fact that many women did speak up years ago when things were happening to them. Not everyone wanted to listen, acknowledge or address the bad behavior when it was brought up. I spoke with my mother and two close friends about several incidents in my past and I received a variety of responses at the time: one changed the subject, one did not believe me, and one said, “Well, so he found you attractive — you should be flattered.” These were people close to me whom I loved and trusted. If they did not listen or care, who would? There was no point in taking it any further.

So, bully to those who are speaking up now since people seem to finally be willing to listen and believe. However, is it really fair or pertinent to try to punish people for many then-acceptable acts of decades gone by — proven and unproven? Let’s do some retrospective research and make prospective and proactive changes to make improvements. We can’t change the past, but we can certainly learn from it and make positive changes for the future. This should be our starting point — you can’t effectively start in the middle. I am not saying men should not be held accountable for their bad actions and behavior. They should be held accountable and it should be in a timely manner. Commiseration among women and speaking up are welcome harbingers that can both improve and build a better culture with respect and responsibility. We are listening. Let’s move this forward, please.

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Susan Theuns

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