Oh, yeah, me too.
Recently, I shared my story about being sexually manipulated by a boss when I was just starting my career as a TV comedy writer. I was in my 20s. He was in his 40s.
Now I’m in my 50s. Three decades later, going public has stirred up a lot of fresh emotions. Still, when a friend recently asked me, “Aren’t you happy about the #MeToo movement?” I was thrown. Happy?
Of course, I feel relief and satisfaction that women who can are raising their voices and naming names. But happiness doesn’t really factor into this. With all the toppling of famous directors, actors and anchors, you may think it’s easier now to (blow the whistle) speak out about this. Nope. Hollywood is still a place where if a powerful person behaves inappropriately and you call them on it, somehow you pay the price.
Which reminds me of an old Jewish joke: There’s a terrible pogrom in the shtetl. All the villagers are rounded up by the Cossacks and lined up against a wall for the firing squad. The rifles are cocked, and the head Cossack says, “Before we open fire, does anyone have any last requests?” One of the villagers raises his hand timidly and says, “As a matter of fact, I do.” His neighbor leans over and whispers, “Shh! Don’t make trouble!”
We’re conditioned to see the world through the eyes of the people in power even when our backs are up against a wall. By standing up for ourselves, somehow we get branded as the troublemakers. Shh, we’re not.
Writer Zora Neale Hurston observed: “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” As difficult and as awkward as speaking out can be, those who can, should. It’s our responsibility to so many who can’t.
And I don’t agree with those who say that it’s time for male colleagues to “shut up and listen.” Just the opposite. We need men to add their voices to ours. They can also help by sharing salary information and letting us know about job opportunities. They can hire women and promote them.
And the next time a woman makes a request and someone whispers, “Shh, don’t make trouble,” I hope she tells them, “I’m not making trouble. I’m making progress.”