Don’t Count Me Among the #MeToos

on Tuesday, November 07, 2017. Posted in The Madsen Blog "Centre Piece"

I am not naïve enough to believe every accusation is real or that some aren’t jumping on the bandwagon for 15 minutes of fame, hoping for compensation or are politically motivated. Yet, I believe we all know someone who has suffered from sexual harassment, gender bias and bullying.  It is time to speak up.

Senator Helen Gordon Davis championed the first sexual harassment law in Florida.  She would often recall her own experiences in the State Legislature as Tampa’s first female representative from Hillsborough County.  She spoke about how she was treated and how disappointed she was as she was forced to fend off unwanted advances from some of her male colleagues.  “Those same men would then vote against the bills I sponsored.  I cried often,” she said, “But never in public.  I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.”

If a powerful legislator with a fearless, feisty persona struggled with this issue, it is not hard to imagine how a young, impressionable person just starting out could become a victim. When Twitter exploded with the #MeToo campaign, it was surprising to see how many strong, smart, accomplished women (and men) acknowledged they have been forced to deal with this issue.

Last summer, Congresswoman Kathy Castor convened a roundtable discussion here on the topic.  We learned a lot from experts who deal in matters of sexual harassment on a day-to-day basis.  Often the victim suffers the most in terms of retaliation, job loss, isolation and humiliation.  Just last week, I watched a former news anchor get emotional when she talked about the toll it took on her.

I believe the idea of sexual harassment never enters the mind of most leaders or co-workers who work side-by-side with a sense of shared respect and dedication to their companies and jobs.  Hopefully now that more celebrated people are putting a spotlight on this abhorrent behavior, it will no longer be tolerated or kept in the shadows.

Yet, the dunderheads who prey on others still may not get the message.  So it is up to all of us to be a network of support and understanding.  To speak up and not look the other way.  To find our collective voice and say harassment of any kind is not acceptable in our society.  And, as individuals, we can each make a difference.  And, for those who face harassment, remember Helen’s most important advice: “Stand Up for Yourself.”

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