“Maybe, just maybe, this time it will be different.”
The speaker was Don Curtis, an ex-Navy officer, ex-Hewlett-Packard general manager, a linebacker of a guy. He was talking before the Nov. 8 election not about football, but about the sexual harassment of women: “Maybe, just maybe, after this election, men will finally get their act together.”
Could Donald Trump’s behavior turn out to be an unexpected gift to both men and women?
Release of the Trump tape caused millions of women to post stories of their own humiliations and injuries. Previously, 25 percent of women in an ABC/Washington Post poll said they had experienced harassment at work. Despite Trump’s election, won’t that number drop as women no longer put up with it? In just a few weeks, there emerged a broader appreciation not only of what is illegal but what is offensive, unwelcome and inappropriate.
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Estelle B. Freedman, a Stanford historian, sees today as the culmination of decades of change for the better. Until the mid-20th century, sexual crimes against women were primarily seen as being against the honor of husbands and fathers, not the women themselves, she writes. No longer.
We also know 10 percent of men say they have experienced sexual harassment, and 25 percent say they fear being wrongfully accused. Knowing the law and observing it scrupulously are not just the obviously right things to do; they allow everyone to breath easily, enjoy one another and work freely.
When I was a law student back in quill-and-inkwell times, women were so few we men competed against only half of the talent pool. Today, as a white male, I would be in the minority. That’s good. About one-third of the judiciary, law school deans and legislators are female now, and it’s getting steadily better.
Trump galvanized many women to stand up more strongly for themselves. Fine, says Curtis, a longtime leader at the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights in Boise. But “it’s the guys — all of us — who must stand up and be counted.”