Tonight on my drive home from visiting Aunt Vi I heard Keith Urban’s song Female. The lyrics caught my attention and I turned up the volume.
When you hear somebody say somebody hits like a girl
How does that hit you?
Is that such a bad thing?
When you hear a song that they play saying you run the world
Do you believe it?
Will you live to see it?
When somebody laughs and implies that she asked for it
Just cause she was wearing a skirt
Now is that how it works?
When somebody talks about how it was Adam first
Does that make you second best?
Or did he save the best for last?
Click the link above for the complete lyrics, and short interviews by the song writers Shane McAnally, Ross Cooperman, and Nicolle Gaylon. Urban has a statement there too. The piece was written in response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault claims.
The claims against people continue daily. It seems at times like a tidal wave of voices clamoring to be heard and it can be overwhelming, almost desensitizing.
Some want it to stop.
I understand that. We seem to be trapped in a bad loop, the stories of abuse overlapping each other. And worse, sometimes it’s people we’ve held in high regard being accused of outrageous behavior.
It’s hard to watch.
But here’s the thing. Each of these voices deserves to be heard. And the volume, as huge as it seems to be, is only on a small percentage of the total outrageousness that has happened for years.
For years and years.
Some of us see these stories and think that the things that happened to us aren’t that bad, not life changing nor life threatening. It was just the way things were ‘back then.’ And we don’t join in the tidal wave because we feel that what happened to us wasn’t that significant.
But by staying silent we help keep the whole truth from being told. These incidents will continue to be under reported. The problem won’t seem as big as it really is. Maybe some people will think that it has resolved itself.
Clearly it has not.
I think back to my early days at work when four of us, newly out of college, were hired on the same day for the same position. We were all management trainees, assigned periods of time in different departments. When review time came around I found out that another trainee was given a bigger raises than me. I asked why. Turns out it was because he was a young man with a family. I was a single woman. I protested but got nowhere.
Later in my early career I was working in an appraisal department, I was supposed to be trained in the work of an appraiser. Everyone in that department was male. I spent the first several weeks sitting in the office answering the phone while the men went out and did appraisal work. I complained. A vice president came down to talk to the head appraiser. I could hear voices raised in the office behind me. “What am I supposed to do with her?” When the weather got bad they sent me out with a tape measure and a clipboard to measure houses while they counted the rooms and took pictures inside.
In another department the manager in charge told me he liked my blouse while staring at my chest. I mostly tried to avoid him, and when he abruptly left the company years later I was glad and not surprised. There was no talk about why he no longer worked for us but I could guess.
Decades later I was patted on the butt by a passing manager and when I complained to management was told I probably imagined it because he was a ‘nice guy.’ Yes he was a nice guy. But I didn’t imagine it.
None of these incidents were as bad as the events claimed by Harvy Weinstein’s accusers. Or Charlie Rose’s or Bill Cosby’s. But they were events that happened to me, and probably to other women that I knew.
The culture was such that you didn’t talk about these things. Because you weren’t believed, because you needed your job. Because the men were always in places of power. And because you weren’t.
So I hope the news doesn’t move on to the next big story. I hope more women feel powerful enough to talk about what happened to them. I hope more people realize that it’s been everywhere. And more importantly, that it still is everywhere.
More people, people with power, men or women, need to make it clear that behavior that many of us have experienced will not be tolerated. I hope that people who have in the past or are still suffering from various forms of abuse will feel supported and encouraged to say something.
I hope that eyes are being opened.
Meanwhile, many thanks to songwriters McAnally, Cooperman, Gaylon and artist Urbin for writing what many of us have been feeling.
I hope this truly is the beginning of change, that the world will be significantly different when the tidal wave recedes. But darn, change is hard.