Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Standing up and speaking out
When I was 20 years old, I applied for a serving position at a steak house and was offered a job as a bartender instead (at that time, the legal drinking age in New York state was 18).
The owner was willing to “train the right person” and felt I “fit the bill.” I remember my first shift vividly. I wore my favorite navy-blue V-neck sweater and a denim midi skirt (the height of fashion in the very early 1980s).
I spent the evening pouring beers, memorizing drink recipes, talking with patrons and learning some of the subtleties of selling.
At the end of the night the owner told me I had done an excellent job but that for my next shift I should wear “a blouse that showed more cleavage and a skirt that showed more leg.” I remember being both embarrassed and apologetic.
It was not the first time I could have claimed sexual harassment, and it would be a long, long, way from the last. Over the years, I wore many low-cut tops and high slit skirts as uniforms in restaurants and later offices on both sides of the country.
It was part of the world I grew up in. I was raised with the belief that cat calls were flattery and dodging inappropriate gestures or ignoring suggestive comments in the workplace was simply the way that it was. Women, objectified, commonplace.
You may have heard of the #metoo movement that hit social media recently when allegations against Harvey Weinstein began to surface and actress Alyssa Milano posted the following on Twitter, “Suggested by a friend: ‘If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote, ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.’”
According to Twitter, the hashtag was repeated more than a million times in 48 hours.
Think about that. A million times in two days.
And, according to cbsnews.com, “On Facebook, there were more than 12 million posts, comments and reactions in less than 24 hours, by 4.7 million users around the world, according to the company. In the U.S., Facebook said 45 percent of users have had friends who posted “me too.”
This does not surprise me. Nor does it surprise most women I talk with about it.
The only real surprise is the idea that there is a woman alive today who has not been either harassed or assaulted at some point.
Maybe there are a lucky few, but I have rarely had a conversation on the topic with any female without being able to share tales of the too friendly uncle, cousin, friend of the family, neighbor, teacher, advisor, boss and worse.
Or the time in college when they had too much to drink at a party with a date who did not take no for an answer. We blame ourselves for being in the situation. Society would blame us for drinking too much, question our attire, our behavior and likely, make us culpable.
Just as with domestic violence, I would be remiss to say it does not happen to men as well. Men are also victims of abuse and have been harassed and have been assaulted, but just as with domestic violence, this is primarily a female issue.
The use of power by men to intimidate and harass women and to do so in a sexual or physical manner is a major issue and concern.
The recent rise of women finally speaking up and speaking out is long overdue, and thinking of Harvey Weinstein or Bill O’Reilly as anomalies is naïve.
I was raised in a time when men were not to be questioned. They were 90 percent of the owners, management, and over all authority.
Children were to be seen and not heard. Dads came home from work to home cooked meals dutifully prepared by Mom. Women were the sub species. But that era has long passed.
Women have been fighting and finding their voice. And frankly, some men have just not been willing to keep up. Some of the slow learners are still scratching their heads wondering what happened. And no amount of training on the topic seems to take hold.
I recently talked to a man who told me he was raised to respect women, but then it was women who made him wrong for opening a door or letting them go first, and I give him that.
I for one, like to have a door opened for me now and again, when it is offered as a polite gesture. But when it’s offered only as opportunity to take a long look at my back side, it’s a problem. See the difference?
The reality is this issue is a cultural one that will not be resolved overnight. We can only hope that women finally speaking up and saying enough is enough will lead to more rapid change.
This generation is raising the next to be conscience, to recognize the behavior and to change it.
Sexual intimidation goes well beyond the casting couches of Hollywood. We can be part of the change by speaking up and letting those in power know (to quote Hollywood via the 1976 movie Network) we are indeed “mad as Hell and we aren’t going to take it anymore.”
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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