Every day, it seems, brings another prominent man accused of sexual harassment. The diversity of the men who have been recently revealed as sexual predators is disconcerting. Some of them even cultivated a "good guy" persona and publicly championed women's causes.
One example of this might be Harvey Weinstein, a man whom some argue, had made it possible for several female actresses to get important leading roles in big movies. By some opinions, he had promoted women in the film industry, yet, he also used his power to abuse women.
Now we hear about other "good guys" who also abused and harassed their female colleagues. One such "good guy" is Al Franken. The photo of Senator Franken groping a sleeping colleague is so disturbing that it is hard to believe that this IS the same guy who supported "women's" issues such as the Family Coverage Act.
If it is hard for us in the general public to reconcile those two sides of these good guys, then just imagine what it must feel to be a professional woman working with these men.
I can certainly imagine.
It is disorienting. How do you fit those two images in your mind? Here is a guy you admire for his work, yet, you get a feeling of disgust at the pit of your stomach every time you look at him because of something he did or tried to do to you. Even if that act was years ago, the humiliation and anger stay with you forever and make you doubt yourself.
These conflicting feelings of "he is a good guy doing good work" vs "he is a creep who forced a kiss on me" are partly why, I believe, it is very hard for many women to come forward.
So how do women cope? Some women establish a battleplan to attempt to make the situation workable. You develop ways to avoid being alone with the man who harasses you. You do what you can to work under these conditions, all the while trying to control your emotions and remain "professional".
Many women cope with sexual harassment because there is a sense that it is so common. Sometimes, these men have done it so often that they have a "reputation". So it becomes viewed as "normal", minimized as if it was no big deal. Boys will be boys, no harm done, says the culture. So you try to let it slide. Why go to another job, when it is probably the same everywhere?
Other women blame themselves. You say: maybe I shouldn't have worked late that night... Maybe my skirt was too short... You start doubting yourself, and it becomes a self-imposed "blame-the-victim".
But even when they told about the harassment in real time, not many were listened taken seriously. When you look back at some of these cases, you see that some women HAD actually reported the men years earlier. The 2012 interview in which Katie Couric said that Matt Lauer "pinched her butt a lot" is a very sad example. Obviously, she told about it, people knew about it, yet, they let it go as his "funny, annoying habit". So he continued as one of the highest paid people in the news business while Couric is no longer in it.
Working under sexual harassment conditions is not easy, but many women endure this for years. Coping with it takes a toll. Some women live with it out of fear. They want to continue doing the work they love.
Is it safe for them now to say #metoo?
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Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist, mother and consultant, originally from Puerto Rico. She is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. Luz recently published her first book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. Dr. Claudio has internship programs and resources for young scientists. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely her own and may not reflect her employer's views.