Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that title threw you off a bit. Well, hear me out.
It’s been incredible to watch the #MeToo movement unfold. As someone who hadn’t found her voice at 24 to speak up against her boss when he squeezed her derrière like orange juice would come out of each cheek, and who has had to put up with many occurrences of chauvinism, locker-room banter, and boys’ club behavior while working in the tech industry, the #MeToo movement has given me a great sense of hope. My hope is that one day it’ll be finally safe for everyone to do their jobs without having to deal with inappropriate behavior from managers, colleagues clients or partners. Furthermore, my hope is that this paves the path to true equality in the workplace―from treatment and behavior, to job opportunities and salary―regardless of gender, race, disability, sexual preference, religion, or any other dimension of human diversity.
That said, I am still in shock at how the movement has resulted in the immediate termination of the many celebrities that have been accused of sexual harassment or misbehavior. And I get it―the termination may be seen as hasty, when in reality, the alleged misbehavior had taken place for months or years, and in many cases, it had been reported but ignored, making the “Silent Breakers” (as TIME magazine coined them in their 2017 Person of the Year issue) and the #MeToo movement all the more pivotal to the chain of events that led to the termination of the accused.
(I realize I have yet to connect the dots between #MeToo and the speed limit. I’m getting there, I promise.)
I am grateful these brave women and men have come forward to put an end to decades of silence. And while I strongly encourage everyone to speak out against this type of unwanted behavior, I worry the movement may soon turn into a witch-hunt, if not already. Much like in the Salem days, it only required one bored jerk to accuse a woman of being a witch for an unfair trial to take place and a woman to be put to death for alleged witchcraft activity. I pray the women and men coming forward with #MeToo-type of accusations are doing so sincerely. I also understand perpetrators don’t intentionally leave evidence to make it easy for an accuser to prove that sexual misconduct did indeed take place, making each accusation a “he said/she said” (or any variation of genders) matter. Erring on the side of the victim is typically the safest bet, though it may not always be the right one.
Enforcement is Everything
Then there’s the concept of enforcement. Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer and the many men and women who have acted inappropriately in the workplace have known all along that their behavior isn’t right. If they didn’t know it wasn’t right, then they wouldn’t have asked for secret door-locking buttons on their desks, force NDAs on their assistants, threaten their victims with lawsuits, or hired investigators to dig up dirt on their accusers. But they were able to get away with the behavior because nobody stopped them. Now, I’m not saying the victims are at fault for failing to stop them―as someone who has been in a similar position a handful of times in her career, I can’t even begin to describe how nerve-wracking a situation like that can be, and how concerned one is to lose their only source of income in a paycheck-to-paycheck world. But often times, the behavior is well-known among colleagues and even reported as a sexual harassment claim, but management fails to enforce policies that were established to curb this very type of behavior.
When I reported that a co-worker was stalking me incessantly after work hours to my boss (who at the time was the CEO of the tech startup I was working for), his response was “Don’t worry about it, he just likes you a lot, maybe you should be nice and go out with him.” I ended up having to seek legal counsel―a male lawyer who said the two scariest things I had ever heard in my life at the time: this [INSERT INSANE AMOUNT] is my hourly rate, and regardless of the outcome of the trial, you may be blackballed in the industry forever. Needless to say, I ended up shushing and finding another job.
(Still, nothing about me driving at the speed limit. Well, here it goes.)
Much like these perpetrators have given themselves permission to act inappropriately at work, even though they are fully aware of what they’re doing and that it is explicitly against company policy and (depending on the behavior) the law, I also have repeatedly given myself permission of breaking the law. I do so every time I get in the car. For years, I’ve been an unashamed heavy-foot driver. Yup. Guilty. It doesn’t matter if I’m running late or if I have 30 minutes to spare, I will speed up like I missed my calling as a NASCAR driver. And I would do so all while fully aware of the posted speed limits (or at least that 80 isn’t a legal speed limit anywhere in the US), and more importantly, while fully aware of the dangers of high-speed driving. But I would still do it. Why? Because everybody does it and rarely anyone gets caught. Enforcement is key.
But what if all of a sudden all of us high-speed drivers were to be accused of speeding because someone saw us fly low once seven years ago (or yesterday, or many times for that matter)? And what if the penalty for such high-speed driving is job termination, or for those with a higher profile, the end of our (well, their) careers? After all, we’ve been endangering the lives of those who’ve shared the road with us, a sign of irresponsibility and lack of consideration for others.
There are many men and women in this world who, like Weinstein, overtly act like sexual predators, and there are some who would just tell themselves there’s nothing wrong with pinching your co-anchor’s ass cheek every now and then (I’m looking at you, Matt Lauer). Regardless, the behavior is wrong―much like disobeying the speed limit, overtly or with excuses.
And therefore, as much as I’ve enjoyed the thrill of high-speed driving for many years, I’ve decided to obey the speed limit at all times not only because it is the responsible thing to do and because I care about other people’s lives (and my own), but because in a way, it is my very personal support to the #MeToo movement, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with it. It’ll take some time for me to get used to it, but I’ll try my best to do so every single time I drive … unless I’m in a German autobahn, of course!
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