Commentary: Time to stop giving a pass to men in power

We are in the midst of a culture change. Women are finally finding the courage to come forward and talk about the indignities that they have suffered over the years as targets of sexual harassers. Safety in numbers is part of the reason that so many women are coming forward, and that is making the rest of us realize just how pervasive this problem has been.

It started with the rich and famous, who are a good target, because of their notoriety. When these men were outed, it made headlines, and the headlines led to more headlines, and they continue to be printed.

On the one hand it seems incredible that it took this long for such bad behavior to be put up to public scrutiny. Men have been treating women as sexual objects for centuries, and they have been using situations of unequal power to take away too much from vulnerable women. As the headlines continue, abusive men will think twice before they make that offhand sexual remark, move to touch a butt or threaten a subordinate for not acceding to demands.

I worked for many years in a female-dominated profession and was in the minority. It was a good experience because being so outnumbered made me very sensitive to the attitudes of women in the workplace. Yet, despite being in the majority, women still have had to deal with unequal power in health care because doctors have had most of the power in the system.

That kind of unequal power balance began to change over the years and, although doctors have always had the upper hand economically, nurses have learned how to assert their power by using intelligence, hard work and the best they have to offer to show the power brokers within the health care system that they are a force to be reckoned with.

It might be good punishment for sexual harassers to have to work for a year as a nurses' aid in a hospital, taking orders from nurses and seeing how women can use their own power without trying to abuse it for self- interest.

But there are other sides to the current cultural change that are troubling. It is starting to look like some women might be able to jump on the bandwagon and stretch the truth about an incident, especially if it involves a famous person, and cash in on it. It is hard to know the truth in many cases, but it appears that accusations against Garrison Keillor fall into that category.

Since most of the incidents of bad behavior boil down to two people telling their version of events, it is hard to know what the truth is. But current evidence of sexual harassment in general is overwhelming, and it certainly appears that most accusers are truthful.

Then there is the elephant in the room. We have a president who has a clear track record of being abusive to women. We even have evidence of him talking about harassing women, and it is clear that he has had little respect for women over the years, using his wife as a little toy to be paraded around the world.

A number of women have accused Trump of sexual harassment and they have had the courage to come forward. It is clear that he has bought the silence of a number of women and perhaps laws should change to forbid harassers from buying silence in settlements.

As long as we continue to have a president who has very little respect for women and who has clearly violated and destroyed the dignity of many women, the cultural shift will be stalled. We must find a way to remove him from office, and as we do so, for whatever reason, make it clear that it was a sad day for America when his bad behavior was given a pass by so many insensitive Americans.

Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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