Sunday, December 10, 2017

The age gap (maybe) in attitudes toward sexual harassment.

surdumihail | Pixabay | CC0
It has ever been thus: Older folks say they can't understand why teens and twentysomethings like this or that, or believe this or that -- and the young folks think the oldsters are hopelessly behind the times. When I was a kid, the arguments were mostly over hair ("long-haired hippie commie fags!!!") and music ("it's all just noise!!!"). The generations also fought over the Vietnam War, which the World War II vets expected the kids to fight in without complaint, and to which the kids replied, "Hell no, we won't go!"

Today, the topics have changed a little, but now the Baby Boomers are the old farts, and it's the Millennials who think we're hopelessly out of date.

Take this article from Mashable that came across my Facebook feed earlier today: "Women over 50 see sexual harassment very differently than millennials". Judging by the author's photo, she's a young woman, maybe in her late 20s or early 30s. She's also based in the UK, which may or may not have anything to do with the thesis of her article, in which she claims women over the age of 50 are much more forgiving of men's behavior than younger women are.

The author's sample size is admittedly small; it appears she mostly talked to friends of her mother's in rural England. And she may be making more of this than it deserves. The article cites a British government study of attitudes, which found, among other things: "Wolf-whistling proved to be the most divisive behaviour, with 74 percent of 18-24 year olds, and 59 percent of 25-39 year olds considering it inappropriate. But, four in 10 women over 55 say wolf-whistling is acceptable, and 27 percent even said it was flattering." So 60 percent of women over 55 think wolf whistles are unacceptable -- roughly the same as the 25-to-39-year-old respondents. That's not exactly a groundswell of support for whistlers.

But the author is right that the attitude is out there. Just as some men are having trouble parsing this brave new world, where it turns out behaviors they thought were flirtatious aren't, some women -- mostly older -- are more willing to cut men some slack. I'm thinking of the flap over the holiday duet "Baby It's Cold Outside." To modern ears, it sounds like the man is trying to persuade the woman to have sex with him, and when she sings, "What's in this drink?" it sounds like a precursor to date rape. In the '40s when the song first came out, though, the reading was very different; the song's defenders say the woman was trying to figure out a way to stay and have a drink with the guy without ruining her reputation. Personally, I think if a holiday ditty needs to be accompanied by a short course on How Times Have Changed, it's probably time to retire it. But maybe that's me.

A number of holiday movies haven't exactly stood the test of time, either. My all-time favorite Christmas movie is "White Christmas" -- even though when I watch it now, it makes me wince. All the showgirls are dumb blondes, and the point of the plot is to get everybody married off. At least Rosemary Clooney stands up to Bing Crosby, I guess, even though (spoiler alert!) it turns out it's all a big misunderstanding.

In any case, I think if you're going to set a cut-off age for women who have more lenient attitudes toward male behavior, then 50 isn't old enough. A whole lot of women in their 50s today have been working their whole adult lives, and are very clear about what constitutes sexual harassment. Even 60 is too low. Maybe 65 or 70.

Some folks are wondering whether we won't swing too far in the opposite direction, to the point where touching a member of the opposite sex in any way could be construed as harassment. That's all-or-nothing thinking, and worries along those lines generally turn out to be overblown.

I agree that these are uncertain times. However, things have been bad for women for a very long time. There's that old saying that power corrupts, and men -- generally white men -- have been in control of our society for decades. Now women are emboldened to stand up for themselves and expect their complaints to be taken seriously. It's not just about getting married anymore. And men who have believed wolf whistles -- or worse -- were the best way to get a girl's attention are going to have to clean up their acts.

Sorry about the problem with the photos last week. Now that I'm home, I've fixed those broken links. You're welcome.

These moments of uncertain blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Finding wonder.

I guess I hit a nerve last week with my post on forgiveness, although in the end I'm not sure whether it was my nerve or everyone else's. In any case, I'm going with a less fraught topic (I hope!) this week.

I turn 60 this coming week, which means I'm nearing the end of my second Saturn return. In astrology, your Saturn return is the year or years in which Saturn returns to the astrological sign it was in when you were born. It happens every 30 years, more or less. So most of us will get two Saturn returns in a lifetime, and some of us lucky humans will be graced with a third.

As I understand it, if you didn't solve some of the stuff you were supposed to work on during your first Saturn return, that stuff comes back to smack you upside the head and force you to deal with it during your second. Knowing that, I can see it's no accident that I wrote the Transcendence books this year.

Anyway, it occurred to me the other day that one thing that's been missing from my life lately is a sense of joy and wonder. Particularly when you've been doing the same thing for as long as I have, it's easy to fall into the habit of trudging from one workaday care to the next, without finding joy in any of it. So this week, I am in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on a sort of birthday-week retreat. And on the plane out here, I found myself wishing for a little wonder.

After I checked into the hotel yesterday, I strolled down to the central plaza, as one does when in Santa Fe, in search of dinner. What I found -- as you can see -- was wonder. So much wonder that I went back tonight. Enjoy.

All photos copyright Lynne Cantwell

These moments of wonderful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.