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Here’s what happened at the dentist today. My lovely 30-something dental technician, not pictured here, was chatting about this and that. Let’s call her Midge. Midge related a funny story about getting a text from a friend saying #MeToo. Assuming it was a mistake, she thought nothing of it. And then on Facebook lots of #MeToo popped up. Her workmates explained I guess. So what do you think says I. Midge: “well, I can understand celebrities tweeting about this, but really, we all have a choice to not work somewhere in an environment like that”. WHAT???
Ah, that’s not really true I gurgled. It’s been the norm for generations and affects every woman directly or indirectly. And then the conversation made an abrupt segway into the care and feeding of lemon trees.

Women, we are standing on the shoulders of our sisters everywhere. In the fifties, career options were wife, mother, secretary or schoolteacher. You couldn’t even get a credit card without your husband’s signature. In the 70’s, maybe your mother or grandmother, looked for jobs in the Women’s section of the newspaper. Suddenly, women realized their lady-parts needed equal opportunities. Enter the dirty word Feminism, marking any modern woman a frigid man-hater. (that was bad). Divorce ensued, lives were turned upside down.

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Now we see 20-something women taking for granted their career opportunities. They weren’t told “a woman’s place is in the home”, or “why promote you, you’re only going to get married and leave”. How about “I gave the raise to Mike, he has a family to support”, (My hand is raised), or overhearing the boss man saying not to teach her that technical stuff, she’s here to sweep. (hand still waving in air) How about “so you won’t party with me tonight, don’t come back tomorrow”. Boom, you’re fired. (Hellooo, hand still raised). This could happen anywhere, still does.

It’s the little things, like looking around the newsroom and noting that all the interns are pretty young women. Or the 9-5 sea of White Men. Looking for diversity? Everyone else can be found working the Third-World Weekend. There’s the supervisor’s hand massaging your shoulders, a tad too low. There’s the co-worker asking you for a date, a refusal means don’t expect any further courtesy.

And now we’ve got the #MeToo tipping point. It’s all good.
Another step forward for the few, the trickle-down theory.

So why am I still stewing? It’s this 1905 quote from the Spanish poet, philosopher George Santayana.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
And so it goes.

Women, let’s have a little gratitude for your career trajectory, for the opportunities you take for granted. Don’t be ignorant of the past. Read. Write. Talk. Ask questions. Thank your ancestors. Don’t get complacent. If you think everything is fine, someone else will fight the fight, don’t be surprised by the resurgence of racism, sexism, attacks on human rights, women’s rights, abortion, the environment, the one step forward, ten steps back. Sure, you can wear a pink hat and spend a Saturday afternoon protesting with like-minds. That’s a great photo-op, a feel-good boost, but that’s not enough. Encourage your daughters to enter politics and be the change. Make your ancestors proud.

photographs ©lynnfriedman