“I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s when all the rules about behavior and workplace were different. That was the culture then.” Harvey Weinstein
I also came of age in that same culture of the 1960’s and 70’s that Harvey Weinstein referenced in his poor excuse for decades of sexual abuse. The difference was I was on the receiving end of all those rules that supported a toxic culture of male entitlement.
It was the culture of the times…as Weinstein offers. At that time, sexism and sexual harassment at the office was sometimes invisible because it was so darn normal, the leering eyes, suggestive remarks and creepiness of male workers made sexual harassment a near daily ordeal faced by women in the workplace.
The recent sound of women cross cultural and cross generational exclaiming in unison “Me Too” on social media in response to the allegations against Harvey Weinstein has been deafening.
The voices may be especially loud from women of my generation many who may have kept these feelings buried for decades and can now give voice to their indignation.
For too long we choked on our outrage burying it deep like an underground missile laying dormant until this years news cycle filled with stories of sexual harassment against once powerful men have been brought down by harassment allegations, the anger and outrage can be released, recognized and heard.
The 1970’s was an exciting time to come of age as woman, as the rumblings of the women’s movement began to be heard. But even as women began entering the workforce in droves, taking baby steps in their platform shoes, their male colleagues still felt entitled to leer lasciviously under their polyester skirts as they slowly climbed the corporate ladder.
In 1976 I entered the workforce just at “that time,” landing briefly in a corporate office environment in New York City.
From the morning cacophony of catcalls on the streets as I made my way to my midtown office, fielding verbal harassment with the skill of an outfielder, and the day spent maneuvering around sexual innuendos and inappropriate touching at the office, to the day’s end of groping and unsolicited sexual behavior at the clubs at night, it was a pot pourie of 24/7 sexual harassment.
But it was so common it barely registered. It was the female experience.There were no repercussions, the worst a man could expect to be called was to be labeled a “Male Chauvinist Pig” and move on. More than likely he might even laugh.
And why not, the culture was complicit with his behavior.
In fact it was the stuff of great humor.
The world of businessmen objectifying and infantilizing women in the workplace and elsewhere, lascivious philandering and wild office parties was fodder for comics and cartoonists alike.
Misogyny was easily laughed off as office antics.
We’re not laughing anymore.
When Personnel Get Personal – Office Antics
Take a look at series of cartoons by cartoonist Mischa Richter from a January 1976 Penthouse magazine that are typical of its day. Entitled “Office Bash” it’s a look at what happens when personnel get personal.
Not a one of these cartoons would pass HR today.
That was the culture of the 1970’s. It really wasn’t acceptable then, its unforgivable now.
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