Thursday, May 18, 2017

#Thatsharassment A series of Sexual Harassment videos that need to be talked about

Today I'm going to do my best to tackle a hard subject, a most difficult one. But when the president of the most influential country in the western world brags about sexually assaulting women, maybe it’s time we had this conversation.

I am talking about sexual harassment and recommending that you watch six very short videos, part of a new campaign called #thatsharassment. 

Click here. Watch all six. 

I’ll wait. 

After I read this Parents Magazine article about these videos and watched them in their entirety, I felt I had to tell you about them. 

Film director Sigal Avin and actor David Schwimmer of Friends fame have produced these videos portraying what sexual harassment looks like in 2017. 

I had seen only the first half of the very first video, and already there were spiders under my skin. It was like I had crawled into the skin of that young women. Watching all of them, one right after the other, I needed a shower. It was like had I been thrust into each and every situation, and could remember what it felt like. Reading further into the article I was not surprised to learn that most women (not “some” women, or “a few” women, but “most” women) can identify.

I am an older woman now, and have gracefully and gratefully passed into the stage of “invisibility” mentioned by Margaret Trudeau in the book I recommended in my last blog post. (The Time of Your Life). There is a certain freedom in that. I no longer have to totally be on my guard.

But before we go on, let’s have a look at the videos in the order they are presented in the article.

In Video #1, it’s a young woman’s first day on the job at a bar. Her male co-worker is showing her all about how the men will come onto her—in graphic detail.

Video #2 has a woman who is some kind of a wardrobe or costume person for a famous movie star. She is naturally star-struck that day, and trying to do her best, until he reveals all to her.

In Video #3 we move to an office where a married boss comes on to a young, new female admin assistant.

Video #4  has a doctor “examining” a female patient.

In Video #5,  a young woman (Oh, she looks SO young) involved in a photoshoot of some kind, is asked to do some things she feels very uncomfortable with. In my opinion, this is the scariest one, because at the end, it cuts away to all of the people watching, all complicit in his instructions.

A woman journalist is interviewing a famous politician in Video #6. He asks her to turn off the tape, and then he tries to come on to her. But, she needs that interview. She needs that article.

I think what struck me about all of these were the subtleness of the suggestions. These were not lewd, greasy, horrid men, these appeared to be sort of nice guys. If it ended up being a “he-said she-said" in court they would probably win. And the women, all who want to keep their jobs, know this.

First there is the nervous laugh—women have that "nervous laugh" down pat, don't they? These same women probably went home thinking, “Did that really happen? No. Maybe it didn't." And then imperceptibly shoving the blame onto themselves.

In most of these videos it’s powerful men, and the women who work for them who “want to keep their jobs and so they must go along.” 

Sadly, in recent days we’ve seen this. The most recent fallout goes to Bill O'Reilly one of Fox News greatest assets. He lost his job after a number of women came forward to accuse him of doing just this.

And before him, Roger Ailes also of Fox News. And before him Bill Cosby.

But lest you think it's just a Fox News thing, or an American thing, and that we are who live in Canada are somehow immuned to this, may I remind you of Jian Ghomeshi, who was once the darling boy of CBC. As well, there have been long and ongoing investigations into sexual harassment in Canada’s military and RCMP

Yes, our military who are admired all over the world, as well as our RCMP.

"Is it okay?" the office boss in Video #3 continually asks. “It is okay? No hard feelings? We're okay? We're good?"

Nervous laugh. “It’s okay.”

“You sure it’s okay.” Sad voice. Contrite voice.

“It’s okay.”

"You sure?"

"It's okay."

No. It's not okay. 

I applaud Sigal Avin and David Schwimmer for tackling this project, and I would hope that these videos are shown in HR programs throughout the country. 

(Interesting sidebar: The man who brags about sexually assaulting women, complete with lewd x-rated language, gets elected president. The man he was talking to from Access Hollywood, gets fired. What's wrong with this picture?)

My one complaint with the videos? They are not Closed Captioned. They need to be.

Next Time: A look at hoarding, in a compelling new novel, The House We Grew Up In.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

No Rocking Chair Sitters Here

Today I am recommending Margaret Trudeau’s self-help/memoir The Time of Your Life: Choosing a Vibrant, Joyful Future. If her name sounds familiar to my readers south of the border, she is the mother of our current prime minister here in Canada and wife of a former prime minister.

Hand on my heart, I admit it—I am a Margaret Trudeau fan-girl. Forty-five years ago when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister, I married a Canadian and moved to this wonderful country. (I became a citizen ten years later). The country was vast and beautiful and unknowable, Pierre Trudeau was prime minister and his wife was the charming, spunky, oh so pretty and often misunderstood Margaret.

Because I was determined to be a well-rounded Canadian, I read all the novels of Margaret Laurence and Margaret Atwood and page by colorful page through the history books of Pierre Berton. (I also began to wonder if your name had to be either Margaret or Pierre to live in this country.) I was learning to love my new adopted country.

In 1976 on Haida Gwaii (known when I lived there as the Queen Charlotte Islands), I had the privilege of meeting Margaret Trudeau. My husband was a school teacher in Queen Charlotte City, and the prime minister was there to open the brand spanking new Haida museum.

Click on that aforementioned link and croll down until you get to Haida Gwaii Museum. On that day forty years ago, it didn’t look anything like it does in these pictures. I remember rickety folding tables outside laid with salmon and all sorts of food, Haida dancing, displays of Haida button blankets and mud. I remember lots of mud.

It was there that I met Margaret Trudeau. My baby daughter was fussing and I retreated away from the press of people and stood under a tree. It may have been raining slightly. A friend of mine came over and pointed, “That’s Margaret Trudeau over there. See her? Why don’t you go over and say hello?”

There she was. Standing alone. By herself.

I went over and we struck up the most wonderful conversation. She was friendly and kept going on about my beautiful little baby girl, and how she had sons, three of them, in fact (of course I already knew this) and how her youngest was with his grandma in Vancouver because he “has the sniffles.”

(Oh, and I must mention this here. All kinds of things were different back then. You could walk right up to important people without security keeping you away. Partway through the ceremony my husband hoisted Justin, our now prime minister, on his shoulders so he could see his dad better. I wish we had a picture. Sadly, we don’t. But, then again, maybe that’s a good thing!)

Since that meeting I have followed her through the years, her antics (which are legendary), her books, even her early ones, and of course, her mental health struggles. Because I had met her and she was so gracious to me, I was always prone to forgive her her many transgressions. I always stuck up for her.

Truth was, she wasn’t being difficult, she was battling bi-polar and depression. It wasn’t until later in life that she finally got a handle on this with medications and therapies that work. She now travels extensively through this country lecturing on mental health issues.

If you are interested in reading her personal story in its entirety, may I suggest Changing my Mind.

I was pleased to be able to meet her a second time this past fall when she came to my city to tell her story and speak about mental health.

In this blog are two photos. The first is of Margaret and me on Haida Gwaii back in 1976, and the second is of Margaret and me this past fall. My, how we both have changed from young mother hippies to serious women with lots of grandkids and lots of stories to tell.

But all of this is by way of introduction. Whew! 

My intention today is to recommend her latest book,  The Time of Your Life. If you are a baby boomer woman, especially a Canadian baby boomer woman, then this book is for you.

I found it to be uplifting, inspirational, funny and personal. I could relate on almost every level. The subtitle urges women to choose “a vibrant, joyful future” But we are women in our mid-sixties. We’re mostly retired now. Choosing a "vibrant joyful future" gets to be something you do in your twenties, maybe thirties, not your sixties, not your seventies, right?

Wrong, according to Trudeau. She calls on older women to “reinvent what it means to age.”

She begins the book by stating:

Women should prepare in their fifties for the rest of their lives. What we do today will affect how long we live, how healthy we will be where we will live, how much fun we will have, how solvent we will be.

She calls on women to “rediscover” their purpose. No sitting and rocking for us, she cites numerous stories of women who have found purpose in continuing to work at their careers well into their dotage, women who have found fulfillment in volunteering, in traveling and finding adventure and personal fulfillment in helping others across the globe. She also encourages us baby boomer women to take up new creative pursuits.

All through the book I thought of the quote which is attibuted to CS Lewis: “You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”

The book is full of many, many stories of older women who set new goals, dreamed new dreams.

One of my favorite sections was “embrace the freedom of invisibility.” And let’s face it, women "of a certain age" become unnoticed, invisible. Instead, of wringing our hands over that, we should embrace it. We can do more. We can do more good with nobody watching, nobody noticing. She calls on women to find the upside of “being invisible.”

Did you know that statistics state that women tend to become happier as they age? That’s in there, too.

Trudeau is not afraid to share personal stories, even very personal ones on her own older dating experiences.

There are chapters on health, housing, finances, and finally grief, for that is the one thing we know, or will come to know as we age - grief and letting go of loved ones. I loved that chapter very much, and I’m sure it’s one I will read over and over.

I will end with this Native American saying:

“No Wise Person ever wanted to be younger.”

NEXT TIME: a timely, serious topic, I will be exploring and recommending a series of sexual harassment videos #thatsharassment. Watch them here.