Wednesday wanderings and walkabouts

With the no specific topic in mind, let’s put on our hiking shoes on this cool fall day and wander outside. Our Australian friends have a more earnest term of “walkabout,” so let’s walkabout and ponder as we stroll through a forest or path hopefully with a friend, given the stories below. If your significant other cares to join you, even better. Holding hands is optional but recommended.

In no particular order, here are a few items to ponder.

One of the things I have discovered is politicians and their staff members really like it when you call them and thank them for positive or courageous actions. Representative Nancy Mace, a South Carolina Republican, is getting flak from a member of her tribe for calling said person out for bigoted and mean-spirited remarks toward another congressional representative. I called and complimented Mace on doing the right thing and her political courage. We need more of that in Congress and in her party and less of the mean-spirited name calling and bullying.

I read yesterday the North Carolina School of the Arts, a high school for talented young artists, has now increased the number of plaintiffs to 41 accusing the school of allowing sexual misconduct occur. This school has failed to learn the lesson that groups like the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, Penn State University, Michigan State University, US Women’s Gymnastics, Ohio State University, the US Military, et al. have failed to learn. The victims, not the institutional brand, matter the most. And, by focusing on the victims and bringing the alleged predators to justice, the institutional brand will actually be helped not harmed. Doing the right thing matters.

Unfortunately, I am aware of a couple of folks I know who have been victims of sexual assault. It makes you angry that this can happen. My advice to any person on a college campus or in a large organization, if you are sexually assaulted, do not go to the campus or security officials of the organization Call the police. You will be better served if you go to an entity that is not involved with the institution who will try to protects its brand first and foremost. As for college students, I would suggest young women not let anyone handle their drink, drink judicially and go to parties with a friend. Be in control of your destiny. When testosterone, alcohol and groups are mixed together, a woman’s best interest may not be top of mind.

Putting these stories together, I admire courageous and egalitarian leaders, especially women who exhibit these traits in the face of more adversity than a man faces. I also believe women must be extra vigilant in a world that continues to prey upon them. There are too many men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes et al out there who have used their positions of power to force themselves on women, whether it is a major retail store manager or a plant manager in a small town. These local managers who prey on women workers are far more prevalent as they control the hiring and scheduling.

It is hard, but it can be done. And, it may affect your income, which makes it harder. Women should not let any man or woman in power take advantage of them or others. I saw two stories this weekend on CBS Sunday Morning News that are telling. The actress Rita Moreno says she was raped by her agent when she was a teenager. Back in the early 1950s, she said she had no voice as a young Latina American and no one would do anything about it, so she did not even try. The other story is of the rock-n-roll singer Pat Benatar who said radio people in the early 1980s said if she slept with them her record would get played. She told them to go screw themselves.

We cannot expect all women to be as feisty as Pat Benatar and many still feel constrained like Rita Moreno did as a Latina American, but we men and women should be advocates for all women who are being pressured. And, we should applaud courage when we see it, whether it is political or personal courage.

A Call to Action – another book on the maltreatment of women and girls

Yesterday, I provided a reprise of a post on the book “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn about the global maltreatment of women and girls. This difficult read speaks of how women and girls are treated as second class citizens or even possession in many parts of the world.

An additional book worth reading on this subject is penned by former President Jimmy Carter called “A Call to Action.” It leverages further the work of Kristof and WuDunn, but brings the arguments home to America as well as speaking to the global problem.

While we are still only beginning to give notoriety to sexual abuse in the US military and on our college campuses after long ignoring the problems, while we are finally highlighting the impact and prevalence of domestic violence toward women that occurs in our society, we are still largely unaware that we have a non-inconsequential sex trafficking industry within America. We have sex slaves being brought in from other countries in addition to the women stolen from within our own communities.

I have read Carter’s book as well and find his arguments and anecdotes compelling. It is also a difficult, but must read. Carter has been one of the best ex-Presidents we have ever had. He has done more good for humanitarian causes and his voice is a powerful one and full of substance. We should heed his, Kristof and WuDunn’s messages and begin to better address the maltreatment of women.

And, since Carter is one of the more learned people about the Christian bible having taught Sunday school for many decades, he offers many good examples of how religious text can be taken out of context to diminish women. This is not restricted to the bible as other religious texts have been similar misapplied. It is obvious from the reading Carter is offended by such, as he sees the role of women in the church as a key. My family was no different, as my mother was the religious leader in the family who got us up and to church for both Sunday school and the service.

Our world and country need stronger positioning of women. I am delighted to see more women running for office in the US. At long last, the US has a female Vice-President. And, what I am also witnessing is the more courageous politicians are not necessarily the men. The example of Liz Cheney is a good one as she stood her ground in the eyes of death threats from people in her own party. I will never forget ten female Senators in 2013 told Ted Cruz and other male Senators at impasse to get out of the pool at the very last minute to avoid the US defaulting on its debts.

Women have made huge strides, but why are too many still being raped and harassed?

Two different stories this week frame an important issue. First, I read an article that said 15% of undergraduate women who attended the University of Texas at Austin had been raped. That is appalling.

Second, Bill O’Reilly has been re-signed under another Fox contract. This is after a story of five settlements of sexual harassment claims were unearthed by The New York Times. It should be noted the network who signed him let go Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, for similar sexual harassment issues, but felt so badly they did not do it for “cause” and he was punished with a $38 million go-away settlement. Since O’Reilly has a following, his sexual harassment must be less relevant to the network.

These two stories come on the heels of the US Marine Corp sexual harassment scandal and the Baylor University football team rape scandal through a hostess recruiting program for players. And, we should not forget our President has admitted on at least two occasions that he sexually harassed or assaulted women because of his celebrity and power.

Women and girls are maltreated around the globe. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s powerful book “Half the Sky” graphically describes sexual slavery,  trafficking, mutilation, domestic violence, rape and second class citizen treatment. But, we have sexual slavery, trafficking, domestic violence, rape and harassment here in the Western world, too. Former President Jimmy Carter wrote of this in his book “A Call to Action,” which is an excellent follow up to the Kristof/ WuDunn book.

Western women have made huge strides in gaining more opportunity, yet the level of sexual maltreatment has seemingly risen. Perhaps, it is due to more rapes and harassment being reported. Or, maybe it is  due to women being framed as sexual objects though advertising, marketing and entertainment media. Sexual harassment and rapes continue to be a huge problem for the military (even before the Marine scandal) and college campuses.

What do we do about this? We need to say very loudly this is not right. We need to  come down hard on leaders and institutions who have looked the other way. We need to vote with our feet and not attend universities who don’t have their act together.

We should not vote for politicians who have maltreated women. I am still stunned that our President was elected after more of his sexual harassment was revealed. In my view, there were several reasons not to vote for him, but how could anyone do so after the Howard Stern interview and Access Hollywood tape became public?

To lessen this maltreatment, it has to have more than women’s voices behind the effort. All of us need to stand up to people and organizations that maltreat women or look the other way. Women hold up “half the sky,” so we all benefit by treating women like we want to be treated.