I cite quotes below by two outstanding women religious which stand in stark contrast with the ongoing current crisis erupting from decades of sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein followed by continuing revelations about Kevin Spacey, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, ETC., and preempted by the conversation between Billy Bush and then campaigner, now President Donald Trump.
In a better world than the one we live in, any performer coerced in this way . . . would feel free to speak up. But until shockingly recently, the outcome of doing so was entirely predictable: a woman who spoke up risked losing standing in her profession, or at the very least being labeled a whiner who didn’t know how to play the game. And the man in power would lose nothing. If anything, he’d just grow more powerful. (TIME,10.23.17)
Today, women’s brave voices target the abusive behavior of these men who believed they had the privilege and the right to conduct themselves in this manner. “Everyone was doing it.” True, it’s been a universal phenomenon; however, the role and status of women has changed. Women are speaking out, standing up, recognizing their own value and worth and, therefore, claiming their own power. The paradigm is shifting. Increasing numbers of men are recognizing this shift and some are accepting and welcoming the change.
Studies sponsored by both the UN and the World Health Organization make it undeniably clear that violence against women is a global problem of staggering proportion and urgency. .women are at risk both at home and in society, in intimate partnerships, the workplace and major institutions large and small.
Margaret Farley, RSM., Professor Emeritus of Christian Ethics, Yale University Divinity School
We know and identify ourselves as women in solidarity with other women. We experience this solidarity as we acknowledge the painful realization that all women in church and in society are colonized, that all women are patronized, that all women are viewed as objects; that all women are conditioned and expected to be complementary. We need to acknowledge this reality without a severe judgment on ourselves, our church, our society. The conviction that women are called by nature and by grace to be significant primary agents of change in all aspects of church and society is a radical new insight not yet fully appreciated.
Teresa Kane, RSM
Historically, a watershed moment occurred in 1991; a significant year in the historical development of sexual harassment and sexual assault – The Anita Hill Hearings! Clarence Thomas was a nominee for Supreme Court Justice of the United States. The Senate Confirmation Hearing was broadcast live featuring an all-white male cast as jurors.
At the time I was coordinating the Intercommunity Justice & Peace Center situated in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati. Many women – both black and white – immersed themselves in viewing the event followed by ongoing dynamic conversations. One elderly African-American Woman – Vivian Kenibrew – made, distributed and multiplied buttons which proclaimed “I Believe Anita!” The message was seen everywhere! The country’s attention held fast throughout. Clarence Thomas was confirmed. Yet, sexual harassment became a word in our lexicon. THANK YOU, ANITA!
So, all of this portends and demonstrates a paradigm shift. What does this mean? It’s a change from one way of thinking to another. It’s a revolution, a transformation, a sort of metamorphosis. It does not just happen, but rather it is driven by agents of change. Such shifts represent a change in the “rules we live by”. Potentially, this shift can result in institutional change and influence the roles and relationships of women and men. The social and economic power dynamics reflected in male/female relationships have been shifting a loooong time. It didn’t just happen!
In light of this reality, I conclude with one practical step offered by Gretchen Carlson, the woman who outed Roger Ailes. She is announcing the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative. A GCLI grant will fund multiday programming in nine cities, bringing women’s civic leadership training to thousands of underserved women, with a focus on empowering survivors of gender-based violence, discrimination, and harassment. The program will be free.
For an introduction watch this 2.14-minute video with Gretchen Carlson.