As a newspaper journalist, I felt it was important to keep my biases under wraps. I didn’t want the public to know how I felt about controversial topics because I wanted readers to trust my ability to provide unbiased reporting. Now that I no longer work in the news business, however, I’m free to speak my mind. An experience this past weekend made it clear to me that now is the time.
While visiting our daughter in Philadelphia, my family and I decided to explore the Old City and see the Liberty Bell. I joined the mob of people in front of the bell, most of whom were there to take selfies. When several people got done taking their selfies at about the same time, I took advantage of the clearing and stepped up to the rope for my own photos. I shot 12 frames on burst on my DSLR (read: professional quality) camera. For those of you who don’t know what that means, “burst” is a setting that allows my camera to shoot one photo after the other in rapid succession. I would estimate shooting those 12 frames took me a maximum of 20 seconds.
While I was shooting, I felt someone make body contact. It was a man to my left who was turned around the other way to get a selfie with a group of other people. But this wasn’t just a case of close quarters. There was no one to my right and, as the man leaned into my body, he pushed harder with each passing moment. Realizing this was, in fact, an attack, I flexed my leg muscles to keep from being knocked off balance. Despite my resolve, however, he finally leaned into me hard enough to knock me off balance.
I’m no pushover, literally, so I pushed back and knocked him off balance.
“Oh, am I in your way while you’re trying to take a picture?” he asked, sarcasm dripping from his lips.
“If you will just give me a minute, I’ll get out of your way,” I said.
He attempted to escalate the confrontation, making fun of me for taking too many pictures (despite the fact that I can shoot 12 frames on burst with my real camera faster than he can shoot two photos with his cell phone). Despite the fact that there was no official or unofficial line, he accused me of cutting and called me names.
Fortunately, I got away unscathed — physically anyway. The incident upset me, however, in part because it was blatant sexism. Now, before you say this had nothing to do with gender, think about this: Would this man, anyone, push another man out of the way? Of course not. I was fair game because I was a woman and without my family members right beside me, it appeared I was alone. This man used his body — his larger size and strength — in an attempt to force me to become submissive and bend to his will. That’s pure sexism.
Sexism has been around for centuries, probably since the beginning of time. As a child, I had the naive view that society was gradually but steadily moving in the right direction. Women of the 20th century had it better than their predecessors in the previous century and I was certain things would only move forward in the 21st.
Enter #45. Progress has not only slowed and stopped, it has reversed. Since he entered the political scene, his bad behavior has given license for racists and misogynists to come out of the closet and express their hate and disrespect openly. The rights of women, people of color, the LGBT community and anyone who’s not a Christian are being eroded.
I believe the behavior of the man at the Liberty Bell is connected to the behavior of our current president. Let’s not forget that we’ve heard recordings of #45 bragging about grabbing women by the genitals. He has never apologized or attempted to explain his behavior. He thinks it’s OK because he’s rich and powerful. And that is but one example of his leading by poor example.
Fighting this is not going to be easy. We must speak up not only about #45’s bad behavior but the bad behavior of others who now think discrimination and mockery are acceptable. I know many who will argue my assault and the discriminatory behavior of others has nothing to do with #45. That’s fine. We don’t have to argue that point — doing so will only take attention away from the real issue — the fact that such behavior is exists, is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. To stand by and allow it to happen is tacit approval and, in my book, tacit approval is as good as guilt.