John Lennon had already said it back in the last century. And when earlier this year Jimmy Fallon converted Bob Dylan’s old 1964 lyrics into a 2018 message “Your silence speaks louder than those who condone,” Trinidad and Tobago, you needed to be listening; Messrs Lennon and Fallon/Dylan were speaking to you!
There have unsurprisingly been rampant comments behind hands, behind closed doors and out of the corners of mouths about who slept their way to the top and with whom. But “muted” would be an accurate description of T&T’s response to the rash of unprecedented disclosures spawned by the rapid spread of the #metoo movement, which can now accurately be said to be international. Adjust the context and we can call it the economics of consent.
Given the size of our country, the ambiguity of the collective response is understandable. The culture of open secrets which negatively impact women’s opportunities for professional advancement is also a contributory factor. Who, after all, would be so crazy as to say #metoo or to name the perpetrator(s)?
Reference what happened in the Angostura case: in 2016, a woman accused an executive of sexual harassment; she has since been fired and the matter is still unresolved. Despite having women well placed in their hierarchy, Angostura Limited has demonstrated an amazing level of duplicity.
On the one hand, you look at the establishment and see women in management; on the other hand, the company has no sexual harassment policy in place so when the senior executive was inspired to call out the then Chairman, her only option was to use the “Whistleblower” policy, which is totally inadequate for dealing with issues of sexual harassment.
It needs to be said that this duplicity is apparently fully supported by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, which appointed the chairman and has to date spent TT$3.5m to defend him against the sexual harassment charges.
The male decision makers in the instant case all have wives, sisters and daughters, yet they seem oblivious to the fact that there is a good chance that either their wife, mother, sister or daughter will someday be sexually harassed. If the current status remains quo, she would have to take the harassment and shut up. How’s that for irony?
North American data say that one in four women is sexually harassed in the workplace. Why do we think that the data would be different for us? The ratio is likely to be higher in our case but we have no empirical data to tell us. For us, sexual harassment is, at worst, “bad skylark” and is not to be taken seriously lest it negatively impact our culture of great camaraderie and whappen-yuh-cyar-take-a-joke-nowism.
Well, my considered view is that it is high time we women changed our responses. It is high time we tell the men unambiguously that their inappropriate overtures are emphatically unwelcome.
I don’t appreciate your comment about how sweet I am looking this morning. Well-dressed is acceptable; “sweet” is offensive.
I don’t want you to “feel up” my hand; I’m comfortable with your shaking my hand the way you would when presenting me with the Employee of the Year award at the annual function.
I am disgusted by your catcalls! Pssssst, mister, has it ever occurred to you to wonder why they call them ‘catcalls’?
I find your focus on my breasts repulsive! Please hold my gaze instead of staring at my breasts.
In the updated version of Dylan’s “The times they are a-changing” Fallon sang on his late-night show, he included these words: “Time’s up, our silence we’re breaking.”
And yes, time’s up. It is high time, ladies, we break our silence. It is high time we tell them that doing the right thing is not simply respecting us, it is also protecting their wives and daughters from sexual harassment. Ditto encouraging the locker room talk with the other guys about what “it” was like with so-and-so.
Frankly, sir, young man, brother, I’d like it if you spoke out against sexual harassment, if you came out in strong condemnation of it. But I stop short of asking you so to do.
What I do ask is that you make a solemn pledge to yourself not to use your position of power and influence to gain sexual favours.
Do that and you would certainly gain the respect from most of the women I know.
And, it goes without saying, from #metoo.
Not condemning, just commenting.