Archive for the ‘structural power’ Tag


I’m finally up and running, so to speak, ready to fulfil my intention of apologizing for my absence and beginning to share my report of a fabulous trip to India and Nepal.

And yes, I do apologize to all who have hoped for and expected a response from me at the various sites to which I’m connected. I did indeed take an almost total vacation from all that as I enjoyed a life changing, life-enhancing trip to India and Nepal.

But something more urgent has come up that I need to comment on. I am both sickened and heartened by the tsunami of reports on sexual harassment. Maybe this time we’ll leap toward a more respectful culture.

I hope, though, that we won’t allow ourselves to think these things are going on only among certain groups of powerful people. This time, maybe we’ll be able to push our awareness back to the source – at least as far back as Junior High.

Maybe you’ll respond by telling me I’m lost in old fashioned issues that no longer prevail. If that’s true, then I’ll take some belated credit for the work we did in the women’s studies programs back in the 70s.

Let me explain by telling a couple of stories.

There was the day when a student in the back of the class asked me to define “rape.” “It’s whatever you do after she says ‘no,’” I said, always preferring the short, provocative answer. “Then I guess there’s a lot of rape going on in the High School parking lot on Friday nights,” he sneered, to affirming giggles of those around him.

I know he wasn’t far from wrong. I know the culture reflected in my own behavior at my 35th high school reunion when we were greeting each other with friendly and respectful shared kisses until one classmate thrust his tongue into my mouth. I didn’t go “Ugh, gag, gross!, ichy.” No, I discreetly wiped my mouth and went on with the conversation – couldn’t hurt his feelings and make a scene, you know.

Or the colleague celebrating his promotion who came into my office, closed the door, and grabbed my breast. Gently, so as not to embarrass him (It was a stupid thing to do, after all) I removed his hands and proceeded with conversation.

In neither of those cases did the offender have any kind of structural power over me. It was culture at work.

Just as it probably was at the same time with the teenage girl in the high school parking lot uncomfortably accepting the guilt when her date complained about her teasing. “You can’t stop now after you got me all worked up.”

The writer’s rule is “show, don’t tell.” But I’ll bet we could have a great go-round discussing the complexities involved in those stories.

Now, as they used to say on SNL, “Discuss among yourselves.”

My hope is that today’s issues will promote another leap forward in the honoring of respect and honesty.

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