An Unexpected #MeToo Aftershock

Who among us hasn’t been touched, in some way, by the snowballing power of the #MeToo campaign that swept through our lives recently? It’s impact has been so great, it has been chosen as Time Magazine‘s cover for “Person of the Year.”

Time’s 2017 “Person of the Year” cover: The Silence Breakers

Here’s a paragraph from Time‘s cover story:

This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women. These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought.

“They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along.” I’d add two more.

First, I’ve had it with the idea that “boys will be boys.” Yes; it’s time  to make sure our boys are taught to be good human beings: accountable for their choices and their actions and their words, and respectful of others, even those with whom they disagree. It’s time for the boys to grow up.


Thanks to for the image

Second, I’m wondering if an experience I had a few weeks ago is one you can relate to — it has to do with being discounted when I happen to disagree. I’m not talking about being rude. I’m not even talking about needing to being right. I’m thinking only of holding a basic honest disagreement on whatever the topic at hand might be. And having my opinion acknowledged.

Do you express your disagreement easily? Readily? When you do, do you feel heard? Do you feel your opinion, even though different, is respected? Valued?

That’s what I’ve been chewing on these past few weeks. I had just gotten over a bad cold and had announced that fact to an acquaintance of mine who usually greets me with a hug. “I’ll not be hugging,” I told him and I explained why.

His reply? How troubling it was that he now had to be so careful whom he hugged. “I can’t just hug anyone anymore,” he complained to me.

“Actually,” I countered, “all you have to do is ask first. Hugs are still good.” He ignored that, repeating his earlier statement and this time adding that he was going to miss “touching.”

“No.” I said again. “Touching isn’t necessarily bad; it’s the power play that comes with it that’s the problem. It’s a problem of boundaries; of power.”

With that I sensed our conversation was over. He hurried off.

Perhaps he really did have to hurry off and it was simply an inelegant departure.  But I’ve kept wondering if this might instead be an example of something larger.

Is this a cultural issue or something attributed to the individual?  Is this a question for sociology or for psychology?

I posted the question to facebook and received a resounding vote in favor of culture.  Blacks, of course, have dealt with this for centuries in their dealings with whites; the disabled, with the able-bodied; the elderly, with the young; and on we go.

So I ask you:

What conversations have you had in which you felt discounted? How did you respond?  How do you explain it?  


Thanks to for the Willy Wonka image.


Here’s a holiday gift idea.

Have you checked out my Books page recently? With the holidays fast approaching, I hope you’ll consider a copy of At Home on the Kazakh Steppe.

14 Responses

  1. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    Good morning, Janet. I have seen some good memes recently aimed at guys like your acquaintance, but I can’t remember them right now. 🙂 Your answer was perfect. A friend of mine at the gym gave me a hug yesterday and asked if I was ok–he knew I had just had a colonoscopy. It was a brief, friendly hug from a friend –perfectly fine with me. But if he had been my boss, or it had been suggestive, or a power play with some kind of quid pro quo harassment, that would be different.

    How many women have not been felt discounted or disrespected at some point in the lives? I think I used to get it more when I was smaller and looked very young (because being cute and tiny obviously means you don’t have a brain), but I remember one time when there was a man who came to give us an estimate on some work in our basement. After he arrived and looked at the basement, he told me he couldn’t talk to me about it without my husband there. I lashed into him–told him I had a Ph.D. and had written a bunch of books, and I thought I probably could understood what he told me. He said it had nothing to do with that (“I have a wife and a mother, blah blah”) but he needed both people to agree. I don’t know why he couldn’t then give me plans to share with my husband. And somehow, I suspect, that if only Doug had been there, the man would have given him all the details. UGH UGH UGH
    Merril Smith recently posted…Bells of Light: #TankaMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I remember that story, Merril. It’s classic! You’ve reminded me of one of my short-lived career ventures was real estate. This was 1972. I had a single mother of two looking to buy a house and I enjoyed working with her. My boss (a woman, btw) told me to drop this client as she’d never get a mortgage. When I asked why, she just said because she’s single. “You need a man to get a bank loan.”

      I’d love to see those memes. I’m finding being able to laugh at some of this idiocy that’s finally surfaced is refreshing.

  2. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I think the results of the Alabama senatorial election speaks for itself. A headline I saw this morning implied that the women have spoken. Yay for them and women everywhere.

    About hugging: People in my circles practice what is called the “Christian hug.” I still hug men and they me by standing side by side with a shoulder embrace, no face to face contact. It may sound hokey, but that way friendship is communicated in a non-conFRONTational way. (Smile!)
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Grandma’s Bedroom and the Holy Family as RefugeesMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Marian,

      Oh my. I can think of a few men with whom I’d still not want a hug, even one of your safer “Christian” hugs, though I do love your play on words there. I actually never noticed how close I got below the belt (so to speak) with my really good huggers. I’ll have to pay attention next time. 🙂

  3. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    Nope, can’t think of any at the moment

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Well, you know where to find us when you do.

      Hugs to you, Susan.

  4. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — Believing that “What you allow is what will continue,” I have a zero-tolerance policy for disrespect—which includes being discounted. With that in mind, I nip disrespect to myself (or others if I’m around to see it) in the bud.

    I’m normally a sweet, loving, kind, and thoughtful person. But as anyone who knows me well will tell you, “You don’t want to see Laurie come unglued.” I can shift into “ballistic mode” in a nanosecond to call out someone who is being disrespectful or a bully.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…Unabashedly OptimisticMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh my. That is a side of you I didn’t find in your Note to Self book. “Formidable” comes to mind.

  5. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Yes – “boys will be boys” has long been a serious peeve of mine. I find it offensive, as if men somehow can’t control themselves. I’ve even seen it taken to the extreme of somehow being viewed as a virtue — i.e., as if promiscuity, infidelity, and predatory sexual behavior are somehow inherent in strong men or leaders. It’s frankly an affront not only to women, but to every guy in the world who’s ever remained faithful and kept his hands to himself.

    I’m sure I’ve felt disrespected at various times through the years, but for different reasons than those you’re addressing here, so I’ll simply see what others have to say and try to learn from their/your experiences. Best, T
    Tim Fearnside recently posted…The Other Men and Women Who Fought and Died for FreedomMy Profile

  6. Susan M. Taylor
    | Reply

    I expect many people are trying to figure out how to do things that seemed okay to them that have now been called into the limelight. Subtlety is often difficult for people. Black and white goes down easier. “Is this type of hug okay and if so for which person that I want to hug” is more complicated than “let’s just not hug.” We are going to have to help each other, be patient, and sensitive as you attempted with your friend.

    I have responded to “whataboutisms” with a feeling of being discounted. “Don’t you even want to discuss the merits of my statement? Do we have to go right to talking about what someone else did that is perhaps worse? Does that mean that my concern is invalid?” That does shut down a conversation for me.

    There is so much to talk about these days. So much. It is both thrilling and daunting.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      “Whataboutisms!” I love it, Susan. Thanks so much for adding your thoughts here.
      Your comment about needing to help each other through this time of great and dramatic change is, as you also say, thrilling and daunting.
      Janet Givens recently posted…An Unexpected #MeToo AftershockMy Profile

  7. Terry Bryan
    | Reply

    I had one of those “I need your husband here “ moments…my reply was that I would be paying the bill, but not to him…and by the way, there is no husband.
    He attempted an apology…too late.

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