The latter half of 2017 will be remembered as the time that women all over the globe drew a line in the sand.
No longer will sexual harassment be endured silently. No longer will abusers operate with impunity. No longer will men dominate discussion and decision-making in boardrooms, capitol buildings and households across the country. And no longer will the people who hear these stories demean the accusers, and pick through their lives like vultures in search of rotten meat.
Everyone in this country remains innocent until proven guilty. But the onus is now on those who have been accused of heinous acts — accused by people with nothing to gain but to bring some sense of justice.
It’s an admirable, dangerous time.
Beware the court of public opinion. And beware a moral flattening — where years of predatory behavior require the same punishment as a poor choice of words or a momentary lapse. Or a thoroughly reported article is given the same weight as a Twitter accusation.
The sword is coming for people we admire for their art, or athletic prowess, or their control of a corporate boardroom, or for their political views that mesh so well with our own.
Beware then, too, the desire make sexual assault and harassment just another partisan division. Find no additional joy from the demise of an enemy, and do not give those who you admire unfair protection from claims of abuse. That’s how this issue became so prevalent and so powerful in the first place.
Politics certainly did play a part in the arrival of this moment. Donald Trump’s electoral victory, despite his deeply problematic relationships with women and his televised brags of sexual assault, helped usher in this age. Charlotte Alter of Time magazine wrote during the campaign that “the 2016 election was a referendum on what women could achieve and what men could get away with.”
A majority of Americans will no longer stand by the results of that referendum, and want immediate action to remedy the situation. The 2.6 million-strong Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration put the pressure on.
That movement wasn’t just about sexual harassment and assault. It’s ultimately about a fair society in which all viewpoints are considered, and women are not held back when they choose not to play games with powerful men.
And that has made us look at our own backyard.
Clatsop County shows real strength in terms of female representation in many political positions. Four of our five county commissioners are women. Astoria’s mayor is a woman, as are two of the four city councilors. Two of Seaside six councilors are women. In Gearhart, the council has two women and two men. Cannon Beach and Warrenton each have one woman councilor. Our legislators are women, led by the esteemed state Sen. Betsy Johnson. All three Circuit Court judges are women. Our U.S. representative is a woman. Of major public bodies, only the Port of Astoria lacks female representation — perhaps an artifact of its traditional role in bolstering heavy industry.
All this is in sharp contrast to northeastern Oregon, where our sister publication the East Oregonian counts little female leadership in top positions. No woman has ever represented Eastern Oregon in the statehouse. Oregon has only elected one female U.S. senator in its history. And with the exception of our local Suzanne Bonamici, all of Oregon’s current representatives in the U.S. House are men.
Northwestern Oregon — and particularly Clatsop County — can take pride in our record of gender equality in elective offices. Women also are well represented here in private industry.
Does this mean we can declare local victory? Certainly not, because the victories of today must constantly be defended by women and men alike. It is certain that women have played a large role in Clatsop County’s economic successes in recent years, along with our balanced approach to a host of social issues. As our colleagues in Pendleton noted last week, if only half of our population makes important decisions, those decisions are bound to be half as good. Clatsop County is made much stronger by welcoming women at every level of leadership and society.
On the state and national levels, we must do better. There is little semblance of equality. Women across the political spectrum should demand their rightful power and take it.