ME TOO and feminism

Charlie Danaher's Daily Camera essay about feminism's role in the recent flood of sexual harassment claims was interesting, to say the least. He suggests that there has been an increase in the amount of sexual harassment women have experienced between the 1940s and now. He goes on to suggest that this alleged increase is the result of the advent of birth control, abortion, feminism and the sexual revolution. He harkens back to the '40s as a time when women waited for marriage to have sex. They were cherished and protected by their husbands and families stayed together no matter what.

That got me thinking about my own family. My grandmother, Adeline Owens, was a smart, tough, Irish Catholic woman. For some reason, she had difficulty finding a husband. It's possible she didn't want one, but that wasn't an option. Facing down spinsterhood, at age 30 she married her much older second cousin. He probably had some fine qualities, but he was not a nice man. He bullied her and controlled her. When he died, Adeline knew she did not want to be "cherished" like that ever again. She was a widow for 40 years, traveling, entertaining and enjoying her life. She would never have called herself a feminist, but she knew how to take care of herself.

My mother was also a tough, smart woman. She told us the story of her first sexual encounter. She was date-raped by a schoolmate at around age 16. Her message to us was put it aside and move on. Otherwise they get you twice. She never spoke of it to anyone at the time. Rape happened in the '40s even without feminism's corrupting influence. You just had to take it like a woman.

Her father didn't see any reason for her to go to college. He got to decide. After high school, she dabbled in modeling and worked briefly as an airline stewardess (that's what they called them back then). She was having the time of her life. She met my father at a party one night. A few months later they got married. My oldest sister was born a few months after that. It turns out unmarried people were having sex before feminism and the sexual revolution. Pregnancy meant there was no choice except to get married.

We lived in suburbia. The dads took the train to work and the moms stayed home with the kids. My father slept in the city some nights. We later learned he had a lot of affairs. I wonder if his former secretary is having a "Me Too" moment right now. Our neighbors the Cavenaughs were a nice Catholic family, except the dad was kind of violent with his wife. He also fondled my sister one night. She didn't tell us until much later.

Five children and 19 years later, my parents divorced. My mother did become a feminist. She participated in the sexual revolution, burned her bra and marched on Washington. She used birth control. She and my father made sure all of us kids were well educated and equipped to take care of ourselves. We went to Planned Parenthood and got on the pill before we were sexually active.

Feminism didn't turn men into harassers. It paved the way for women to achieve the goals they set for themselves. Women today are commanding respect for their intellect, their business acumen, their athletic power and so many other things. We aren't going back, we are charging forward. Cherish that!