Sometimes, it feels like waking up is the hardest thing to do. Trying to force yourself out of a comfy bed and wiping away the sleep from your eyes can be painful, but necessary to start your day. The same can be said to make a change in the world. You need to wake up, get out of your comfort zone and wipe away the clouds from your eyes.
Righ now, we live in a time of empowerment, surrounded by a bubble of people that support our causes and fight our same battles. In recent months we have awoken to battle cries of #MeToo and #TimesUp, rallies for the underserved, abused and silenced. Progress is being made.
March 8 was International Women’s Day - a celebration in part of the accomplishments of women throughout history – but it has also been used a rallying cry to fight for women’s rights. This year hundreds protested across the world, in Span and Japan, for the rights of women, for equal pay and for equality. The fight is strong and vast.
But, the abuse and harassment of women continues to happen every day. That includes right here in Prince George’s County, and it’s time to stop pretending.
Prince George’s County could elect its very first woman to county executive, but it also has the opportunity to elect abusers, harassers, and lawbreakers to the highest offices. And we have elected officials who are supporting and funding these campaigns while claiming to fight for women’s issues and equity.
How is morally possible to both claim to celebrate and elevate women while allowing abusers to continue to work in the government, simply because they are good at their job? Saying you did not know about an abuse caused by an employee is not a valid reason to continue employing and supporting them.
At the same time, the president of our country was elected to the highest office despite his infamous remarks about how he has treated women and has since defended a man who abused his former spouse.
Insiders need to stop protecting known predators. Giving them more power will not help them see the light. It’s time to stop pretending.
But that is not to say that Prince George’s County and Maryland are not making advances.
The county council is made of a majority of women as is the board of education. There are women leading and achieving in leadership positions throughout the state: the county’s state’s attorney, the superintendent of Maryland schools, mayors, delegates and more. But those women face questions and hardships their male counterparts do not have to answer to or account for. Women lose out on jobs because they are “too naive,” “too forward,” or because they want to start a family someday. They fear speaking out for themselves in times of injustices, just to be labeled as uncooperative, unlikeable and moody or be told they have bad interpersonal skills. Or worse, they will not be believed.
And we fail ourselves when we do not come to the defense of our female coworkers – when we write it off as one-time-thing or something that is simply “not my problem.”
It’s time to stop pretending.
Annapolis has been in turmoil lately over this very issue. The state house has been likened to a frat house with multiple cases of alleged sexual harassment circumstances and sexual assault. Women leaders have been telling their stories and pushing for change, only to be undermined by a letter claiming things are not as bad as they seem.
Prince George’s County’s own Del. Angela Angel told a legislative panel on March 5 that she herself had been grabbed and accosted in front of colleagues and no one came to her aid. She said she realized that she was her “only protector in the House.”
If our own politicians cannot be bothered to help one another, what does that say about their drive to protect us?
It’s time for women to not only stand up for themselves but for others around them. Ignoring harassment, mistreatment or abuse around you allows the abuse to continue. You become an accomplice. It takes the power of an individual to stand up and fight the small injustices.
The marches and the chants and the rallies worldwide bring attention to the issues, but they will not solve the injustices in your workplace, in your circle. It's up to you to speak up, to defend your friends and neighbors and be an informed voter.
It’s time to stop pretending that we do not, each, have a role to play in defending women.