THE COUNTRY IS at a defining moment. Somewhere close to half of all voters will cast a ballot for the nation’s first female president. Many of the rest will choose the most misogynistic presidential candidate in modern American history. There is a depressing irony in the fact it was that Republican candidate himself who reminded everyone that there are plenty of men in power who use that power to demean, denigrate, and demoralize women.
About a month ago, just after the release of a tape in which Donald Trump boasted of sexually assaulting women, Canadian author Kelly Oxford issued a call to action with a single tweet: “Women: tweet me your first assaults. They aren’t just stats. I’ll go first. Old man on city bus grabs my ‘pussy’ and smiles at me. I’m 12.”
By the end of the weekend more than 40 million people had visited Oxford’s Twitter page. “Honestly, I think we’ve all talked about these things in private,” she says. “Trump just took the conversation to a place where everyone heard it and could discuss on Twitter. There has never been anything like that before.”
In the weeks since, people have shared stories in Facebook posts, through Medium posts, and on Instagram and Snapchat. Two weeks ago, WIRED asked readers to share their stories of workplace harassment. We received close to 100 emails. We read them all, and found them thoughtful, detailed, and heartbreaking. Readers barely into their teens told us about demeaning comments, inappropriate behavior, and sexual assault by their superiors. A woman in her 60s said she’d endured harassment for more than half her life. Men, too, told harrowing stories of harassment.
“You look good on your knees. That’s a good position for you.”
Instead he drove me to an empty car park and put his hand up my skirt.
She replied, “I think you brought it on yourself by asking them to stop. I won’t ask them to stop being guys.”
These things happened to lawyers and construction workers, waitresses and doctors, people in tech and people in HR. What Trump has helped make stark and clear is that beyond the rampant harassment of women online, this quiet and pretty damn widespread thing has been happening IRL for a very long time.
He said, “Do you think I hired you because you’re smart?”
“You like your health insurance? Don’t you?” my boss asked. I nodded. “Don’t I take good care of you?”
“He would stand in the doorway, so there was no way for me to get past him without physical contact no matter how I tried or asked him to move.”
As we wrote in our call for stories, borrowing from the Silicon Valley ethos of letting information be free, WIRED believes shining a light on a festering topic like this can go a long way toward ensuring that the future for women is an optimistic one.
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