On Nov. 26 President Trump tweeted that he had turned down the "offer" to be Time magazine's Person of the Year for the second year in a row.
Long-term readers of this publication may recall that Time was one of its prototypes. What this community needed in 1990, we thought, was a regional newspaper that A) told the truth and B) put on its cover every week a topic or person that deserved good, in-depth journalism. Our first cover? A profile of newly elected Eureka Mayor Nancy Flemming, who had just beaten four male rivals to win in the primary. She didn't even need a run-off. Last week? News Editor Thadeus Greenson's terrific report on the pesticide failure rate for cannabis tested in labs throughout the state. If you're smoking the product, the failure rate for lab-tested cannabis is somewhere between 20 to 60 percent. That story took months of work on Thad's part and not a small investment by the Journal to get our own lab tests done on locally available soil samples.
But back to Trump and 2017, a year most of us would like to forget. The same week that Trump was bloviating about the cover of Time, the magazine released a list of finalists for the honor and on it was the hashtag #metoo. I immediately told the person next to me (my husband) that #metoo would win, no question. (Then he asked me what #metoo was.)
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill wrote on this topic in the Journal in early November. Jenn, our delightfully sarcastic arts and features editor, showed some sympathy for men today trying to understand what all the fuss is about. How sarcastic? All these women coming forward accusing men of bad behavior "resulted in not just a brief news cycle of pearl clutching but a radical rethinking of American society. Overnight we were prioritizing women's safety and well-being over men's God-given rights to casual sexism, predatory behavior and semi-nude massages at the office. Frankly, nobody saw it coming."
Her advice to men: "Theoretically, you could simply avoid groping, coercing and assaulting coworkers." (She's hilarious. It's definitely worth a second read: "A Men's Guide to Surviving a Sexual Harassment Witch Hunt," Nov. 9.)
But Jenn is close to half my age. For girlfriends over 50, 60 and especially over 70 — those of us who came of age during the real Mad Men era — it's harder to laugh. I've been lucky my entire life in that, unlike some women I know, I was never raped. But being a victim of all the other cringe-worthy stuff? Absolutely, #metoo. Everyone my age has her own stories. Mine start with my first job at 17 as a secretary for the U.S. government. (The perp wasn't my superior, someone who had power to hire/fire me. He was the janitor. And no, I never told anyone. I just learned never to work overtime when everyone else had left for the day.) And hey you, Humboldt State University professor in the late 1970s who was not my husband: Not OK to kiss me hello with a wet, sloppy attempt to stick your tongue down my throat while grabbing my breast.
I do feel sympathy for all the decent men in the world who don't behave like this. They may be shocked, too, to learn how pervasive this behavior has been. But this discussion needs to continue beyond the current news cycle. Last week a man I absolutely trust told me what he had just observed in a very busy doctor's office: The elderly physician casually came up behind a young female employee and started massaging her neck.
Let's hope for a better 2018.