Eila Jameson-Avey

Writer of stories about diversity.

Don’t accuse baby boomers of being uncourageous.

When I read E Quinn’s article in the TND on Gender Parity and giving women a voice, the highlighted text;

It’s this kind of courage we baby boomers would do well to emulate,

 demanded a response from another baby boomer.

I grew up during a time when wives were legally the possession of their husbands. As a young married woman, thanks to recently changed laws (no doubt due to a courageous ‘bb’), a bank employed me. No longer did being female and married equate to being unemployed. When I fell pregnant, it was shortly after legislation made it illegal to dismiss pregnant staff (thanks to more courageous ‘bb’s’). But unfortunately, there was no law denying pregnant staff promotions.

I still recall discussions had with male colleagues who questioned my right to remain employed when men were unemployed. After all, having children meant I didn’t require a career.

The 2020 World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Report ranks Australia 44th behind Laos and above Zambia. So, things haven’t changed too drastically in the employment arena. 

E Quinn claims that baby boomers don’t speak up against inappropriate behaviour. Unlike the followers of #metoo movement which started in 2006 and gained momentum in 2017 thanks to Harvey Weinstein. I disagree. The exposure of Jimmy Savile’s litany of abuses in 2011, led me to identify two groups of women. One group, who like me stood solidly behind the abused. Often, we were the unfortunate who had experienced mistreatment. And the other—women who were fortunate enough not to. 

Giving these women the benefit of ignorance, I undertook to educate my friends and colleagues. But my efforts were in vain, I couldn’t change their perception. I discovered another major difference in this second group. Whilst they stood by their beliefs that women coming forward years later were liars, attention seekers, or driven by revenge. They also admitted to being flattered when the boss slapped their backside or offered sexualised comments on their appearance.

What drives these women to deny claims of harassment and abuse? My research found covering up abuse claims historically and professionally common place. At the turn of the 20th Century, women who claimed abuse were classified as hysterics. In Judith Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery, she relates Freud’s findings:

‘Hysteria was so common among women that if his patients’ stories were true, and if his theory were correct, he would be forced to conclude that what he called “perverted acts against children” were endemic…’ this in 1896 was unacceptable and he ‘stopped listening to his female clients…’

The fallout of his research was so great that Freud stated:

‘accounts of childhood sexual abuse were untrue: “I was at last obliged to recognize that these scenes of seduction had never taken place, and that they were only fantasies which my patients had made up.”’

This belief continues to hold true today.

I agree with E Quinn – take a stand against abuse, speak up. The consequence means facing the offender — and that is courageous. But let’s not do it alone.

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