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Column: Still progress to be made

“Professor Randall, you’re going to have to pay closer attention to your wife’s reading habits.”

I was watching an episode of one of my favorite television shows “Outlander,” and this sentence was spewed about the main character of the series, Claire. The scene was set in 1948 Boston in some dark, cigar-smoke filled study as Harvard professors “showed off” their wives for the dean of faculty (Claire’s husband has just transferred from Oxford in England).

Even though I know times were extremely different then, and it’s a television show, I found myself getting indignant on her behalf as the sexist middle-aged man glared at Claire for having an opinion on the upcoming election, Truman vs Dewey.

To give some context, Outlander is a period drama set both in 18th Century Scotland and 20th Century England/America following World War II. Claire, an English lady who was vacationing in Scotland, is an unwitting time traveler. She spent two seasons in the past and has returned to her own time in the current season. There is far more I could tell you about the show, but it would take days. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you check it out on Starz.

The character of Claire is one I truly admire. She is so well written. Her unique journey has put her in the middle of something greater than herself. In the 1700s, she rarely allowed herself to be excluded or ignored for being a woman. She proved herself useful many times.

So when viewers see her back in the 1940s and in a new country, it’s hard to watch her being scolded for nothing other than being a woman. She’s a progressive and a woman before her time in both settings (one quite literally).

I have always been drawn to strong, female characters. They push the boundaries on what is expected of them and never let anyone hold them back for something that is beyond their control.

Even as I watched Claire control herself in the scene as to not create problems for her husband, you could tell she wanted nothing more than to tell the old codger where he could go.

It made me thank the good Lord that times were different in my time.

But as I really started to think, the battle for women’s rights is never truly over. There seems to always be people who believe women are the lesser sex and talk down to them.

In the past several weeks, the treatment of women has been at the forefront of the nation’s conversation. It has shed light on what is and isn’t appropriate behavior toward a female.

I’m not just talking about physical harassment. Words and gestures can be just as damaging as actions. When men use suggestive language about women, some just scoff and say he was just “being a guy.” Well, I don’t believe that is an acceptable excuse. To those who believe it is, I think they need to look at themselves and consider the victim in this scenario.

Men who take advantage of any female are not “being a guy,” particularly those who use their position of power to do so. It is harassment. “Being a guy” shouldn’t include behavior that makes anyone feel threatened or uncomfortable. “Being a guy” should mean they are treating women with respect, not as an object.

We no longer live in a society that banishes woman to the kitchen. Women should have the courage to speak out against those who would treat them as an object rather than a person. Maybe it will change what “being a guy” really should mean.

Contact Pam Rodgers

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