Editorial: The Year of Speaking Truth to Power

Rosie the Riveter’s heirs are insisting on safe, adult workspaces

We wish someone other than Time magazine had grabbed the mantle of naming a “Person of the Year.”

 

For one thing, we’ve never agreed that it’s not an honor, as Time tries to argue – explaining that it awards the designation to the person who has made the greatest difference in the world that year, for good or ill.

It has led the editors there to have incongruously and disgustingly selected such world-class reprobates as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

Were it up to The Chronicle to decide, we’d nominate the American woman as Person of the Year for 2017.

And we just might bring back Rosie the Riveter as her symbol – an image that, decades after representing women who flooded factories to help win World War II, still projects power, poise and pluck.

She’s needed all of that this year: 2017 has been the year of women speaking truth to power.

This week, public broadcasting icon Garrison Keillor was fired by Minnesota Public Radio, while NBC’s mighty Today Show anchor Matt Lauer joined him as the latest institutional sequoias to topple. Lauer was unceremoniously axed after a quarter century of national prominence, following a “detailed” complaint against him regarding inappropriate sexual behavior at the network – which said it had “reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

The New York Times was said to have been preparing a story on his alleged antics.

“It doesn’t actually get bigger, in our business, than Matt Lauer,” a stunned CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota said on air Wednesday morning.

The shocking firing comes barely a week after CBS’ morning show lost co-anchor Charlie Rose in a similar fashion.

More than 70 years after Rosie the Riveter, it’s simply unbelievable that so many men, so many powerful men, are having such a difficult time adjusting to women being in the workplace.

Working women have enough problems to deal with without having to fend off unwanted advances and barnyard behavior at the office. While they comprise some 47 percent of entry-level employees – and have led men in college degrees for three decades – they form only a fraction of upper management.

Together with often raising children, they’re juggling plenty without having to fight off clowns.

Lauer’s “heartbroken” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie called his termination part of a national reckoning, and indeed it is. The year has been defined by it, and American society has been refashioned by it, all with the speed of a windswept wildfire, ever since incendiary reports broke in October of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s many and sordid abuses and assaults.

Again, how could this have taken so long – not just three-quarters of a century since women helped the war effort, but a quarter century after Anita Hill and Monica Lewinsky?

In truth, the American woman’s reinvigorated voice has reached well beyond our shores this fall. French President Emmanuel Macron had campaigned on gender equality and sexual politics early this year, but as Reuters puts it, “The Harvey Weinstein scandal in the United States has accelerated a rethink of attitudes toward sexual harassment in France, a country that cherishes its self-image as the land of seduction and romance.”

Seventy years after Rosie the Riveter, women are insisting on some elbow room – while throwing a few elbows themselves.

Enter Rosie the Kibitzer. Person of the Year.

 

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