Teaching in the time of #MeToo

Frank Russell Chair Julia Wallace offers her thoughts on the #MeToo movement, saying a generational change is occurring

I can still remember the looks of disappointment on the faces of my students. About a year ago, I was talking to my graduate ethics students about the realities of being a woman in the media workplace.

I explained that even though journalism schools are 75 percent female, the media industry is still two-thirds male. And most of the top jobs are held by white men.

So, I told them they needed to be prepared for challenges with sexual harassment, pay equity, balancing home and work and even with being heard. They nodded. Many had been in the working world and knew to expect difficulties.

I told them to be confident, to be brave and to push for what they wanted. But I added: They had to decide when it was time to smile and deflect. Sometimes, I said, you just had to move on, because you didn’t want to be labeled as the person always complaining about fair treatment.

That’s when their faces fell. I figured they just needed a little life experience and would see what I meant.

Six months later, the #MeToo tsunami began, and I reflected on that moment. 

They didn’t want to smile and move on.  And so, we see more and more young women standing up and speaking. I’m so proud of the women who have raised their hand to confront inappropriate behavior. I’m so proud of the “bystanders” — men and women — who are changing the norms.  And I’m so proud of the journalists who are reporting on this story. 

Our generation kept silent too long, but we instilled in our children the importance of equality and respect. As the mother of two millennial daughters, I look at this generation — the students in my classes — and feel nothing but pride. It is inspiring to watch them take on the world.

This letter to the editor was submitted by Julia Wallace, the Frank Russell Chair and former editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She is hosting a speaker series “Women, the Media and Workplace” this semester in the Forum. During fall semester 2018, she will be teaching an online class “Gender in the Media Workplace.” She and Dean Kristin Gilger are writing a book on women leaders in the media.

Reach the author at julia.wallace@asu.edu or follow @julia_d_wallace on Twitter. 

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this letter to the editor are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

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