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Know the West

Code of silence


I worked as a park ranger, one of the first woman hired into a state park system. I felt lucky and privileged that this career was even possible. Part of the package was fitting in with “the guys” (“How the Park Service is Failing Women,” HCN, 12/12/16).

Countless times I bit my tongue with a tight smile when inappropriate sexually tinged comments were bantered about. I was often the only woman in the room, and it was almost like they were testing me, to see if I would quit or complain. I kept quiet and put up with it. I survived partly because of the vast majority of good guys that welcomed and supported me and gave us women a chance. Sometimes I wondered what they were thinking about the suggestive comments aimed at me. But the code of silence prevailed with all of us.

Now, I am long retired. Could it possibly still be like this for women in the workplace, 40 years later? The answer — yes.

Donald Trump’s sexual boasting has exposed a cultural truth that we didn’t want to talk about, and put it front and center. Think about all those women coming forward with their stories years later. They all remember exactly what happened, when and where, and the pain they have carried ever since. Men are on the receiving end, too — I recently saw a young bartender mercilessly harassed by a drunk woman customer about how “hot” he was and ordering him to kiss her.

It is time to break the code of silence, to join together and call out sexual harassment when we see it. It is time to evolve into mutually respectful beings in all our common spaces. 

Janet Carle
Lee Vining, California