Some people hate change. Change can be uncomfortable, it can be awkward. It can make us feel a little lost and out of sorts. Change can take time to get used to, and in the process we can make mistakes and end up feeling a little foolish or self-conscious.
Forty years ago, having sexual harassment training in the workplace was unheard of. The first case of sexual harassment was handed down in 1976, but the issue didn’t really receive attention until 1991 when the case regarding Anita Hill and Justice Clarence Thomas reached national attention.
In the 1990’s I went to my first sexual harassment training in the workplace, around that time many companies were starting to try to educate their workforce on how to avoid harassing a coworker. Currently most companies, organizations, and places of work have trainings on sexual harassment or at least have policies in place to protect people from it. This is change that has been painful for many, but it has also protected many people with less power and given them some way to avoid being victims of jokes, sexual advancements, uncomfortable and unwanted attention, etc.
In my lifetime (fifty years) I have watched popular culture slowly change the way that we speak about women, people of color, about LGBT individuals, and minorities from various groups. It used to be acceptable to poke fun of minorities in cartoons, television shows, jokes, and other ways. It was also acceptable for many people to talk in a derogatory manner about people who were attracted to the same sex, or people with a darker skin color, or people with special needs, or women. When I was growing up I witnessed all of these things, but they became less and less acceptable over time.
Right now there is a shift and push back on the way people talk about mental illness. I often hear people that don’t want to change, tell people with a mental illness not to take offense at a joke, or certain word and to lighten up. It is also common to hear people say that being politically correct has gotten out of hand, and that people take offense at “every little thing” these days. It is often said that we have become too sensitive.
Most of us have benefitted from the changes that society has gone through in the last fifty years. Doors have opened for us. There is less hatred and aggression in language. Women are not powerless in the workplace. Minorities from all different groups have reached the top in politics, corporations, universities, etc.
I know it can be irritating to have someone point out that a joke is no longer funny, that serious illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are not laughing matters. I know those of us who are advocates can be tiring to those of you who are not, but it is a process that happens again and again to make people’s lives better. It helps alleviate discrimination and dehumanization. I know it can seem like we are too sensitive at times, but the end result will be protection and a better life for so many people.
If you can see it in that light, it is not so bad to make a change.
Change image available from Shutterstock