Anyone who has seen the Antebellum mansions of America’s “Deep South” will know many of these properties often have not one, but two, staircases leading to the front door.
It’s likely it was done by plantation owners keen to splash some cash and impress other plantation owners, but tour guides will tell you there was another reason for the dual staircase: It was to separate men and women.
It’s said that these twin staircases allowed young debutantes to keep their ankles from being seen by passing cads and, consequently, their reputations in tact.
I suspect the double staircases were all about showing off, and very little to do with preserving modesty, but it was an image that popped into my head this week after I read an opinion piece that suggested employers may start steering away from women in the light of the #MeToo campaign that followed the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Have we really come to that? Has the 21st Century workplace become such a minefield of interpersonal relations that blokes are worried about asking a female colleague if she wants to go grab a sandwich and employers are concerned women are just too much trouble and won’t hire them?
Do we need to check whether New Year’s Day will ring in 2018 or 1818?
Did Emmeline Pankhurst really lead the Suffrage campaign with the idea of tying blokes in mental knots about “micro aggression” and male privilege? Of course not.
I’m not trying to make light of the many allegations that have been raised. There would be few women on the planet who have not been subjected to inappropriate behaviour from a man at some point, and many of them seriously.
I just worry that the decent blokes – who in my experience are in the majority – are going to be left floundering in a quagmire of muddled expectations and mixed messages.
As the mother of four sons, I’m really hoping I’m raising kids to have no prejudice against anyone regardless of gender, race, religion or whatever.
I’ve always wanted to teach my kids to take people as individuals and to look past anything that could be a stereotype.
I simply don’t want to see a world where my sons are wary of being alone with a female because of possible recriminations.
I understand the world is far from perfect and that there are slimy creeps who like to take advantage of people and situations, but I am worried the solution to the problem is to encourage a segregation of the sexes.
The US press has poked fun at American Vice President Mike Pence and his decision not to ever be alone with a woman besides his wife. It’s an extreme decision, but you can also see why he might feel such a decision in necessary.
I don’t want the world filled with blokes who think Pence’s actions are a good idea, so we need to give them a way forward.
It’s time to let the good blokes put on their white hats. All of us – men and women – need to continue to call out sexist, racist and plain awful behaviour, and support others who do the same.
Just as we are seeing blokes to a much more active approach to calling out violence against women, we need to encourage the good guys to call out the bad ones.
Most people – male and female – are decent and hard-working and far too often are unfairly labelled in a world that can be too quick to say “me too” to the latest hashtag campaign.