Sarah Palin won’t say whether she experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at Fox News, but she does have a message for the victims: If you don’t speak out when it happens, don’t complain about it later.
During an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “The Lead,” Palin hinted that she wasn’t happy during her time as a Fox News contributor but would not divulge details ― even when asked about Fox News’ corporate culture in the age of Bill O’Reilly.
“I think the key there is that I used to be with Fox. The corporate culture there obviously has to change,” the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate said. “Women don’t deserve, they shouldn’t have to put up with any intimidating workspace.”
Then Palin turned her focus on the women who made accusations of sexual harassment, telling them that it’s their responsibility to quit their jobs and change the workplace culture.
“If a woman believes that she is being intimidating and harassed, she needs to stand up and do something about it and not stick around for a paycheck for years and years and years, and then after the fact complain about what she went through,” Palin told Tapper.
“As a strong woman,” she added, “I say we should feel more empowered than that and take a stand and get out of the place and blow the whistle on the perpetrator doing the bad stuff so that the culture will change.”
Palin is right: More women should speak out against workplace harassment. But women don’t stay silent about harassment because they’re not strong women. As the past has shown, reporting abuse isn’t as easy as telling on your boss so that the problem will go away.
Women don’t report sexual harassment for a number of reasons, including shame, fear of retribution, fear of losing their source of income and fear of not being believed. In fact, a 2015 survey found that 71 percent of women ages 18 to 34 did not report workplace sexual harassment.
And when they do report it, victims sometimes end up with more problems, as in the case of Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer who detailed the chaos surrounding her sexual harassment complaint to Uber’s human resources department in a February blog post.
Perhaps Palin should take some notes from professor Anita Hill, the pioneer in the fight against workplace harassment who famously testified against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991 to much scrutiny and insult.
“The problem with sexual harassment isn’t just because people behave badly,” Hill said in a recent interview with USA Today. “The problem is our inability to develop productive responses to it, and that exists because of our culture that accepts it, because that culture then gets built into how we approach solutions to it.”
Hill added: “It gets built into the choices we make about who can be believed. And even when we find sexual harassment exists, the solutions are very often to move the women who have complained to other positions.”