I guarantee every single person reading this piece knows someone who was, or is currently being, sexually harassed/assaulted. You may not even know it.
In just the two to three days since the Weinstein scandal broke I’ve already heard from three women who say they are actively being subjected to sexual harassment in the work place as we speak. One of whom works for a major music management firm, one who works at a Fortune 500 company, and one in the marketing field who was recently subjected to an unexpected tongue-down-the-throat kiss at the end of a business dinner in lieu of the traditional hand shake.
All of whom give the same response when asked why they haven’t spoken out: “I’ll never work again.” Or, “They’ll ruin me.” They even go as far as to say it’s part of the job. “If you work in the music biz and you’re an attractive female, you have a bullseye on your back from day one, so just get used to it.” Or, “When you work for a company that’s ninety percent men, you’re guaranteed to experience some type of sexual harassment.” Or, “I didn’t know what to do. I was so shocked by his appalling advance, I just stood there, frozen.” Did you do anything the next day? “No, I need the job.”
In the piece I wrote back in April, when the Bill O’Reilly/Roger Ailes scandal broke, I called attention to the fact that these misogynistic low-lifes walked away with millions in compensation for their troubles while their victims received just a fraction of their harasser’s buy-out, and, most likely, painted with the stigma of whistle-blowing bitch in their respective fields. Those in the board rooms who choose to award huge monetary sums to these disgraced executives, and who normalize this reprehensibly offensive behavior, are just as guilty as the ones committing the acts. They are accomplices.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the corporate culture of the past several decades has, in fact, normalized sexual harassment as “part of the job.” Our male-dominated society has created the overwhelming perception amongst females that, should you come forward and accuse a co-worker/boss/employer, of sexual harassment, it’s you who will pay the price. And, it’s not merely perception. It’s reality.
Even though the way we handle things internally in the work place, i.e., human resources response/action has advanced leaps and bounds since the sixties/seventies, and one tweet can now sink an entire career(s), there still seems to be the long held belief that should you decide to do something about it, you will be subject to severe consequences that will last decades for doing so. So, be a good girl and keep your mouth shut.
Of course, it doesn’t help when you have an unabashedly proud misogynist in the oval office, who came to power despite a tape capturing him bragging about his assaults on women. Furthering the proof, as comedian Patton Oswald so eloquently pointed out, this country is far more sexist than we are racist. And we’re pretty fucking racist.
My friend asked me why the hell a filthy rich, mega-mogul like Harvey Weinstein would whip out his johnson in a restaurant kitchen and masturbate in front of an unwilling participant when he could easily hire a hooker or take a mistress or any number of actresses looking to advance their careers, overnight? As a male, I guess I’m supposed to be able to comment with authority on what goes through every guys head in moments like that, but who the heck knows why he did what did?
If anything, I believe it was most likely due to the fact that, in front of beautiful women, the biggest, most powerful movie mogul on the planet still feels like he’s an ugly, insignificant nerd back in the sixth grade. And the peep show in the kitchen was a power-play of revenge of sorts for years of abuse/ridicule as a child. This was Weinstein’s scarred, inner-child’s way of showing his conquest, and, by proxy, all the other females who taunted him back then, who was boss, now and forever.
The most damning proof of Weinstein’s sleazy advances to date has just surfaced in Ronan Farrow’s piece in the New Yorker, in which he, himself, admits he gropes women regularly, as that’s what he’s used to. A recording of the exchange between Weinstein, with Italian model/actress Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, leaves no doubt as to Weinstein’s M.O. It’s impossible to overstate the bravery of Ms. Gutierrez, a woman alone in a hotel with a powerful sexual predator, whose career and reputation could be easily squashed overnight, yet who, decided to risk her career/reputation in order to get the pathetically desperate Weinstein on tape.
Personally, I hope seeing all these brave, well-known actresses finally speaking out will motivate the hundreds, if not thousands, of women who experience the same treatment in their own lives on a daily basis to come forward. It doesn’t have to be sexual in nature, either. Harassment can simply be being verbally abused in front of your co-workers, or inexplicably passed over for a promotion.
The only way to stop this type of degrading, dehumanizing behavior is to keep coming forward. One after the other after the other. Until the offending parties will have no choice but to think long and hard about the possibility of winding up the star subject of the next piece in the Times.