The Weinstein Effect: Avalanche of Allegations Usher in a New Era
By Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, author of Don't Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with your Adult Children and of Don't Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws Into Family, and Ellen Offner, Principal, Offner Consulting LLC
Thank you, Harvey Weinstein, for enlightening the American public about the prevalence of sexual predators in workplaces. As a successful Hollywood mogul, with enormous power over young actresses, your repugnant behavior has opened America’s eyes to the threat to young women and boys from people in positions of authority. We also want to take our hats off to the courageous women who have publicized and criticized this widespread predatory behavior. Florence Graves, a visiting scholar at Brandeis University who was ahead of her times in 1995 when she exposed Bob Packwood’s peccadilloes, and suffered retribution for her courage. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), a close ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s who has been Hillary’s mentee, has said that in today’s more enlightened climate—over twenty years after Senator Mitch McConnell helped oust Packwood from the Senate—Bill Clinton would have had to resign the presidency. The attitude toward sexual predation has been changing with remarkable rapidity, and nobody—however rich and powerful—seems immune from public outrage. And in today’s environment, reaching zero tolerance, Monica Lewinsky might have led the revolt!
The excesses of the Catholic clergy, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump only brought this chilling behavior partially to the fore, but you have succeeded in freeing your many victims to speak out about their traumas and awaken the public to this exploitation in many sectors of society here and abroad: in Hollywood, Parliament, independent schools, colleges, places of worship, politics, corporations. Wherever powerful authority figures can reward those less powerful, those with distorted sexual appetites can take advantage of their subordinates —aspiring actresses, students wanting good grades, choir boys wishing for affection, and those on the corporate ladder seeking advancement.
Ronan Farrow, who reported on the “Weinstein Effect’ in the New Yorker and on CNN, claims that NBC refused to air his report. This should be no surprise, given Fox News’ payoffs to the women who complained about unwanted overtures from Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. Many leaders in the media have been corrupted by the lure of money and power. Kudos to The New Yorker for publishing other outstanding articles: “Anita Hill on Weinstein, “Trump, and a Watershed Moment for Sexual-Harassment Accusations,” by Jane Mayer, and “How Men Like Harvey Weinstein Implicate Their Victims in Their Acts,” by Jia Tolentino. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is living proof of how powerful men weighing his nomination to the Supreme Court rejected credible claims of harassment by University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill despite her moving testimony. That travesty occurred in 1991, and now the salacious revelations about Harvey Weinstein have moved the national discussion of harassment forward.
Amazon Studios Chairman Roy Price, another sexual predator who was often inebriated and whose behavior went unchecked until the Weinstein allegations broke, abruptly resigned from Amazon in mid-October after allegations emerged about his sexually harassing young actresses. Two other executives were fired along with Price, whose superiors claimed not to have known of their behavior. His boss, Jeffrey Blackburn, wrote that “Roy’s resignation followed new information that surfaced last week” and that “we will use these events as an opportunity to review our sexual harassment policy and processes to ensure they are doing their job to provide a harassment-free workplace. And if they are not, we will make the necessary changes.” It’s about time!
The headline-grabbing stories are mainly about powerful men harassing and threatening young women. But male harassment of young boys has also been surfacing, with Kevin Spacey’s accuser, the actor Anthony Rapp, stating that Spacey “got on top of him” when the boy was only fourteen years old. Spacey’s excuse is that he has decided to live as a gay man, a pathetic non-sequitur and an insult to gay men, implicating homosexuality as a cause of assaultive behavior. Most of the recently reported assaults have been by heterosexual men! Now Heather Unruh, a former Boston TV anchor, has revealed that Spacey sexually assaulted her son, then sixteen years old, at a bar in Nantucket, plying him with alcohol and then reaching into his pants and grabbing his genitals. The family has retained the lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who represented victims of Catholic clergy abuse and was featured in the film “Spotlight” about the courageous reporting in the Boston Globe.
The recent revelations about the elite St. Paul’s School and the cascade of revelations about other independent schools (including sixty-seven in New England) have uncovered equally harrowing experiences, heterosexual and homosexual in nature. Dartmouth College now has placed three faculty members in the Psychology Department on leave following allegations about their sexual misconduct. Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon has said that “sexual misconduct and harassment are unacceptable and have no place at Dartmouth,” and that such acts “harm us as individuals and as members of the community.” But it remains to be seen what action he and the Trustees of the College take to prevent such activity in the future.
Then There are shocking reports that Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, has been accused of making sexual and romantic overtures to teenagers in the 1970s and 1980s, when he was an assistant attorney general in his thirties and the youngest of his victims was only fourteen. Jim Ziegler, the State Auditor a said, Regarding one of Moore’s victims, Ziegler said this behavior would have been acceptable if the girl had been 16 at the time and not 14. Of course, the girl was 14 and the age of consent in Alabama is sixteen. Ziegler went on to say that the age gap between the biblical Joseph and Mary was similar, he told The Washington Examiner. Ziegler seemed to have missed his Sunday school lessons about the virgin birth and the Holy Spirit being the father of Jesus. Too long have purity and religious devotion been used to intimidate women and excuse men’s behavior.
The reports about Louis C.K., the successful comedian, are stomach-turning: According to the New York Times, in 2002 C.K. invited Chicago comedy duo Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov to his hotel room after a late-night show. The women agreed. “His intentions seemed collegial,” they told the Times. Once they’d sat down, however, C.K. asked their permission to “take out his penis.” The women thought he was joking until he “proceeded to take all of his clothes off” and began to masturbate.
And now Senator Al Franken has been accused of salacious behavior and has indicated that he plans to resign from the Senate! The vaunted TED Talks, a meeting place for the global glitterati to rub shoulders and listen to 18-minute talks, where they pay $10,000 for a single ticket, is now confronting reports of groping and sexual harassment as well as a highly active drug culture
And each day more comes out. The New Yorker’s contribution is a report on harassment in Silicon Valley. The exposés are not going to stop coming. Every woman who works can tell you why. From the factory, the service workers, the little guy or gal is vulnerable.
No sector of society is immune to these horrific behaviors. Alex Kozinski, a prominent federal appellate judge, has resigned after several law students and clerks have come forward with grisly sexual allegations about him. “According to the Post, Judge Kozinski, 67 years old, called one clerk into his chambers multiple times to show her pornographic images and ask if they turned her on. Another woman said the judge suggested she work out naked in the court’s gym. A law student at a 2016 reception said Judge Kozinski ‘pressed his finger into the side of her breast,’ while purportedly pushing aside her lapel to see her nametag.”
No place is sacrosanct. The British Parliament and the U.S. Congress, where young aides are seeking to establish their careers--often required male mentors--have their share of sexual misbehavior and antics. One MP, Anthony Greaves, a liberal Democrat Lord, made this outrageous comment about how inappropriate sexual overtures are necessary to perpetuate the human race:.“There are some people here who don’t want the human race to ever reproduce again—you can’t chat people up anymore.”
We all understand the problem now. Now it’s time to stop the actions. It’s going to take churches, schools and media organizations, fast food chains, in fact, every segment of society to change and by change we mean not just create policies; to bring about meaningful change women must continue to speak up. We cannot allow these reports to become so commonplace that we ignore them and justify the normalcy of sexual predation.
Mental health professionals can increase the speed of that change by pondering why so many of our little boys who rise to leadership positions have been raised to prefer perversion and exhibitionism to good old-fashioned sex. We invite scholars to write articles analyzing the phenomenon so that appropriate interventions might be crafted. Please post your findings with the hashtag #metoo for all the world to see.
And the rest of us ordinary citizens can do the same. Just like prominent people are doing now. Ideally, this will strike fear of exposure into potential predators and protect their actual and prospective victims from abuse. Watch this informative video about workplace sexual harassment training to get ideas for your company. Sexual harassment, the Wall Street Journal reports, is getting a revamp!
The Ford Motor Company has been rife with sexual abuse, and management has failed to address the problem, given the abused women a fair hearing, and punishing the perpetrators. We American consumers should use our purchasing power to boycott companies like Ford who support a climate of male domination and abuse of innocent women, who need their jobs to support their families
We have our voices back, our purchasing power, and the vote--let’s use them!