In the aftermath of the sexual assault and harassment complaints against media mogul — and Democratic contributor — Harvey Weinstein, you’d think this is the first time people — men — had heard the stories of what it’s like to be a woman trying to do her job.
We know why that is. There are political points to be scored now. Weinstein is politically connected and America wakes up every morning looking for new ways to have an old fight — Republicans against Democrats.
But here’s the message that women have been trying to get through: the harassment of women in the workplace is not a political issue. It’s a gender issue. It’s a problem with men.
“Every female founder, every woman trying to achieve great things and make her career dreams happen has a horror story about a man in power,” start-up founder Iman Oubou tells CBS today. “There’s a portion of women out there who don’t feel comfortable. Maybe they haven’t documented anything and are scared they won’t be believed and will be called drama queens.”
Sharissa Jones, writing today on WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog, tells a story that millions of women can tell every day.
In a van load of men on the way to a business meeting, she had to endure her boss asking about her sexual positions.
She didn’t report it.
Social media today throbs with questions about why women don’t come forward. Why do they seemingly wait until there’s an avalanche of accusations? The answer is obvious: We are afraid we won’t be believed. And even if we are, how can we be sure we won’t be blackballed, forever punished professionally?
Every case of harassment requires that kind of calculation: how bad was it, how damaging? Is my human dignity so insulted that it’s worth the risk? It’s not so different for those holding corporate power. Board members and executive committee members are easy scapegoats for the seeming epidemic of looking the other way. But the scapegoating assumes these same persons in power have no pressures. Firing a high-level, high-producing executive is a risky enterprise. It hurts the entire company in the short-term. It subjects the entity to possible litigation. And so the Harvey Weinsteins of the world too often stay secure, free to harass their next victim.
In some ways, the Weinstein story holds a fun-house mirror to the realities everyday women face in the workplace. While many of us have stories, few are as salacious. It would be a terrible shame if we squandered this moment to have a broader conversation about harassment and the ways to address it because we are focusing on a single, albeit horrifying, Hollywood story. Obscure harassers, no less than the famous, exact a high cost across businesses, non-profits, academic institutions and government.
None of this should be a revelation to any man. None of this is.
The Weinstein story will pass. People will move on to new ways to have an old debate. The workplace for women will still be a horror show.
Same as it ever was.
Related: Rose McGowan suspended from Twitter after Ben Affleck tweets (NY Times)