The Pervasiveness of Sexual Harassment and Abuse

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans  The incessant drumbeat of revelations of sexual harassment and abuse from all sectors of American life is depressing and tedious in its horror and banality. The formula is repetitive and unimaginative. Men with power over women, usually older, never wiser, using their position to abuse, and, too often, once succeeding, then repeating over and over again.

Harvey Weinstein has become the Hollywood horror film poster of this abuse. In some ways he and other Hollywooders are the least surprising of the bunch. Their abuse was embedded in the cultural expectations in story and cartoon of the infamous “casting couch.” Shamefully, we all heard this in the background and passed it on with a wink and a nod, when we should have boycotted and shunned the producers and purveyors of these practices. Weinstein was most despicable because he tried to rationalize his behavior as common to a child of the 60’s and 70’s, and because he was an abuser of women while cynically presenting himself and his philanthropy as supporting women in order to continue his crimes.

But, if we all somehow looked the other way at Hollywood and the cultural imprint we were allowing it to maim the American soul and all of our women for decades, we probably shouldn’t have been surprised that the same stain had spread through the system into television, its twin. The horrors of Fox News and its serial abuses were unsettling, because too many of us watching the news still thought of current events as real news not simply entertainment, even as carbon copy blondes seemed on every channel in every market for decades, no matter the local demographics.

President Trump, a demon spawn, of that same culture in reality television, and his frank flaunting of the ease of abuse through power, shocked us out of thinking it was just business as usual in Hollywood and an aberration of the evil Fox system. Add money to the too male dominance of the tech tribe and women paid the price again not only in underemployment but sexual exploitation at Uber, Amazon, and countless other companies. Now, the same system is unraveling in front of the public in Wall Street and Fortune 500 companies, academia, government, service, labor, and all walks of life where power, privilege, and money create opportunity and mix men and women unequally, we now can guarantee that we can find abuse and it will not be hidden far beneath the surface.

Enough. Our partners and daughters all have shared their stories. Mothers and mentors have all whispered warnings that now need to be heard by everyone. The #MeToo legions have now gathered and are still moving into formation.

Have we passed a divide where all of this will no longer be tolerated or will men and anyone with a similar agenda, just hunker down until they think the coast is clearer and convince themselves they have come up with a better game. It worries me. We know we won’t get leadership from government where 80% of EEOC cases are filed by women. There will be no special initiative from the White House or extra funding from Congress. Businesses might try to scour their ranks, fearing they will be caught, like more deer in the headlights, but that’s not the same as change.

We can’t leave this to women. The victims can’t be sacrificed. The culture has to be changed. We all have to be all in or more of the same will continue forever. I don’t believe in a tipping point on this behavior. There has to be a breaking point that stops it for the future and forever.