In light of the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal, I think it is way past the time that we begin to have a dialogue about the issue of sexual harassment, male entitlement, and the complicity of silence that allows for the abuse of women and girls to flourish. The issue has been highlighted by recent scandals involving the richest and most powerful men in business. In just the last few years, our current POTUS, a Fox News founder/executive, America’s favorite TV dad, and now Hollywood’s most influential producer have all been accused of sexual harassment and/or assault of women.
We are kidding ourselves if we think these men turned into creeps and rapists at age sixty. This behavior spans decades. These men were boys once, and grew into their behaviors as harassers and assaulters, honing the behavior and becoming more emboldened. These men believed they had the right to abuse their position as powerful men by taking advantage of the women around them. There is only one word for the behavior and it is predatory.
We are also fooling ourselves if we think that the men and women in the inner-circles of harassers had no clue about their behavior. I make no excuses for the women who kept silent except that many were victims of the behavior, feeling their power had been robbed of them, and some were undoubtedly afraid of becoming the next victim. Women also know that they are often ignored and not believed when they make a claim of harassment against a powerful man. Women and girls are often threatened with the loss of work, roles, and jobs. This is not unique to Hollywood, as it goes on everywhere in America, from the boardroom to the stock room.
Quentin Tarantino recently copped to having known about Weinstein’s behavior for years, and is only now speaking out. Ben Affleck, who has worked with Weinstein, has also been accused of having been told of Weinstein’s alleged assaults years ago, and also kept silent. And just recently, it was revealed that “Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, the top executives at 21st Century Fox, had made a business calculation to stand by Bill O’Reilly despite the harassment dispute” that he was involved in at the time with a female Fox News legal analyst.
These men were complicit. They chose to remain silent, abide by the bro-code, and stand by these deplorable men instead of choosing to defend the women who were harmed. These are not real men if you ask me.
Men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, and Roger Ailes are white male privilege personified. They are entitled white men who have gotten away with harassment and assault for years. Those men around them who stood silent are complicit to the utmost degree. For those of you who think white men are a victimized, endangered species, I ask you to take a long hard look at these guys. I beg to differ. Their white male entitlement came in real handy when they were groping their female co-workers and asking for massages in hotel rooms.
There is an absence of conversation with young men and boys today. Not only are many boys and young men not being taught how to respect women, but many are not given any guidance regarding how to intervene in a situation where a female is clearly being taken advantage of. We have seen this with campus rape culture, and are now seeing it play out in a cataclysmic way in Hollywood and politics. One would think you would not have to say “Don’t have sexual contact with a passed out female” or “Son, when you get a good job, please don’t grope your female co-workers.” It is obviously more complex than directives. However, we need men to set the example and take a lead on this issue. That means speaking up and calling out the creeps, whether they be on your athletic team, your board of directors, or across from your cubicle. We need to teach boys and men that women may be as smart and accomplished as any man but are physically vulnerable in a way that needs to be understood. We need to start the dialogue about male-female relationships in middle school. We must convey to girls how to avoid being a victim and convey to boys how to intervene on their behalf. Most importantly, we need to make it cool again to be real men who can call out the jerks and raise our daughters to find their voices, no matter the consequences.