Now that the Angelina Jolies and the Ashley Judds and the Minka Kellys and the Reah Bravos (Charlie Rose) and the Megyn Kellys (Bill O’Reilly) and the Cesar Sanchez-Guzmans (Bryan Singer), and the Lauren Greenes (Blake Farenthold) and the McKayla Maroneys (Larry Nassar) and the Jessica Leeds (President Trump) etc. of the world have come forward and outed their abusers, do everyday bosses in the workplace have anything to fear, or are they protected by the fact the media gravitates solely toward the famous ― be it victim or victimizer?
Will there come a day when a woman uses Facebook to out her boss at the bank who’s been uncomfortably patting her on the butt for years while commenting on their “chemistry”? Will we see a time in the not too distant future when the ad executive who’s made it a job qualification for all “hot” interns to have a drink with him get his comeuppance on Twitter, instead of an iron-clad confidentiality agreement completely favoring the company and a Roger Ailes-sized golden parachute?
Probably not, as, aside from the fact these types of incidents are rarely made public ― due to heavily one-sided agreements, these women know, even if they’re on social media, their brave post will most likely be washed over like a grain of sand in the ocean when the next wave rolls in. They also know all too well there’s much more of a chance of being blacklisted and railroaded, or completely ignored, if you’re the only one, and/or especially if you, or your abuser, is not famous. It’s the simple reality. Like a tree in a forest, if TMZ doesn’t pick it up, does it mean it didn’t happen?
Of course, if your abuser is famous/powerful, it may work against you. Just ask #AnitaHill.
Sadly, even during this seismic shift of power from victimizer to victim, having the guts to speak out if you’re a working woman, and you’re the only one ― or think you’re the only one ― is still no easier for the average woman than it was before the hashtag. How do I know this? Because sexual harassment in the workplace is everywhere, every day. If there was such a momentous change, more than half the modern workforce would be fired or under investigation as we speak.
That’s not to say it’s had no effect on the everyday corporate environment. Aside from recent events putting the fear of God into quite a few would-be assaulters, and causing others to re-examine their current behavior, the “Human Resources option” is probably where the change is being felt most. The odds they’ll take your claim much more seriously than they would have just a few years ago have probably skyrocketed.
However, if you’re not planning on doing the “Today Show” and “Good Morning America,” after security escorts you out, who is going to give you another job? You just outed a well-respected, well-liked, and mightily powerful individual in your industry, and most of the world is unaware. Not to mention, you probably just signed an agreement that, upon uttering a word, makes you the guilty party and subject to prosecution. You are alone with your settlement ― if you’re lucky enough to get one. The stigma of being “damaged goods” or added to the unspoken blacklist will most likely follow you for the rest of your days. Even now. So how do we fix that?
Perhaps it needs to begin with changing the entire way we objectify women to being with? Take Miss America, for instance. Where is it written that the shape of a woman’s body, or how she looks in an evening gown, should determine whether or not she is qualified to represent the U.S. to the rest of the world? Does it matter if she’s fat or thin compared to how she views the world and the ideas she offers?
Or, how about electing smarter leaders to set better examples than the ones currently being set by our deplorable POTUS and his supporters?
One area we may want to look at changing immediately are these agreements these women are usually forced to sign, threatening them with all kinds of nasty shit if they so much as whisper about it to a friend. Perhaps we should focus more on protecting her and less on protecting the company, and/or the accused? That might be a good start.
Next, there needs to be a change in leadership roles across the board, as they set the corporate culture. As a friend of a friend so eloquently put it, if you knew about it and did nothing, you’re just as guilty.
Lastly, it’s possible these brave women are, in fact, all around us as we speak and, like the trees, we just don’t hear about them. As is evident by a friend’s comment on my Facebook post.
Again, the whole victim being victimized ― being rewarded for coming forward by being laid off ― needs to be reversed, ASAP. Reporting an incident of abuse/harassment at work should be no different than reporting a crime to the police. You should be protected, not ejected. For the everyday working woman, until that overwhelming feeling of powerlessness in the workplace changes, nothing much will change for her, and as a result, the rest of us.
Next up: How much are women, themselves, to blame for their part in allowing/encouraging this type of behavior to thrive as long as it has?
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.