HARVEY WEINSTEIN: SEXUAL PREDATORS A SYMPTOM OF BRANDING WOMEN AS LESS
Harassment isn’t only a Hollywood issue. Sexual predators are a result of gender and minority inequality.
By Margaret Gardiner
Harvey Weinstein is a symptom. The issue is entitlement and power. It’s the branding of women and minorities as ‘less’ that makes it safe for predatory behavior without consequences. When you take away someone’s voice you take away more than their ability to compete equally. You embed the mindset that one group has the right to be heard and that it’s okay to discount the counter voice who is deemed the role of ‘server’ to the empowered voice. It’s not just entertainment where the powerful prey on the powerless; its everywhere. As the #MeToo tweets demonstrate, sexual harassment is part of the collateral of making men the preferred choice. It’s a perceived entitlement. The sub message is: you are here to serve my needs. It’s the way genders are raised and it manifests in inequality in the workplace that at its worst, puts predatory people in power without consequences.
Closely related to women not being able to voice the sad secret of having no viable options to raise their voices and call the behavior for what it is, is the issue of women failing to be heard generally. In the series: ‘Women In Hollywood’ on GoldenGlobe.com, woman after powerful woman addressed the issue of being cut off in meetings by men, of their ideas being co-opted, of women having to rush through their presentations because they’d not be able to complete their pitch, of feeling they had to have everything perfect before they spoke up for fear of being ridiculed or shut down. This ‘right to speak’ climate is very heavily intertwined with the idea that those women who have raised their voices to call out sexual harassment, have been silenced.
The comments I’ve heard since the Weinstein saga became public, include: Why didn’t she speak up? How stupid must she be to go to his hotel room to discuss business? Why has she only come forward now? How was she dressed? Was she drinking? Was she flirting? This is creating a climate where a guy can’t hug a co-worker without getting harassment charges.
Yes, let’s. Let’s blame the victim. That too, is sexism. When women aren’t given a chance to lead, the excuses include, ‘Women can’t cut it.’ ‘The low numbers of women in power support the truth that women aren’t able.’ By blaming the victim it allows us to turn away from an uncomfortable reality. If you are never considered, you cannot reach the pinnacle. If you are not allowed to speak, when you do, your voice will be easily muffled. But yes. Let’s blame the victim.
Ambra Battilana reported an incident with Harvey Weinstein. She participated in a sting operation. She had him on tape. It was not enough. She became suspect. The victim was tried and the ‘alleged’ perpetrator got off.
The climate of big business making conformity a criteria of employment means that women are not able to sue when facing sexual predators. That boards settle silently and leave the perpetrator in place to perpetuate the predatory behavior on the next victim, feels complicitly criminal, and should be illegal, and when it happens, boards should be held accountable. Men protecting men. People in power ensuring the status quo. Would boards that include an equal number of women come to the same conclusion? It’s impossible to tell because women and minorities are so woefully under-represented on boards generally. The climate has to change.
The mindset that allowed women voters to bat off Trump’s pu**y grabbing entitlement as boys being boys, enables predators to flourish. Would it be okay if it happened to your wife, or your daughter, or to your son? How about if it happened to you? Would you make a joke of it? Would you excuse the behavior? Is this predatory conversation and action condoned and excused in your son?
It’s not just entertainment. In personal histories for my upcoming book, Women Branded: Men Preferred, women in every field from science, engineering, accounting, law and many others domains , share stories. A lawyer tells how a senior male partner would come to her side of the desk and press up against her when discussing documents. An engineer tells how she was drugged and raped and fired when reporting the behavior. A business woman tells how she was told she would not get the account unless the client slept with her. Its insidious and everywhere; it’s not just in Entertainment. Predators everywhere have to check their privilege and be aware that victims may finally have their voice heard.
It’s time to look at the link between predatory behavior and the mindset that women and minorities are less. Less able, less qualified, less deserving, less considered. It's a sad truth that you might be rude or take advantage of someone with unequal power to you, as the consequences for doing so if caught, are likely to be less than if you tried the same behavior on someone perceived as equal, or more powerful than you. The truth is these infractions seldom happen with those who are empowered as a group. Take note. There are hidden consequences for unequal pay and opportunity. Predatory behavior is just one of the pernicious results. The climate of gender and minority inequality has to change.
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