Service of Why Now? Does Today’s Indignation & Punishment of Sexual Harassment & Assault Have Legs?

October 19th, 2017

Categories: Sexual Harassment, Timing, Workplace Disputes

    Photo: dailybeast.com

 

The namesake furniture for which Jay Wellingdon Couch is known was invented in 1895 but the proverbial casting couch had been around for many years before. So why, after some well publicized, [and millions of sub-rosa], sexual harassment and assault instances that caused momentary ripples of disdain for years, are corporations and organizations jumping on board the “do-the-right-thing” train now?

Anita Hill’s accusations of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, when he was being vetted for his job, had little resonance in workplaces nationwide. Yet suddenly we see mass firings: of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, many at Uber and Amazon’s head of its entertainment studio, Roy Price.

Roy Price, left, & Harvey Weinstein. Photo: Photo: adweek.com

According to Ben Fritz and Joe Flint in “Amazon Suspends Head of Its Studio,” in The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Price’s suspension comes soon after a female producer went public about a 2015 sexual-harassment complaint she made against him and after actress Rose McGowan unleashed a storm of criticism at the company for being in business with Mr. Weinstein, the former Weinstein Co. co-chairman who was ousted over the weekend amid numerous allegations of sexual harassment.” So what did Amazon do about the female producer’s complaint between 2015 and now?

The king of sexual harassment appears to be Harvey Weinstein who was allegedly busy casting his movies and for his enjoyment for some 30 years. I can’t put my finger on why it took so long for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and The Producers Guild of America to recognize something its board members must have known about for eons, waiting until just now to eject Mr. W. from its memberships. Surely word about the reputation of a fellow such as Mr. W gets around.

Photo: sacsconsulting.com

There’s a “Me too” initiative on Facebook where women are posting the following: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” I wonder: While the objective may be honorable, is there a twinge of a boast associated with this initiative? Is the implication that a woman isn’t/wasn’t attractive if she doesn’t join in or admit to having been harassed or assaulted?

The injury, pain, and anxiety for the harassed and assaulted women is no more or less today than before. So it has to be something about today that’s different.

Is the indignation a flash in the pan or does it have legs? Will it blow over just as fury over gun violence does after mass murders of innocent victims? Huffing and puffing galore with “hearts and prayers,” for victims and their families and yet nothing is done to close down machine gun sales. Do you think that the entertainment industry and marketers of products and services finally recognize the economic power of women? Or is something else afoot?

Photo: bigthink.com

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10 Responses to “Service of Why Now? Does Today’s Indignation & Punishment of Sexual Harassment & Assault Have Legs?”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    Our society under the current “chief” seems to be taking two steps back for each one gain that was made in equality and sexual freedoms. Sad outlook for further real, and lasting, change!!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    Interesting that your mind jumped where it did. As I wrote this post I wondered if the legitimate outrage that is far too long in coming wasn’t somehow related to the frustration some feel over the collective shrug by the voting public over a presidential candidate who boasted about his agressive exploits with zero repercussions. It’s not that the men in the spotlight shouldn’t be punished as they are proved culpable. However the timing of the increasing numbers of humpty dumpties falling caught my attention.

  3. Phyllis Stier Said:

    Yes, agree with Hank..Mike Pence won’t have dinner with a woman..really? Does he think she’s going to knock over the rolls to get to him?? It’s so subtlety ingrained into our culture, unfortunately. How many freshmen college women could tell their #metoo story..?

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Phyllis,

    I would posit that it starts even earlier than college for some young women who take a summer, after school or babysitting job in high school, or who ride public transportation.

    Strong currents are rushing at cross purposes–the folks who for religious or cultural reasons see women as the devil or untouchable even today** and those who feel powerful and look around the women in their company and see a feast. Is there a middle ground for them? [**Women sit at separate tables and dance together at weddings in some cultures and men are not allowed to touch a woman–say as in a handshake. I don’t think this is Mr. Pence’s heritage however.]

    Some shrug as in “no biggie,” when hearing of an assault; others feel helpless or fear for their jobs and still others have begun to expose the guilty resulting in the outcomes we see now. But how long will the concern be in vogue and considered the right thing to do? And what is it about today’s climate that moved the subject front and center when two years ago–in the Amazon case for example–nothing was done and it was only now paid attention?

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    Suddenly people are paying an ever increasing amount of attention to the problems of harassment and what seems to be overt criminal behavior. I think that unwittingly our abysmally inappropriate and ignorant leader’s bragging about his perverted behavior has paved the way and accelerated this groundswell of revelation and indignation. His infamous, vulgar reputation along with the famous “P” tape and his daily streams of absolute lies, mostly simultaneously revealed, have fomented a level of indignation and anger that overcomes natural fears of demanding of revenge.

    Anita Hill was incredibly brave, and is a woman of extraordinary character. It is horrifying to recall how she was treated. The nation continues to suffer the consequences of the dismissal reaction to her accusations. What is amazing is that she has continued to shine professionally in spite of her mistreatment.

    Most women long ago and until recently have buried or kept their stories of unwanted advances or worse, including rape, buried or within a small social or family circle. Except for the most naive sector of the population there has always been an unarticulated knowledge that such harassment exists and that consequences could have short or long term negative effects.

    Trump and Weinstein both behaved in a clearly criminal fashion, both sounding like episodes of “Law and Order, SVU”! The hypocrisy of recent legislation trying to impose some twisted notion of religion on the general population in a country that has separation of Church and State, invading every aspect of people’s private lives, in tandem with the chorus of schizophrenic behavior of politicians like Congressman Tim Murphy, all have produced a desire to risk ostracism and demand justice. Like most political and social movements based on injustices, this one continues to grow exponentially. It seems an incredibly unfair suggestion to say that people might boast of such mistreatment as proof of desirability. All these accounts just generate further cynicism, trepidation and sadness.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    You offer a vivid description of the climate in which women have felt safe to report predators, damn the torpedoes, and companies have begun to listen. Will it last? Who knows. The whistle blowers are extremely brave and should be supported and commended.

    The intent of the Me Too initiative was surely honorable. However, are women the only ones being sexually harassed or assaulted in the workplace? Second, some women might balk at potentially pointing the finger at innocent clients and bosses by joining the Me too initiative. They would remain quiet about those who had hurt them. And last, while this was an attempt to quantify the numbers of women harmed, there’s no option for men and women who are appalled by such behavior.

    Your reference to “Law and Order SUV” is apt.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Sex is about the best way to get ahead, especially in high profile careers such as politics and entertainment. While it may not be the “right” way to advance, it’s been accepted for centuries, and like it or not, there’s no sure way to prove whether it’s been consensual or forced.

    Perhaps it’s time the trumpet of the righteous sounds, since the public may be cheated out of quality performances because one who can’t act her way out of a paper bag, grabs a choice role. Influence and the “right contacts” speak loudly when running for office or granted a lucrative post for which one is ill suited.

    But there’s another side to the coin: How many of these accusations are real, or only a ploy to launch further publicity along with collecting proceeds from a lucrative law suit?

    It’s difficult to sympathize with a Weinstein, whose face stops a clock, but how about the floozies who may have used him for personal gain? Should they be compensated twice?

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    So if the best jobs in entertainment, at least, go to women who sleep around how do men get their jobs? In some cases, such as Elliot Spitzer’s, sex spelled his undoing….though the righteous may have voted for him because he was so hard on Johns…[as off the subject of sex for success as my train of thought has taken my comment….]

    Most worrisome, in this discussion of sexual harassment, are the Jane, Mary and Felicia X’s in small companies who suffer mistreatment because they can’t afford to lose their jobs. The good that might come out of this would be to frighten the lower lifes when the high profile perpetrators get theirs in spades. But do they? Management with a “boys will be boys” attitude has been known to disparage the women who “complain” and turn a blind eye to the perpetrator–slipping him in another position with plenty of pay.

  9. Plotinus Said:

    I believe that “the indignation,” to which you refer is neither “a flash in the pan,” nor “does it have legs.” It will eventually “blow over,” both in the short and long runs as dictated by the cycles in social relationships in our society go back and forth between male and female dominance through our Women’s and Man’s time on Earth. (See James Thurber’s “War of the Sexes,” for a livelier and far more entertaining discussion of this fascinating subject…)

    At the moment, except, of course, within the massively powerful and influential drug, sex and pornography industries, we are on the cusp of female dominance in our culture’s leading societal structures. This has already precipitated a sharp decline in the availability of attractive males of a marrying age in the market place and a consequent sharp decline in birth rates. One can use one’s imagination to work through the myriad ramifications of how this will impact each and all of us, collectively and individually over time.

    Will the new attitudes last, yes through the full dominance cycle for most, but not all of us, because in some cultures male dominance is a pillar of religious faith, and women in this role will never be accepted.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Plotinus,

    What you didn’t say was whether, when women are “in power,” you think that they will continue the casting couch approach because they can? Will women in C-suites feel entitled to make unwanted advances to their reports?

    Nor did you see any hope for a balance, with neither dominant? Were you comfortable with an all-male 13-person congressional committee selected to determine a revised healthcare bill? For years I represented a decorative product, bought mostly by women, in which almost no women headed marketing departments. It made little sense.

    I had to look up your name, Plotinus, because until I did, it didn’t ring the bell it should have. How clever! According to Wikipedia “Plotinus (/plɒˈtaɪnəs/; Greek: Πλωτῖνος; c. 204/5 – 270) was a major Greek-speaking philosopher of the ancient world. In his philosophy there are three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition.”

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