Harvey Weinstein. Donald Trump. Bill Cosby. Roger Ailes. Bill O’Reilly. Bill Clinton. Bob Filner. Mickey Kasparian.
These names are among those at the center of past and present reports and accusations of outrageous conduct involving male sexual aggression, harassment and/or violence against women. There are more names to be named and countless more victims.
Liberals do it. Progressives do it. Conservatives do it. Fascists do it. So why in hell are people attempting to put a partisan frame on misogynist misconduct?
I’ll simplify this conversation for a moment and refuse to see the ‘degrees of suffering’ we’re asked to comprehend caused by such conduct.
I’ll simply call it all rape. Are you paying attention yet?
Rape is about power and entitlement. It’s embedded in our culture and history. It’s an outgrowth of a point of view based on presumed superiority. In this way, rape is closely related to lynching, the ultimate expression of racism.
A crucial part of rape culture is the networks needed to sustain it. The implicit threat of economic violence and the desire for advancement are all that’s needed to coerce subordinates to play along with, cover up for, or abet a rapist.
Anna North at Vox explores this in discussing Ronan Farrow’s explosive piece at New Yorker, based on interviews with baker’s dozen of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s victims.
A “web of enablers” lured his targets in, punished those who dared to complain, and bought the silence of those who persisted. The same district attorney who let the Trumps skate on real estate fraud charges quashed a complaint against Weinstein that included a witness wearing a wire.
One female executive at the Weinstein Company told Farrow that Weinstein would routinely set up meetings with women “late at night, usually at hotel bars or in hotel rooms. And, in order to make these women feel more comfortable, he would ask a female executive or assistant to start those meetings with him.”
“It almost felt like the executive or assistant was made to be a honeypot to lure these women in, to make them feel safe,” she said.
North goes on to describe a similar culture at Fox News:
Lawsuits and complaints against Fox News have offered numerous apparent instances of this phenomenon: Andrea Tantaros, a former Fox News host, said that when she complained about sexual harassment by Roger Ailes, then the CEO of Fox News, she was told by another executive at the network that “Roger is a very powerful man” and she “should not fight this.” A former Fox News booker “said she was expected to hire attractive staffers and send them to Ailes,” Emily Crockett wrote at Vox, “or ‘find me whores,’ as she said Ailes put it.” A former field adviser for the Republican National Committee told Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine that after she refused Ailes’s advances, a job she had been expecting fell through — a friend told her, “Word went out you weren’t to be hired.”
This sort of complicity goes beyond the workplace and into co-dependent industries. Witness Lloyd Grove’s article at the Daily Beast describing NBC’s of spiking Ronan Farrow’s initial investigation into Weinstein.
The TV network denies that any such thing happened. The New Yorker (and a separate investigation by the New York Times–which has had its own issues with reporting on Weinstein) went ahead with the story.
According to a television-industry insider familiar with Farrow’s NBC News project, however, “Farrow and his producer had been working this for 10 months. They had eight interviews on camera, with a mix of silhouette and not-silhouette—so eight women speaking. They had an NYPD audio tape, and they had enough for a story. And NBC did everything they could to delay it, complicate it, and ultimately Noah [Oppenheim] killed it. NBC shut it down.”
This person continued: “It is what it is, and everybody can see it. It’s crazy. There’s no reason, journalistically, for the story to have been killed. Obviously, there was some other reason—and I don’t know what that is.”
Weinstein’s behavior was well known enough throughout the entertainment industry to have been mentioned at the Oscars and on the TV show 30 Rock.
So, yeah, the “aid and abet” network is a thing.
Anna North points to an article by Alex Press, an assistant editor at Jacobin, covering possibilities for what can be done to counter this sort of thing.
She discusses the current tactic used by women, aka the Whisper Network, wherein likely victims are warned in discreet conversations about predators.
And as women have written in the past few days, these whisper networks are a lifeline. As a twenty-five year old woman new to both working in media and living in New York, where a significant portion of people in my social circles work in media (and these networks exist separately in left-wing politics spaces, which are by no means immune to sexual harassment or assault), I mean that: they are a lifeline, and have already served me well.
Going beyond the DM, barroom conversation, or email, Alex Press asks what would it look like to “use these networks as a basis for demanding a new normal in media, entertainment, or any other industry?”
Sadly, the weak link here is gender.
Most men will not act upon knowledge about sexual harassment until we, women, have weaponized these networks, taking power by creating entities with teeth that can bring real consequences to bear on men who we already know are abusive. After all, what good is knowledge that a man is abusive, if your options are to decide to either accept a job working with him or remain unemployed?
The fluidity of 21st-century employment makes unions-if they are not already complicit in such conduct–an unworkable mechanism. So the solution may lie in creating new entities.
What that would look like?
It could be a coordinated effort to centralize the information currently floating around our networks, in an attempt to better disperse what we already know about abusers. It could be a hotline for women to report abuse, one that guarantees anonymity and connects the victim with a woman in her field who is willing to guide her through the possible steps she can pursue to take action against her abuser— this would be a model very similar to that employed by unions, albeit in this case, we’d be using it across workplaces and industries, a rational response to an economy where workers hop from job to job on an increasingly frequent basis.
Bringing this conversation down to a local level, the case of UFCW 135 President Mickey Kasparian comes to mind.
Multiple women have accused him of misconduct and there are legal cases winding their way through the courts. Kasparian wields a lot of political power and can access cash as needed.
His use (or misuse) of that political power led to the local labor council being placed in receivership by the national AFL-CIO.
Depending on your perspective, a network of supporters (or enablers) has come to the union leader’s defense against a small group conducting a guerrilla campaign seeking to usurp his influence.
What these rebels –allied behind Las Tres Hermanas– want is to be heard. (And, yes, they have been strident about it.) They’ve gone to County Democratic Party meetings to picket since UFCW money flows into their coffers. What they’ve encountered looks a lot like what we’ve seen at Fox News and Weinstein’s operation.
Someday the local Democratic Party’s decision to wall-in its central committee deliberations on endorsements behind a triple layer of security may not look as sinister as it did recently to candidates for office seeking admittance. (Republicans live-stream their meetings!)
In the meantime, for those who may feel uncertain about their behavior in the modern workplace (or elsewhere), I heartily recommend Anna Victoria Clark’s essay at Medium, The Rock Test: A Hack for Men Who Don’t Want To Be Accused of Sexual Harassment.
In a nutshell:
While navigating professional relationships can often require that dreaded thing known as “any amount of work at all”, there is hope. You see, by following this one simple rule, you too can interact with women as people.
It’s as clear cut as this: Treat all women like you would treat Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
I know, this sounds weird, but trust me, this is a visualization exercise that will work wonders in your dealings with the women in your workplace. When a woman approaches you, just replace her in your mind with The Rock. Then, behave accordingly.
Movie Director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) penned an epic response on Facebook, following reports of Weinstein’s conduct that’s worth excerpting here:
…Sexual predation is rife in Hollywood. But it’s also rife EVERYWHERE. As evinced by the stories I heard Friday night, some men – probably a much larger percentage than any of us want to be true – try to coerce women (or children or other men) sexually, and they will try and do so when they get any small amount of power. They are movie stars and network heads and world famous bloggers – but they are also fast food restaurant managers and used car salesmen and, as I learned as a child (and tried to speak out and was shut down), priests.
And they are EVERYWHERE. And they are killing us. When someone is coerced sexually it not only affects that person, but the lives of those around that person, like rows of dominoes falling in every direction. It demolishes trust and comfort in all of society. And evil men are doing this everywhere, every day, in every occupation, and every type of household, all over the world.
FUCK. THEM. ALL.
I am hoping with recent truths coming to light, that their reign is coming to an end, in Hollywood, and everywhere. I promise to do everything I personally can to stop it, and I applaud and have deep love for every human being who breaks the silence.
Seriously, folks, this issue shouldn’t be tucked away, just because we’ve elected a predator-in-chief.
If we (and this includes me) are going to get past this point in our history and not end up living in The Handmaid’s Tale or some other equally dystopian future, the conduct of our species toward each other must be changed.
This doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t come quick. And it will never happen as long as those who should be changing their ways see themselves as victims.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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Lynn Hudak says
Thank you Doug. This piece is very well written and thought out. You put the discussion where it belongs and took the Dem vs Rep slant out of it, as it should be.
Brent Beltran says
Kasparian donated, through the UFCW, $10k to the local Dem Party for this month’s convention. They love that Mickey Money™!
Mandy Barre says
This is kind of a “duh” for older women like me. Power/abuse happens when someone feels they are untouchable, no matter whether they are political or not. Violence/sexual harassment/rape happens across all demographic lines, racial, socio-economic, and yes gender lines.
Hope some of the younger folks grasp this after your good article here.
Do you have some sources of help for those being abused? Thanks.
bob dorn says
Corporate managers often rape the souls of their employees. I know that each sexual demand produces as much injury to the soul as do company demands that we abandon our work ethics and common decency. The demands may not be equivalent, but righteous pride and confidence are damaged over and over again, and a recovery of those feelings takes a very long time. It’s shamefully common, and the news stories that get out could probably be tripled. Given that The Present Occupant of The White House used to make some of his money by firing people on camera I don’t doubt he was also a compulsive rapist. And he’d probably blame the raped for what happened.
Agree with other comments here. Thank You. This is a HUMAN issue, not some mere POLITICAL one…