Editorial: Addressing sexual harassment – or not

Thursday, October 19, 2017

For decades, film producer Harvey Weinstein preyed on women. His threat, whether spoken or implied, was this: Do what I want you to do or there will be consequences. The words belong to powerful men throughout the world, throughout history.

Weinstein is finished. Others like him, whether office managers in Concord or CEOs in London, will persist. It will take countless acts of individual bravery to bring them out of the shadows, but even that won’t necessarily be enough to stop them. Men and women alike – regardless of race, religion, political party, economic status, etc. – must unite to confront those who use their power to subjugate or exploit. People who earnestly want an end to workplace harassment have to put aside peripheral accusations and recriminations – and that part isn’t going so well.

– A few Hollywood actors and actresses said there had been rumors for years about Weinstein’s sexual aggression. They were asked, in an accusatory way, why they didn’t come forward earlier. It’s a question meant to establish complicity, to push people into Weinstein’s sphere of depravity – even when they don’t belong there. The only thing better than watching a giant fall, it seems, is deciding who goes along for the ride.

– There are people who so despise the opposing political party that life itself has been reduced to a contest between Republicans and Democrats. Weinstein’s money and industry influence made him a major player in Democratic Party politics. For that reason, revelations about his behavior are being treated as a victory of some kind for Republicans. Both parties have their share of terrible people. Keep score if you want, but we hope you’re a fan of tie games.

– Actress Rose McGowan, who has accused Weinstein of raping her, tweeted: “This is rich famous Hollywood white male privilege in action. Replace the word ‘women’ w/ the ‘N’ word. How does it feel?” The since-deleted tweet did not go over well, especially with black women. Clarkisha Kent, writing for The Root, said: “For once, I’d like (white feminists) to deviate from their typical play where they throw us – black women – under the bus by spiking us into the ground and abandoning us when they don’t need our labor or our ‘strength’ anymore.” McGowan, one of the loudest voices condemning systemic sexual violence and harassment in the film industry, is now at the heart of an equally loud debate about the racial ignorance of white feminists. Amid the chaos, the misogynists quietly exit the stage.

– McGowan and others rebuked comedian and late-night TV host James Corden, calling him a “piglet” for jokes he made about Weinstein’s behavior. Corden replied, “I am truly sorry for anyone offended, that was never my intention.” There is an important distinction to be made here: Comedians mine the darkness for laughter; Weinstein and men like him are part of the darkness. Anyone triggered by a comedian’s jokes should know that attacking the court jester is a poor way to topple a kingdom.

The Weinstein story was clear in the beginning, and where people stood on the importance of addressing sexual harassment was clear, too – until it wasn’t.

Within a week of the Weinstein revelations, women were fighting among themselves about the complicity of the silent and the gap between white feminism and black feminism; Republicans and Democrats were arguing about who can lay claim to the most despicable characters; and comedians were tried and convicted by the offended.

And so the Weinsteins of the world live to grope another day.