One of the only good things about the otherwise traumatizing and destructive 2017 is that it has been a particularly bad year for alleged sexual predators, especially for those in positions of power, who brazenly continued their disgusting practices for years with no fears of repercussions or retaliations — like disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein or recently fired NBC host Matt Lauer.
Where Weinstein’s scandal highlighted the prevalence of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, it also gave birth to the powerful #MeToo movement, emboldening people to share their harrowing experiences of sexual assaults and harassment, exposing media personalities, politicians and others.
The controversies surrounding these alleged abusers proved two things: Women face sexual harassment in every profession and these alleged abusers have the support of others like them who create a culture of silence and acceptance.
Case in point: Shortly after NBC fired Lauer over complaints of “inappropriate sexual behavior” against him, Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera took to Twitter to defend him, claiming women who accuse their male colleagues or bosses of sexual harassment “may be criminalizing courtship.”
Sad about @MLauer great guy, highly skilled & empathetic w guests & a real gentleman to my family & me. News is a flirty business & it seems like current epidemic of #SexHarassmentAllegations may be criminalizing courtship & conflating it w predation. What about #GarrisonKeillor?— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) November 29, 2017
A jerk's a jerk in dating. #SexHarassment should be confined to situations where superior imposes himself on subordinate who feels unable to complain because of power of perp or feared consequences to victim's employment. Shouldn't be used to get even w bad bosses or hated ex's— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) November 29, 2017
#SexHarassment allegations should require: 1-made in a timely fashion-say w/n 5 yrs. 2-some contemporaneous corroboration, like witnesses, electronic or written communications. W $ settlements in multi-millions slight chance exists some victims are motivated by more than justice— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) November 29, 2017
This issue is so red hot right now there is no room for any thought or opinion but hang em high. If News wasn’t (formerly) a flirty biz then how do we explain so many newsroom courtships that have led to happy marriages?— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) November 29, 2017
Following the backlash, he later posted a seemingly forced apology.
Reaction to my tweets today on #sexharassment makes clear— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) November 30, 2017
I didn't sufficiently explain that this is a horrendous problem
long hidden-Harassers are deviants who deserve what is coming
to them-Often victims are too frightened to come
forward in a timely fashion-I humbly apologize
However, his tweets made one thing explicitly clear: Most men think it is OK to harass women sexually because they associate it with misguided notions of romance.
For instance, when CBS and other networks suspended Charlie Rose, one of the most prominent American interviewers, after eight women claimed he sexually harassed them, he apologized, saying, “I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.”
Weinstein inadvertently explained the problem to some extent when he said, “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”
Former President George H.W. Bush has also recently been accused of groping women during photo-ops and telling them a bizarre “David Cop-a-feel” joke afterwards.
Here is how his office responded to the allegations:
“To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate.”
Well, to begin with, patting anyone anywhere without proper consent is inappropriate. Secondly, it is this normalization of sexual harassment that has led most men to believe there is nothing wrong with touching or chasing after their female coworkers — even if they do not show any interest.
Shortly after female celebrities began accusing Weinstein of sexual assault and abuse, his old pal and another alleged pedophile and rapist, Woody Allen, chimed in with a sexist response, wondering if victims are turning the whole thing into a “witch hunt.”
“You also don’t want it to lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself,” Allen said. “That’s not right either.”
If it was not clear enough already, there is a huge difference between pursuing an office romance and making unwanted advances towards your female employees or colleagues, because no woman asks to be assaulted or touched in a manner that makes her feel uncomfortable.
In addition to that, the problem of sexual harassment has deep roots in sexism, an outdated notion that men are dominant over women. An example: America elected Donald Trump, a self-confessed groper with a long history of sexual abuse allegations, as president instead of Hillary Clinton, a woman with decades of political experience.
While putting rapists and sexual abusers behind bars is necessary, one of the most effective ways to tackle the problem is to teach men, boys and even some women of what constitutes as harassment and how men are not entitled to treat women the way they please.
While a number of men have raised their voices for women and publicly supported the victims of sexual violence in recent days, we still have a long way to go.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Lucy Nicholson