The phrase should be, “if you see something, do nothing.”
All week, the media outlets have been reeling over the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse and harassment scandal. It took only a couple of days to learn that there have been decades of his inexplainable, reprehensible behavior. Due to the mutual support from women in the entertainment industry, including award-winning actresses, the horrid stories are coming out and now, other men in the business are being implicated for their inappropriate actions as well as failure to address Weinstein’s tawdry, bullyish acts, of which many were aware.
These will be the stories that make a much-talked about movie down the line. Weinstein will be the undesirable star of his own biopic.
However, the saddest part of this is Weinstein’s stories are not revelatory. There are tens of many in not only Hollywood, but other areas of corporate America. When I was a journalism student and later a cub reporter during my early years in newspaper, I remember watching some of mypeers being reeled in by sleazy job recruiters, at conferences, who clearly were using their ability to hire as manipulative tactics to lure and make sexual advances.
As a music industry veteran, I’ve often foiled advances from artist managers and executives who were too close for comfort. I was saved by space. I tried to avoid being in awkward situations or places where I couldn’t remove myself from danger. But, constantly being warned about some people, I also knew to stay clear of them altogether or try not to be caught in uncomfortable surroundings alone.
And just when I hoped I had one safe haven, I was in no less danger at church conferences, meetings or conventions. As an ordained female pastor and theologian, I’m already amongst the minority. In an occupation where men outnumber the women by at least 5 to 1, I have found myself avoiding pastors, elders and bishops who were infamous for hugging too tight, too long and too often. There were some who took the first step to mean they had permission to go beyond.
So then I ask, “where are we safe?”
Last year, we watched horrendous reports about America’s favorite father, Bill Cosby, alleged drugging and sexual assaults from previous decades. The stories continue about singer R Kelly and the accusations of pedophilia and women held in captivity. I have run short of descriptions for this behavior and these are just the ones that have come to surface in the past year. If we scour media reports from years in the past, we will find countless sexual scandals.
Weinstein’s transgressions garnered top trending coverage because of his high profile and the known actresses who publicized his heinous sexual advances. However, it does not account for the thousands of stories yet to be told. In addition, there are the male executives and female sycophants who are ordered to sweep it under the rug, provide hush money and any other tactics to make them go away.
But how can we make these teachable moments when we elected a perpetrator to run the United States? As he put it, it was “just locker room talk.” Tell that to the women who were the hot topics of his mobile home chat with former talk show host Billy Bush.
So, we are horrified by Weinstein and everyone else whose guilt is conveniently forcing them to bear their souls. What now?
As the Weinstein company determines their future, what happens to the countless women who did not make it in Hollywood after these encounters and are now scarred by his abuse? How do we deal with thousands of women who have had the misfortune of being cornered by the boss after hours? How do we teach our girls and boys to be strong, stand up and speak out when we are still being bullied as grown women and men?
I suggest we go beyond the sexual harassment lessons that companies force you to take on line from your desktop computer. Men and women need to take classes, hear actual testimonials and be offered workshops to really help them understand the lasting damage from physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Corporate boards need better representation. The Weinstein Company had an all male board of directors. Human resources departments need to have real human resources executives, not those who take a correspondence course, then do as much damage as the perpetrators by not being skilled athandling crises.
Until we – that’s all of us – speak for the silenced and support those victimized by bullies, forced into sexually obsequious behaviors, we will continue to bear the responsibility of the horrendous mental and emotional outcomes.
And that is not acceptable.