Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Culture of Hypocrisy, Harvey Weinstein Edition

There's a line in a Rush song ("A Farewell to Kings") that says, "the hypocrites are slandering/ the sacred halls of truth," and it's come to mind a number of times in the past several weeks.  I've never been fond of hypocrisy:  if you're going to complain about others who do X, you shouldn't be doing X yourself.  I was very impressed with my father, for example-- he quit smoking (not an easy thing for him to do) so that he could set a good example for his kids, and not be a hypocrite when he told us not to smoke.

This has been quite a week for hypocrisy, and I could give so many examples.  But let me focus on one: all the guys in the entertainment industry who are now shocked, shocked about (former) movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.  They can't distance themselves from him fast enough.  Yet many of these same guys were just fine about going to his parties, and taking his donations for their pet causes.  And before some of my readers get all self-righteous about Harvey being a Democrat, how about all the guys who defended and applauded Republicans like Roger Ailes, or made excuses for Bill O'Reilly?  Republican politicians and celebrities are every bit as guilty as Democrats when it comes to power: they will hang around with anyone who can help them to advance their career or provide some favorable publicity.

But the issue of sexual harassment has never really been about politics, although some folks seem eager to turn it into "my side good/your side bad." And I also don't want this blog post to seem like a rant against guys in general (nor even guys in the media). I spent nearly four decades in broadcasting, and I met some amazing guys, who were wonderful to me.  But on the other hand, there are some guys who should have been called out long ago, and they never were.  It's an open secret that many powerful men have long been able to get away with treating women shamefully; and what helps it to keep recurring is the colleagues who look the other way, or the boards of directors who don't care about sexual harassment as long as the profits keep rolling in.  But when one of them gets caught, instead of addressing the issue, it's treated as an isolated incident with one guy who behaved badly.  The wagons get circled, excuses get made, perhaps the guy in question is fired.  But the culture that made it all possible continues, and the hypocrites who benefited from it go back to living their lives.

The victims have no such luxury however.  When it happened to me in the mid-1970s, the advice I got from the men who knew him was to keep quiet and accept the fact that "this is how some guys are."  But none of his male colleagues seemed surprised and none condemned his behavior; I was told that I alone had to adapt.  It took a while before I stopped being angry, and I never entirely got over the feeling of helplessness. (If you've been through it, that's the worst part-- you know what happened, you know who did it, you know he'll probably do it again, and nobody in his circle of friends and colleagues is willing to do anything about it.)

And here we are in 2017, and it seems not much has changed:  women who were harassed are still asked why they didn't come forward sooner.  In many cases, the reason is self-preservation, a reaction to a system where the cards are stacked against you.  If you complain, you're branded as a trouble-maker and nobody will hire you.  If you come forward in a public way, you're often accused of lying, or blamed for what took place (as if harassment or sexual assault is somehow your fault, not his).  It's no wonder many women keep quiet. So, now Harvey Weinstein will be driven out, as Roger Ailes was. But I fear that we still won't see an end to the culture that allows such men to have so much power over women's lives.  And I fear that those who enable these men will now decide their work is done. They'll return to doing what they've always done: looking away, or pretending it doesn't happen... until the next time...      

2 comments:

  1. Not much I can add, well stated Donna. Ultimately, information and knowledge is true power. You're doing a public service with this blog. Keep up the good work.

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  2. Your last paragraph was powerful, wow. But I will hope soon as an optimist with 2 daughters, my wife, and sisters - that the conducive conditions that creates this culture will go away as more gender equality occurs hopefully at a faster pace in the next several years.

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