We­in­stein part of big­ger prob­lem

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - ALYSSA ROSEN­BERG The Wash­ing­ton Post

In my time cov­er­ing the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, I’m not sure I’ve see any­thing like the re­sponse to the New York Times and the New Yorker’s re­port­ing on al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and sex­ual as­sault against movie pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein. The de­tails of We­in­stein’s al­leged be­hav­ior are so dis­gust­ing, the news of his com­pany’s com­plic­ity is so dis­may­ing, and the sto­ries of the brave women who spoke up have res­onated with so many peo­ple, that the re­sult has been a wave of tes­ti­mony and rage that makes this feel like a sem­i­nal mo­ment.

But among the dark thoughts that have dogged me this week, one has stood out.

If the rev­e­la­tion of Har­vey We­in­stein as a naked em­peror – and not of the sort he liked to imag­ine him­self – is to truly usher in ma­jor change in Amer­ica’s sex­ual and work­place cul­tures, things are go­ing to have to get a lot worse be­fore they get any bet­ter.

I don’t say this to sug­gest that things are good now, of course.

There are 22 women who have stepped for­ward to say that their lives were pro­foundly af­fected by their en­coun­ters with We­in­stein.

They have added their names to a ros­ter that in­cludes the 35 women who say they were sex­u­ally as­saulted by Bill Cosby, and the women who said the late Fox News chair­man Roger Ailes and for­mer Fox News host Bill O’Reilly ha­rassed them or made their ca­reer ad­vance­ment con­tin­gent on sex.

If our prob­lem was only that a few pow­er­ful men abuse their po­si­tion to ha­rass, as­sault and de­mean women, the cost would al­ready be too high. We should be so lucky, though. We­in­stein, Cosby, Ailes and O’Reilly make for a cast of stun­ning grotesques.

But the idea that ha­rass­ing and abus­ing women made them sin­gu­lar gets the whole thing back­wards. Rather, they ap­pear to have been unique be­cause their pre­da­tions spanned so many years and so many vic­tims, be­cause they were even­tu­ally ex­posed, and be­cause they ac­tu­ally faced some con­se­quences for their be­hav­iors.

We­in­stein, Ailes and O’Reilly were fired, and both the We­in­stein Com­pany and Fox News have been ex­posed to wide­spread crit­i­cism and le­gal li­a­bil­ity.

Cosby will go on trial on sex­ual as­sault charges for a sec­ond time next year.

These high-pro­file in­ci­dents are an im­por­tant start.

I’m so glad that so many women have found the courage to come for­ward with their sto­ries, and over­joyed that they have been widely be­lieved.

They’re only a start, though. If these in­ci­dents are to spark a much more wide­spread con­ver­sa­tion about sex­ual ha­rass­ment and sex­ual as­sault, as well as wide­spread change in cor­po­rate cul­tures that would en­sure the We­in­steins and Ailes of the world would be fired and charged the first time they ha­rassed or as­saulted a woman, we’re go­ing to need to dive deeper into the muck.

More women, and men like Terry Crews, are go­ing to have to speak out about their ex­pe­ri­ences.

Men are go­ing to have to join them in speak­ing up about be­hav­iour they’ve wit­nessed and reckon hon­estly with the times they failed to in­ter­vene in bad sit­u­a­tions.

More com­pa­nies are go­ing to have to suf­fer es­ca­lat­ing and maybe even fa­tal costs to their bot­tom lines and rep­u­ta­tions be­fore they have the in­cen­tives that will make it es­sen­tial that they take ev­ery al­le­ga­tion of wrong­do­ing se­ri­ously ev­ery sin­gle time.

And law en­force­ment of­fi­cials like Man­hat­tan Dis­trict At­tor­ney Cyrus Vance Jr., who de­clined to pros­e­cute We­in­stein, will have to learn that it is fa­tal to their ca­reers not to ag­gres­sively pur­sue sex­ual ha­rass­ment and sex­ual as­sault cases.

We ac­tu­ally have to vote against can­di­dates who are on the record brag­ging about how they grab and as­sault women, rather than ex­cus­ing their be­hav­ior as in­evitable or their talk as hy­per­bolic.

This is go­ing to feel aw­ful as it’s hap­pen­ing.

Hear­ing the de­tails of what We­in­stein is al­leged to have done and lis­ten­ing to the record­ing of his con­ver­sa­tion with Am­bra Bat­ti­lana Gu­tier­rez af­ter she ac­cused him of grop­ing her has been ut­terly sick­en­ing.

I un­der­stand why you might want to turn away, to fo­cus in­stead on the litany of other dis­as­ters that plague us right now, which while ter­ri­fy­ing at least have the ad­van­tage of be­ing less vis­cer­ally dis­gust­ing than the We­in­stein scan­dal.

The idea that many ar­eas of Amer­i­can life might be in­fected with this sort of rot is so hor­ri­fy­ing that it’s al­most too dif­fi­cult to ac­knowl­edge di­rectly. Surgery isn’t fun or pretty. When the in­fec­tion is this bad, it’s the only way for­ward.

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