Drawing the line on harassment is long past due

The last few years have witnessed an unnerving procession of political leaders, media personalities, celebrities and dearly beloved comedic icons stroll down the media walk of shame for abusing their positions of power to sexually harass those who chance across their sights.

When the levy is breached by an accusation of harassment by a woman, a deluge swiftly follows as those who have long remained silent about their own experiences of assault and harassment out of fear of repercussion and the loss of their careers are at last emboldened to finally speak out. It is telling that this apparent “pile on” phenomenon is viewed with some suspicion among the twittering classes.

In fact, we are nearly all of us complicit in enabling the monsters who walk among us.

Stop and honestly think about how you would advise a young woman whose powerful boss, director, foreman, producer, manager, editor, patron, publisher, agent etc. has made an unsolicited and unwanted advance or assault—and then swiftly apologized for the transgression. To help make your decision a little more complicated, the person making the unwanted advance is a well respected and a “connected” individual who can make or break their accuser’s career. What do you tell them to do? Those we recently polled on that question paused for a remarkably long time before admitting that they were not at all sure what their advice would be. Everyone polled was female.

It is a lot easier to answer a hypothetical question than it is when actually faced with the reality of a sobbing friend and the potential of real world repercussions—particularly in these days of social media feeding frenzies.

This is a public debate that’s time is long overdue. Hopefully, the massive public revulsion that has erupted over these latest Weinstein allegations, and the very heavy economic sanctions that have accompanied them, will start the process of realigning our culture and give pause to the predators among us. It will be a long road, but any journey starts with a single step.

The current allegations against a powerful Hollywood producer don’t just seem cliché, they are the very essence of cliché. A powerful Hollywood producer, a casting couch, a beautiful young starlet anxious to make it in the highly competitive entertainment industry, but this scenario plays out across our society like a kaleidoscopic nightmare and it must come to a full stop.

Wealth, position and standing should not be an armour shielding sexual predators so they can stalk their victims—no matter what the current president of the United States believes. There is no place for this kind of class privilege in 21st Century society. Not to be naive, it will not completely stop, even if the penalty for these actions is severe, but it will become far less common.

Statistics suggest that most women have been assaulted at some point in their lives. No person in our society should face such a daunting prospect simply due to their gender or for simply being within the reach of someone with power.

It may be the way of the world—but it should not be. Together, let’s make a change.

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