Amid the recent spate of sexual harassment complaints against just about everyone it seems these days, two things becomes apparent- if true, the depth of the problem is deeper than most people thought, and sexual harassment, sometimes of a predatory nature, knows no ideological bounds. Whether we are talking about Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Sheen, Roy Moore, Donald Trump or Bill Clinton, these are people from across the ideological divide.
First, we have to ask ourselves whether the problem truly is as deep as many portray it to be. There are, as anyone knows who has ever had to take mandatory training in the workplace, two types of sexual harassment- quid pro quo and hostile work environment. In quid pro quo harassment, a person (usually the female) gets something in exchange for a favor of a sexual nature. For example, employment, a raise or a promotion is held out as a reward for the unwanted advance.
This type of behavior would appear to apply to Hollywood moguls like Harvey Weinstein. Given his position of power in the movie industry, aspiring and established actresses were submitted to his sexual advances in exchange for consideration of a role in a movie or other such promise. That is, they received some reward along the line.
The hostile work environment can involve anything from having a pornographic screen saver visible, continuous jokes of a sexual nature that make workers uncomfortable, or simply using your position of power to touch and grope a female while not asking for anything in return. That seems to be the gist of the accusations, for example, against Bill O’Reilly.
Sometimes the behavior breaks through to something illegal in the criminal sense. For example, if some of the accusations against Weinstein are correct, they are nothing less than rape. Masturbating in front of women as the comedian Louis C.K. is accused is another crime. After all, the average peeping Tom masturbating as they watch someone undress through a window is a crime. If the evidence is there, then they should be tried under criminal law provided the offense falls within the statute of limitations.
The problem for some is that many of these allegations today occurred years ago. It has been suggested that the allegations against Weinstein were now made because his power in Hollywood was waning. But, that does not explain the accusations against other figures who still command a pretty penny at the box office or on the television screen, or who aspire to higher office as in the case of Alabama Senatorial candidate Roy Moore.
Some have commented on the infamous Donald Trump TMZ tape where he was recorded saying that people in power can get away with grabbing a woman’s “p$%%#.” His detractors took that as he did it and got away with it. Dismissed as locker room talk by the Trump campaign, lost in the analysis is that Trump never said he engaged in such behavior, only that people in power can get away with it. Admittedly, it was a crude treatment of what is now being revealed almost daily.
Some of the blame for the current state of affairs has to fall, ironically, on women, or more specifically, feminists. If one thinks back two decades, some of the biggest defenders of Bill Clinton were feminist groups. Many described him not as a “sexual predator,” but as a “womanizer.” Also, whereas Trump was describing men getting away with groping women given their power, Clinton was actually using his power to grope women.
But, Clinton had towed the feminist line. He was pro-choice, he supported the Equal Rights Amendment, he was a fighter for the causes near and dear to the feminist movement at the time. The “womanizer” would never appoint a “sex predator” like Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.
Said Gloria Steinem in 1998:
If all the sexual allegations now swirling around the White House turn out to be true, President Clinton may be a candidate for sex addiction therapy. But feminists still would have been right to resist pressure by the right wing and the news media to call for his resignation or impeachment.
Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority at the time, dismissed the allegations against Clinton. Comparing the allegations to those against Clarence Thomas, she stated there was a difference. In the case of Clinton, it was an organized right wing attack. In other words, if it is an organized left wing attack against a Supreme Court nominee, then that nominee must be burned at the stake. In fact, there is greater evidence that Bill Clinton was more guilty of the transgressions with which he was accused than there was proof against the allegations regarding Thomas.
One cannot excuse the behaviors of Harvey Weinstein or Louis C.K. in a hotel room, nor can they excuse the behaviors of a 32-year-old prosecutor in Alabama hitting on 14-year-old girls, or any of the other myriad of allegations against George Takei, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Sheen, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, or Jeremy Piven if they are proven to be true. Likewise, one cannot excuse the behaviors and actions of a President like Bill Clinton.
But, the feminist Left and many supporters did. Many of these accusations date back decades whereas those against Clinton were more proximal…and occurred in the Oval Office. If there is or was this acceptance of the status quo in the offices of Fox News or Hollywood studios- entertainment’s “dirty little secret-” then one cannot escape the ignorance of blame against their own because in the name of women’s rights, they were ignoring blame against the occupant of the highest office in the land.
Personally, the “me too against (insert celebrity’s name here)” phenomena is getting a bit out of hand. Not to dismiss the more serious claims and allegations, but an off-hand joke or misplaced hand does not rise to the level of sexual harassment in this writer’s book. Obviously, if these allegations against the many are true, they should suffer for it. But, there seems to be a sexual harassment hysteria setting in now.
But then again, when an actual predator (Clinton) is excused of his behavior, what are the guilty to expect? Hopefully, innocent people will not get swept up in the almost daily revelations and allegations because once they do, it places a pall over the legitimate accusations.