What is it with men in power?
Over the past few months, women have come together with the “Me Too” hashtag and Facebook posts, sharing stories about men who have harassed and/or abused them, usually at the work place.
That’s in the wake of the recent revelations of sexual abuse by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and earlier reports of the same by Fox News executive Roger Ailes and Fox News fallen star Bill O’Reilly. There was Bill Clinton and his many affairs, of course, and accusations against Bill Cosby, whom many women said drugged them before sexually forcing himself on them. (And then there’s the man who said that when you’re a star, “You can do anything ... Grab them by the p****.” I wonder where someone like that would end up.)
The actual Me Too movement was started in the late 1990s, but it went viral last month after the Weinstein revelations.
Many women I know have been telling their own stories about their abuse at the hands of supervisors or employers, many of them white men in power. You don’t have to work for a famous boss to have suffered at his roving hands — and other body parts. Millions of women have tweeted or posted their stories of bosses grabbing their butts and more in the coat closet, or giving raises only in exchange for sexual acts, or writing bad performance reviews for women who would not go with them to motel rooms.
This happens at all levels. A friend was at drugstore last week, and the clerk looked around before whispering, “It’s not just the famous Hollywood men who do these things. I’m afraid for my daughter to go to work.” This power and control through forced sex or sexual advances happens to women working in retail stores and government offices, to students on university campuses, and more.
I love men. My dad was the first one in my life, and I have four brothers and two sons. I can’t swear that the men in my family never made inappropriate comments about female coworkers or friends. But I do know that they respected women as much as men, would never touch anyone against her will, and that my sons work to be respectful and honest with women — and men.
What is it then, that tells some men that, as their worldly atmosphere becomes more stratified, they are untouchable? As men climb into the power circles of Hollywood or TV, or Washington, D.C. and other political spheres, or sports (or into management at, say, a grocery store), they seem to forget their roots, their mothers, and any moral lessons they were taught as boys. They can make or deny people’s careers, sure. But why does that blind them to the immorality of their actions? And why does that make them deny the accusations and forget that they must pay for their actions? Sex addiction is a real thing. But some powerful men use that as a crutch as they pledge future therapy — and often don’t follow up on that promise. Therapy or not, sexually abusing another person is inexcusable.
And don’t get me started on the people around those gross, power-abusing harassers and rapists, who simply looked the other way. Atrocious.
So what can we do? I believe we need to keep talking, keep outing people who abuse, and try to raise children, grandchildren, and other kids we know, to be respectful and conscious. And let this be an open topic — that stays open.
Meanwhile, if we see something, we say something. Whether it’s a colleague who suddenly has a glazed look in her eye and skittish behavior, a friend who has new bruises every time you see her, or a woman (or man) whose eyes can’t meet yours after they’ve been with the boss, teacher or mentor.
It’s time for this to stop. Now.