“Me too”….. These two words took her several days to type. These words were flooding social media since Sunday, when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted and asked women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to post as their status. The hope was to draw attention to the magnitude of this problem.
Though she had been sexually harassed, she was hesitant to type “me too” on her Facebook page because her experience paled in comparison to the harassment that other women have experienced. She did not feel like a victim, but nevertheless, she had been sexually harassed. Virginia updated her status to “me too”. The comments of support were instantaneous and overwhelming. It was therapeutic to see others who had also posted this as their status.
An essay by Virginia ….
Sexual harassment is nothing new. I recall as a young adult being groped by the elderly owner of the mom and pop store where I worked. When I told my mother, she said that there was not much a woman could do about it. “Boys will be boys. Just try to stay away from it.” The women I worked with would all run and appear to be busy to avoid the “hugs” that our friendly owner would dole out. He once said, “I only hire pretty girls.” To hear this story twenty five years later might horrify you. Perhaps it should, but have times have not changed.
Men of power are still creating a hostile work environment for women who work with them. They do this by making inappropriate comments, often disguised as jokes; groping women’s breasts, butts, and vaginas; and punishing women professionally if they do not comply. Often women who do not comply with these unwanted advances are fired, demoted, or not given good work assignments.
Although it is nothing new, sexual harassment was placed on the back burner until recently when some high profile women bravely chose to risk their careers and speak out.
Lawsuits and Complaints Cause Roger Ailes to be Fired
In July 2016, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes was forced to resign as a result of complaints of sexual harassment his female colleagues. Ailes had allegedly been doing this for years and Fox News backed him up by paying off his victims. It was not until heavy hitter news anchors, such as Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson came forth and sued that Fox actually responded to Ailes’ behavior.
This lead to Fox’s and Cable News’ number one anchor being forced off the air. Bill O’Reilly, who was Roger Ailes’ protégé, was forced out of his anchor chair and off the network earlier this year. O’Reilly actually declined to give commentators time on his show unless they would agree to be subjected to his illicit phone calls, and propositions for sex. Again, Fox News helped to cover up these allegations by settling out of court with O’Reilly’s victims.
Hollywood Actresses Bring Down a Production Giant
Though the ousting of Ailes and O’Reilly were big news, a fire has been started by the fifty plus actresses who have come forward with allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood Mega Producer and CEO of the Weinstein Company. These allegations include that Weinstein groped; spoke inappropriately to; masturbated on; and in some cases raped actresses who worked for his company or were looking for roles in the movies that he produced.
A well- kept secret in Hollywood, it was not until the New York Times wrote an expose on Weinstein’s behavior that dozens of actresses came forward. Well known stars such as Ashley Judd, and Rose McGowan spoke out as victims of Weinstein. This created a chain reaction and Hollywood Royalty such as Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, and Nicole Kidman denounced this behavior. To date, Weinstein has been removed as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; fired from his own company; and could possibly face criminal charges.
Will These Allegations Spark Changes for All Women?
Allegations of harassment have now come forth regarding Hollywood actors and Oscar winners such as Ben Affleck and his brother Casey Affleck. Each day there are stories in the news regarding Hollywood and its current hostile and discriminatory climate. We can hope that it inspires women in the private and public sector to find their voices and stand together to put an end to this predatory behavior.
I hope that I never have to hear the words that I uttered to my mother about my first job from my daughter. Perhaps this is the beginning of the change. It would be very healing for all if someday our daughters were able to take a hostile free work environment for granted.