First, it was Roger Ailes, then Bill O’Reilly, and now Harvey Weinstein. Three past their primes white guys who met their downfall with a cascade of sexual harassment allegations All three were incredibly powerful and influential men. All three shaped public opinion. Roger Ailes founded his own news network and made Fox into a conservative brand that became more popular than its liberal counterparts. Bill O’Reilly anchored the O’Reilly Factor-must see tv for millions of Americans. Weinstein co-founded the popular Miramax before starting his own, The Weinstein Company. All powerful men whose collective Achilles’ heel was the sexual harassment of women. These cases are really about power and control. Weinstein claims all his “relationships” were consensual. It’s hard to have two consenting adults in any situation when one of the parties has all the authority and power. Weinstein had the power and the ability to make or break the careers of these women. That’s not the definition of a consenting relationship.
Their careers and their power were consolidated long before any of us spoke in terms of sexual harassment. In the 1970’s such behavior was the subject of numerous television comedies. Take for instance, M*A*S*H. In its second season (1974), the episode entitled “Operation Noselift” centered on the philandering cosmetic surgeon who fixed an enlisted man’s schnoz in exchange for the company of a nurse. The surgeon fixed his attentions on Major Houlihan and in one episode attacked the Major all the while she tried to fight off his advances. The scene drew lots of laughs then and cringes now. It was considered funny. It was boys being boys. It was as much a part of the period as the three martini lunch. Times have changed. It’s no longer funny. It’s criminal. The allegations against Weinstein include forcible rape. While he hopes to mount a comeback after rehab, he’s finished, and he should be. Why the behavior was dismissed as funny or part of the male ritual, I’ll never understand. The exploitation of any group of human beings, in this case, women, is deplorable. The stories about Weinstein’s exploitation of women are still coming out. I suspect we’ll hear more details about the Weinstein horror show.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment takes place in the workplace at a frequency with which we shouldn’t be complacent. There are many Harvey Weinstein’s out there. They need to be stopped now.