Revelations about Harvey Weinstein have saturated the media this week. One woman after another has revealed vulgar behavior by one of Hollywood’s most powerful figures. Forsaking pride, privacy and potential employment, both well-established actors and aspiring extras have told strikingly similar stories of Weinstein orchestrating events that led to deeply uncomfortable one-on-one encounters in hotel rooms. Weinstein, often half-dressed, demanded sexual favors as a prerequisite for career advancement. Employees at his company knowingly participated in this web of deceit. His behavior was widely suspected for decades.
Sexual exploitation by older men is not limited to the movie industry–witness Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump–but Weinstein’s antics serve as an example of how systemic sexual exploitation can impact the imbalance of power in favor of men. This imbalance can traumatize women, both in the moment–the events shared by these women were truly frightening–and in the long term. Further, it is a reality not limited to the rich and famous, but pervasive throughout our culture. I have a friend–neither rich nor famous–who was sexually threatened at age ten and who, even decades later, still carries the emotional scars.
Commentators have been quick to applaud the courage of these female victims–and rightly they should. News stories have recounted their experiences in lurid, headline-prompting, detail. But one thing seems lacking: where are the male voices in this outrage? Where are the male moguls of the movie industry? Where are fellow Hollywood CEOs? Where are the male executives at Miramax or the Weinstein Company? Or the marquee actors they employ?
This issue is often portrayed as a women’s issue, but in truth it starts with men and impacts us all. While sexual intimidation and abuse are most frequently perpetrated against women, the problem lies with the predators who are invariably men.
Life-altering tragedies sparked by racism are rooted in rampant white privilege that cannot be successfully addressed until white people own the issue honestly and forthrightly. In the same way, pervasive misogyny—from its most subtle forms to its most repulsive expressions of sexual malfeasance—cannot be redressed until men are willing to lift their voices in solidarity with women to challenge such behavior irrespective of the costs. Men must speak out loud and clear: Enough! We will not accept this reprehensible behavior anymore.