Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“The ripple effect”

The Day’s experts on why celebrities and influential people are being accused of sexual harassment precisely today
15 November, 2017 - 19:40
REUTERS photo

The stories of sexual harassment, especially in the milieu of celebrities, have been growing like a snowball in the world lately. This wave rose when the US press reported that some women had begun to accuse the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse. According to The New York Times, actresses Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cara Delevingne, Asia Argento, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Lucia Stoller, Mira Sorvino, and Rosanna Arquette said they had known about or experienced sexual harassment on the part of Weinstein.

Meanwhile, American film actress Portia de Rossi accused actor and producer Steven Seagal of sexual misconduct. The same charges were leveled against Seagal by other women, including actress Juliana Margulies and supermodel Jenny McCarthy.

Now the plot thickens, so to speak. Some men, including US actor Anthony Rapp, Mexican actor Roberto Cavazos, British barman Daniel Beal, and American filmmaker Tony Montana, told about sexual harassment by Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey. Singer Mariah Carey’s bodyguard Michael Anello also reported harassment. He said she had been deliberately wearing in his presence an open see-through negligee.

What makes these problems serious is the fact that Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the creation of a special task force to examine the allegations of sex abuse roiling Hollywood. Local law enforcement agencies are investigating allegations made against producer Harvey Weinstein, director James Toback, and actor Ed Westwick, among others.

Incidentally, there is a similar situation in the Old World – Europe. The British newspaper Sunday Times, the internet portal Politico, and other media have made public the claims of women that some male MEPs harassed them sexually and tried to grope their body. The Sunday Times did not reveal the names of the politicians accused of sexual harassment at the request of the women themselves who fear for their career and the likely juridical consequences. The European Parliament resolved in late October to hold urgent debates on this matter.

Following the allegations of sexual harassment, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon resigned, admitting that his actions fell “below the high standards” required of the armed forces he represented. It emerged he repeatedly put his hand on the knee of radio host Julia Hartley-Brewer during a Conservative Party conference dinner in 2002.

The sexual scandal around Hollywood producer Weinstein has triggered a very popular flash mob, #Me Too, in social media, where thousands of women tell about sexual abuse and harassment.

The Day requested some experts to comment on why the wave of accusations against celebrities and influential people has emerged precisely today and what consequences this may have.

“MEN SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO GET AWAY WITH THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR”

Lincoln MITCHELL, political scientist, former professor of the Columbia University, author of the book The Democracy Promotion Paradox:

“I am not sure why this is happening now, but it has been a concern in American life for many years. Sexual harassment was a major issue in the 1990 confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. More recently, the issue has drawn more attention because of the accusations made against then candidate Donald Trump and the tape that was leaked where he boasted about sexually assaulting women. I suspect this led many women to believe it was more important than ever to come forward to try to ensure that men do not get away with this kind of behavior.

“I am a man, so am hesitant to speculate too much on why women have frequently hesitated to come forward with these allegations. However, we know that when women come forward they encounter a lot of problems. Sometimes the allegations are simply dismissed. Other times powerful men make it clear they will hurt the women in question’s career if they come forward. In other cases, women find themselves being accused of somehow leading the man on or some such nonsense. In other cases, family and colleagues make them feel uncomfortable. It is good that women are beginning to come forward the behavior of people like Louis CK, Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, Roy Moore and others is disgusting and in many cases criminal. Men should not be able to get away with that.”

“THE BIGGER ISSUE STILL REMAINS: WILL ALL OF THIS PRESS COVERAGE LEAD TO MORE LASTING CHANGES”

Aubrey JEWETT, professor, Department of Political Science, University of Central Florida:

“Sexual harassment and assault have become big issues in the US and in Europe over the past six weeks. Sexual harassment and assault in the workplace have been problems for much longer than that, but many women (and some men) who were victims often felt that they could not come forward. In the movie and television business it has long been rumored that young aspiring actors would have to perform on the ‘casting couch’ in order to secure a role – that is providing sexual favors for producers who make the decisions about who to cast for their movie or television show. Many actors felt (and still feel) that accusing someone powerful in the business of wrong doing would damage or end their career. They also?did not come forward because they felt that no one would believe them (it would just be their word against the word of the more po­werful or famous person). The same scenario played out in many other fields?as well: low level people who were harassed by people in authority?did not report because they thought no one would believe them and that they would hurt their career.

“The current?wave of sexual harassment and assault?allegations started with several news stories alleging misconduct by powerful Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein. The original story quoted several women who accused Weinstein of improper and even potentially illegal behavior. The original story caused a ‘ripple effect.’ As the story was picked up by more and more news outlets, dozens more women began reporting that Weinstein had harassed or assaulted them over the decades as well (currently about 80 women have made accusations against Weinstein). As more women reported their allegations against Weinstein it became an even bigger story covered by virtually every media outlet in the US (and eventually all over the world) and the silence that surrounded the issue was ended. As more female (and male) victims saw that there were so many people coming forward to report their experience, they began to feel that people would actually listen to their allegations of harassment and assault and that people would believe them. And that they could safely come forward with their story as society would be sympathetic to them rather than blaming them (or not believing them) and that coming forward would not damage their career. Thus in the weeks after the Weinstein story broke there have been dozens of high profile people in many different fields (entertainment, media, go­vernment, business) who have been accused of harassment or assault.

“The bigger issue still remains: will all of this press coverage lead to more lasting changes that reduce the instances of? harassment and assault in the future and lead to a more open society where victims will be more confident coming forward if they are harassed or abused in the future? And will these changes last after other issues begin to dominate news coverage and the media ‘feeding frenzy’ over sexual harassment and assault ends.”

By Mykola SIRUK
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