Me Too

We encourage you to listen to or read an excellent editorial by Joy of Resistance on the quick "rehabilitation" of famous and notable figures accused of sexual harrassment, a topic of special interest and relevance this week at WBAI. Joy of Resistance is an excellent feminist radio show broadcast 6pm Sunday evenings on WBAI/NY. (We also post their whole show which includes news about the Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court, and an interview with one of the founders of the first abortion clinic in New York State.)

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Transcript (w/links to articles quoted from) of editorial read by Fran Luck (who wrote it) on WBAI's Joy of Resistance on Sunday, July 15, 2018

Forty percent of women experience sexual harassment in their place of work and of those, eighty percent leave their jobs within two years because of it--an ongoing attrition rate that has a huge impact on the lives, jobs and careers of women.  Women who report harassment are frequently labeled "liabilities" and blackballed within their industries--even if they are believed.

And there are other consequences: Journalist Bryce Covert in an article in The Cut last Fall, https://www.thecut.com/2017/10/sexual-harassment-affects-women-career.html
quoted one woman she interviewed as asking "Can I put some sort of asterisk on my résumé like, ‘I left because of the creepy boss who was making people uncomfortable?'" (in order to explain the gap in my work history?).

Ever since last October, when

the firing of Bill O'Reilly at Fox News led to the outing of decades-long sexual predator Harvey Weinstein and then a host of other men--celebrities, CEO's and political figures have fallen--as the floodgates seemed to open and women, who, gaining confidence through each others' testimonies, publicly revealed their experiences of having been subjected to sexually inappropriate behavior at work. And the list of men accused of harassing the women over whom they had power, grew longer and longer.

The fall of famous men such as Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Mario Batali and many others, shook up the ground-rules of male entitlement in the workplace--and was met in short order with a fierce, though entirely predictable, backlash (feminists such as Rebecca Traister predicted it last Fall based on what happened in response to prior feminist upsurges. (https://www.vox.com/2017/12/11/16756158/rebecca-traister-sexual-harassment-trump-clinton)

In short order, the "#metoo movement", as it came to be known, was villified as a "witch hunt against men" by President Donald Trump (himself accused of harassment and assault by at least 20 women) and there were cries of lack of "due process" for the men accused. Constance Grady in a Vox article (https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/1/6/16855434/weinstein-reckoning-sexual-harassment-due-process-daphne-merkin-keillor-franken) challenging this argument, asked "But is it accurate to say that (these men) lost their jobs without an investigation?"

Grady pointed out in that article that "Garrison Keillor was fired from Minnesota Public Radio following what was reportedly a month-long investigation into “inappropriate behavior.” And "Jonathan Schwartz was first suspended and then put on leave following what New York Public Radio describes as “two separate investigations overseen by outside counsel” and so on.

In every case Joy of Resistance has come across in our months-long coverage of #metoo, companies have called in outside legal firms to run impartial investigations; the women accusers had reported the harassment to others at the time it happened; there were often muliple accusers; and incidents took place over a period of time--all considered markers for credibility. "Due process" is a legal term (https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/11/16999466/what-is-due-process-trump) that only applies to court procedures--in private companies individuals can be fired at will (unless they are in unions) and usually do not get the courtesy of a private impartial investigation--as have the accused sexual harassers.

But now we seem to be in a different phase of the #metoo movement. Marina Fang in an article (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/me-too-redemption-career-comeback_us_5ad7a7fce4b029ebe020978b) in the Huffington Post on April 19, entitled: "Let’s Not Give Alleged Harassers A Comeback Narrative" and subtitled: "A spate of recent stories wonder if men exposed by Me Too can return to the spotlight. Their accusers often can’t..." claimed: "We seem to have reached a new moment in the Me Too movement, judging by several recent stories pondering whether famous men accused of sexual misconduct are ready to re-enter the public eye. "

As an example, she gave the fact that chef and restaurateur Mario Batali—who left ABC after multiple accusations of inappropriate touching that went back decades, told The New York Times that he is "floating ideas, pondering timelines and examining whether there is a way for him to step back into his career, at least in some fashion.”

Charlie Rose, fired by PBS after 11 accusations of sexual harassment, has recently been the subject of a sympathetic profile in The Hollywood Reporter ( https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/what-happened-charlie-rose-we-asked-his-friends-associates-1101333) calling him "brilliant and lonely", causing Rebecca Traister to tweet: "Please note that this piece--about a multiply accused harasser and groper of the women who worked with him--is headlined "Broken, Brilliant, and Lonely." We can always see the brilliance and humanity in men, no matter how inhumanely they treat women."

Noting headlines such as: "Louis CK Path to a Comeback runs through comedy clubs", "Disgraced by Scandal, Mario Batali is Eying a Second Act" and "Matt Lauer is Planning his Comeback", journalist and podcaster Sarah Lerner commented: "I see we've reached the Sexual Predator Redemption(TM) Arc". (https://twitter.com/sarahlerner/status/986451183999963137)

And--just this week, we have three more examples. It was revealed that Harvey Weinstein, with 89 complaints from women, three of which involve forcible sexual assault (opening him up to a life sentence), was released from house-arrest while awaiting trial (while, it must be noted, thousands languish in jail in NYC accused of much lesser crimes but who cannot make bail).

And--Bill Schine, has been appointed the new communications director at the White House. Multiple lawsuits against the Fox Network claimed Shine was Roger Ailes’ chief protector through years of sexually harassing female staff.

And--closer to home, the New York Times ran a story on July 10 (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/09/nyregion/leonard-lopate-wbai-radio-show.html) that began: "Leonard Lopate, the WNYC radio host fired last year amid allegations of inappropriate behavior toward his female colleagues, is returning next week to New York's radio airwaves with a show on WBAI". (Leonard Lopate will officially start his tenure at WBAI tomorrow).

So what is really wrong with what many feminists are calling a "premature redemption phase?"

Elizabeth Velez, professor of women’s and gender studies at Georgetown University stated (in the article by Marina Fang, linked above): "A lot of the people who are saying, ‘when can these people come back?’... (but) they really haven’t thought through the damage, the damage to women who can’t do that work (anymore), the women who have been excluded.”

Noreen Farrell, the Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates, a legal organization that focuses on gender equality, characterized the “redemption stories” as “potentially dangerous to the progress of the Me Too movement” and “a distraction. They deflect attention from accusers ― whose lives and careers their harassers have deeply harmed ― as well as from the larger institutional and systemic problems exposed by Me Too", she said.

Velez went on to say: "In so many of the harassment cases that have come to light, the victims’ experiences have forced them out of industries and denied them chances for career comebacks or advancement — the very opportunities that these men are now afforded."

And Sady Doyle wrote (https://www.elle.com/culture/a19685503/men-like-mario-batali-need-rehabilitation-not-redemption/) in Elle Magazine: "Even if a woman does manage to overcome the obstacles that harassment throws in her path and maintain her career, harassment can have subtler and more insidious effects. Countless women have testified that harassment at work shook their confidence and faith in themselves. Were their professional prospects affected? Did they only get opportunities because of the harasser's sexual interest? Whatever the impact, the pain is not minor—and it’s carried by more than one in three women in our world, because that’s how many of us have experienced harassment at work."

Velez argued that this kind of reckoning should happen in a more public way. Noting news reports that have mentioned some of the alleged sexual harassers undergoing therapy or “self-reflection,” she said they could demonstrate their efforts to confront their behavior by publicly discussing what they’ve learned.

“I want to know about their sense of entitlement, why they think [sexual harassment] was something they could do, and what they’ve come to now.” Velez suggested that, at some point, the men could contemplate returning to the public eye. But she was adamant that “it’s too soon."

She also said the men should show that they will “support the women that they have harmed” and have taken responsibility for their actions beyond just apologies, such as some form of “reparations.”

It should be noted that in all of Leonard Lopate's public statments (that I was able to find) on why he was fired from WNYC, he denied any wrong-doing, claiming "I've never crossed any lines." (https://www.wnyc.org/story/new-york-public-radio-fires-hosts-lopate-schwartz/)

But apparently four different women thought he had crossed enough of their lines to bring their complaints to the management of WNYC!

If the #metoo movement has been effective in protecting women, it is because harassers throughout society are now getting the message: "There WILL be consequences if you subject women to your sexual whims at work, whether through touching or creating a hostile work environment." If that is true, aren't we undercutting women's rights to harassment-free workplaces by  sweeping harassers' actions "under the rug" in these "comebacks"?

If you want to read about why Leonard Lopate was dismissed from WNYC, google Leonard Lopate, WNYC.

Fran Luck, Executive Producer,
Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio @ WBAI,
99.5 FM, NYC, airing Sundays 6-7 PM
Broadcasts to NY/NJ/Conn, streams live @ wbai.org

Blog: http://joyofresistance.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/joyofresistance
Email: jor (at) wbai.org