Why the latest Hollywood scandal is an all too familiar story

By Kevin Michel and By Kevin Michel

Sure, Harvey Weinstein’s behavior is bad. Sure, legal proceedings will follow, and he will be yet another stigmatized Hollywood figure “falling form grace”, if there ever was any grace to begin with. Sure, sympathy will flow towards his victims as the public reconciles with the fact that sexual abuse is still an all too real part of the professional world. The question that should have been answered so long ago is still alive. Why are we still seeing stories of workplace sexual harassment?

Yes, I could have asked the question, “How do we stop sexual abuse?” but that would be an extremely vague question, ultimately leading to a vague answer, and one that is not within the scope of this article. How is it that we can experience years of these same sexual harassment stories and watch as nothing has changed? I will provide two answers to this question, and while there are surely more, I will focus on the two I believe are most important.

First, men given a substantial amount of power in the workplace have no remorse for their actions because they are essentially untouchable. They have risen to the top of their respective work, and, believing that this justifies any action they perform, are free to act without consequence or any sort of moral roadblock. If this sounds dangerous to you, believe that it is. Men like Harvey Weinstein can legitimize their actions because of the power they hold and the thought that they are untouchable because they have risen to the top of the professional world. Weinstein had the power to destroy almost any actresses career. He ran with this power and instead of being humble or modest, chose to abstract his most primal desires and sexually harass his female inferiors. Of course, it goes without saying that not all people in a position of power act this way. The ideas presented here are by no means a generalization of how powerful men act in the workplace. But, we don’t hear stories of men not sexually harassing women, we only hear stories of when they do, so I will carry on.  

Second, it could very well be a generational thing, although I am only bringing this up because Weinstein uses it to defend his actions. He has been quoted saying that behavior like his own was just a natural part of the workplace in the sixties and seventies. He believes that because the professional world included sexual harassment when he first began his career, he is just a product of his environment. It is reasons like this that lead me to believe there will never be a remedy for workplace sexual harassment, despite all our efforts. Clearly, Weinstein knows what he was doing was wrong, yet he defended his actions by saying other people did it. What kind of moral justification is this? This cannot be a proper defense.

Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby and now Harvey Weinstein. Men like this are to be left at the side of the road, unacknowledged by the public. The tracks are laid for workplace sexual harassment instances to come out, and you better believe there will be more. It will stop somewhere, but for now, it is difficult to see where this end may be.