Weinstein, systemic harassment must go

Shi'erra Lolar

Rape and harassment in the workplace is very much a problem today, and not nearly talked about enough.

Often times perceived as the victim’s fault, sexual harassment and assault is an issue that is overlooked and often swept underneath the rug. One particularly disturbing instance of this have been the recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein, a famous film producer whose company Miramax was behind hits such as “Pulp Fiction” and “Clerks.”

Many of Weinstein’s victims are celebrities, many whom have starred in films he has produced. Actresses such as Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne and Gwyneth Paltrow have come forward, alleging acts of sexual assault, sexual harassment and abuse of power. 

The point is, none of these alleged acts are OK. Whether a woman is a celebrity or not, they deserve to be heard and their experiences believed.

Women have always been treated as second class citizens. Only in the last century have most countries allowed women the right to vote, seek employment and serve in the military. They have been told for centuries that their place is in the home, that their wants and needs come secondary to men’s. As such, when violence or abuse occur toward women, it is generally looked at as their fault.

We frequently hear statements like “What was she wearing?” or “She was asking for it.” These are not only disrespectful, but sexist and damaging to a survivor’s mental well being. When a survivor of sexual assault or sexual harassment comes forward and is blamed, it creates a culture which exempts abusers of all responsibility and further perpetuates the cycle of abuse. 

Statistics show that harassment in the workplace is a growing problem that is sorely ignored. In a recent study by the Association of Women for Action and Research, over 70 percent of women in the workforce have been harassed and 51 percent claim to have been harassed by a supervisor or manager. The report also stated that one in three females between ages 18 and 34 have been sexually harassed at work. 

Something must be done. While doing their jobs and making a living for themselves, women are regularly subjected to sexual harassment and sexual assault. It isn’t right and more needs to be done to eliminate this toxic culture of abuse. Work should be an environment where women feel comfortable with their coworkers and safe to report instances of abuse. 

We need to come together as a society and take a hard, zero tolerance policy toward sexual harassment and sexual assault, especially in the workplace. When the allegations against Weinstein came to light, his production company’s board of directors did the right thing by believing the brave women who came forward and fired him. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made the right choice as well and expelled him.

While these actions in support of victims and cutting off their abuser’s power are a step in the right direction, it won’t change the problem as a whole. Despite similar allegations in recent years, AMPAS still allows Hollywood legends like Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby as members, while Casey Affleck won an Oscar the same year numerous allegations of sexual assault were brought to the public’s attention. 

More work must be done, but the firing and expulsion of Weinstein in an environment known for ignoring sexual assault and sexual harassment, means we are taking steps in the right direction to make a safer world for women in general.

Women deserve to be protected and not penalized for telling their stories.