Boston University

The Culture of Silence on Sexual Harassment is Broken and Women are the New Political Actors by Dorothy Spector @ Boston University

Due to the media’s exposure of Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual misconduct, a new awareness of sexual harassment and consciousness of male power abuse has been created. For years women have lived in fear of speaking out against their aggressors. It took the voice of one woman to openly state her story and since then a groundbreaking amount of women have gone public with their experiences of sexual mistreatment by men in positions of power. Albeit the topic at hand is disgusting and perverse, the manner in which the voices of these women are finally being heard gives hope that our democracy can improve.

To begin with, for once the media is not focused on polarized opinions. Sexual harassment is not, and should not be, a party issue but it is a legal one. After The New York Times and The New Yorker led the investigation of Weinstein, countless media platforms have taken suit to not only report on the topic but to aid the women to share their stories. This support through the media is a driving factor of the movement in creating awareness and exerting the freedom of speech. Furthermore, the media has aided in the interpretation of the allegations for citizens to be able to recognize the problem of sexual harassment.

Prior to the Weinstein incident if a woman were to speak out against a sexual abuser, alone, and against a man in a position of power, no one would believe her. Even worse, she could be retaliated against, fired from her job, and have her reputation ruined. However, there is now a new power in numbers that allows for resistance against a silencing and restricting system. Especially in the work place, the ‘green grocer effect’ is exemplified in which women are more often found to experience sexual harassment but regardless of their discomfort would stay silent to not be shunned. Therefore, by these women speaking out they provide a platform of awareness through nonviolent resistance. To support the resistance whether by speaking out against sexual harassers, or supporting the women who do so is solidifying democratic rights.

In class we analyzed the quote stating, “When one person cries out ‘the emperor is naked’ when a single person breaks the rules of the game, thus exposing it as a game – everything suddenly appears in another light and the whole crust seems then to be made of a tissue on the point of tearing and disintegrating uncontrollably.” If there was a game at play in which men in powerful position believed themselves to be untouchable, it is now coming apart. There is a paradigm shift in not only what kind of behavior will be tolerated, but also what kind of behavior will be punished. This new precedent has led to the removal and forced resignations of numerous men in leading company positions in various fields from Hollywood, to tech, to politics due to sexual misconduct allegations as more women are heard.

Consequently, although the newfound awareness and support is strikingly positive, the trouble remains in keeping the momentum of the movement. One way in which the Weinstein Effect will be tested will be in the upcoming election of Roy Moore who has receive allegations of sexual harassment from five women. There is potential for this situation to remain a bipartisan concern with Senate Republicans publicly disapproving of Moore, a fellow republican, and discussing not seating him or expelling him if he wins the special election. Setting a precedent for other republicans, Senator Mitch McConnell stated that he believed the allegations of the women and Senator Gardner stated Moore “does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate,” also declaring the Senate should vote to expel Moore if he wins. As a result, with this election it will be seen if collectively individuals can look past the smoke screen of their parties and make judgments based on human morale.


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