From Hollywood to Washington. From the boardrooms to the bedrooms. From the doctors to the teachers. The white elephant of sexual abuse has come forward with a boom heard around the world.
It began just over a month ago when Ronan Farrow broke the story of Harvey Weinstein. Rose McGowan went on record and said he raped her. And that he then paid her off to keep her mouth shut. Her career? Ruined. Since then the name-dropping has been sprung forth like a volcano of industry titans: Brett Ratner. Louis C.K. Kevin Spacey. Charlie Rose. John Lasseter. And so many in between.
With exception of George W. and Obama, every president post-Ronald Reagan has been called out for their mistreatment of women. I’m not going to make this political because that’s the very thing about sexual harassment: it doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, if you’re tall or short or what your ethnicity is. Predators prey. This is what they do and they keep doing it until they get exposed. And then they either write a passive/aggressive apology letter, like Louis C.K. did — count how many times he mentions how “admired” he is in his statement. Or you have the likes of Roy Moore who, for whatever reason, gets to deny things without further inquiry and is then currently protected by the White House. You then, of course, have Weinstein, who owned the industry, the press and the lawyers and even hired a company that employs former Mossad agents to stay on top of his hitlist.
Imagine being a young woman, or young man, trying to make it in ANY industry where the gates of success are dictated by people who decide that anyone and anything is theirs for the taking. And if you deny them, you have no career. If you say anything to anyone, you have no career. And if you don’t have the fiscal resources or even a strong family and friend support system, you are completely on your own with this. Who will believe you? Who will ever hire you? Once you’re blacklisted, you’re done. Like Roman emperors at the coliseum, one twist of the thumb and it’s all over.
There’s been some interesting backlash/concern about this. Woody Allen, whose only biological son cracked open the story, has called all this a witch hunt. This from the man who married his own daughter. But I digress. Men are losing jobs left and right, often before there’s any kind of police file or legal claim. Companies are dissolving. Anyone can be named and given the climate, how do we know we’re not next? Jeremy Piven, accused for misconduct by several women, denies the allegations and even took and passed a polygraph. He initiated a process because right now one strategic tweet destroys a career.
The other argument I’ve seen made by friends on social media is, what about the women who used sex to advance their careers? My reply is, “What about them?” In several industries, Hollywood included, where one’s physicality is a critical component, if they are willing to pay that price and sit on that casting couch because in Hollywood and in corporate America, the women are NOT in charge, then that is their opportunity cost. As I tweeted a few weeks ago, “Women directors, represented in only 4% of Hollywood films. Women CEOs, represented in only 6% of Fortune 500 firms. In 2017. Think about that math.” And that was right before Meg Whitman made her resignation announcement.
So what happens now? Do the tables really shift?
They are starting to.
Gal Gadot, aka Wonder Woman, a real life IDF soldier, who starred in the second biggest blockbuster of 2017, had the chutzpah to state that she won’t do the sequel unless Brett Ratner steps down. CBS and PBS severed their relationship with Charlie Rose. And Weinstein? According to a November 12 L.A. Times article by Richard Winton, “The Los Angeles Police Department now has 28 open investigations related to Hollywood and media figures, including Weinstein, actor Ed Westwick, writer Murray Miller and agent Tyler Grasham. The department has also taken 37 other sex crimes reports that it has sent to other law enforcement agencies, believing the alleged crimes occurred in those jurisdictions…Police in New York and London as well as the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also have open criminal cases related to the Hollywood sex scandal.”
If nothing else, this zeitgeist has sent a strong signal that at least a century of bad behavior will no longer be tolerated. Victims have found their voice in the support of total strangers. This is critical when for decades their own coworkers, friends, law enforcement and even family may not have believed them.
So what does that mean for everyday citizens? Let’s just start with those in positions of power. People who determine the careers of others. Because of their influence, they are the ones who can make a positive difference.
1. Don’t act like a shmuck.
2. Call out the shmucks and then don’t work with them. Warn others.
3. Keep the meeting door open and have some else in the room with you.
4. When traveling out-of-town for meetings, don’t schedule things in a hotel room.
5. If you’re a hugger, it doesn’t mean your assistant wants to be touched by you. Shake his hand. Look her in the eye.
6. If you think a woman or man looks good that day, compliment them on the report they worked on all weekend to make you look good.
7. If you can’t control your impulses go get help. No matter what, don’t do any more damage to any more people.
8. Don’t start a film company with your brother that you name after your parents and then rape women.
9. Realize that how you treat people in your life will then be your kids’ karma to carry.
10. If it happens to you, keep telling your story till someone believes you.
This last thing on the list is what Dana Min Goodman had to do until her reports of Louis C.K. were finally taken seriously. Dana and I grew up and went to school together in Skokie, just outside of Chicago, and for nearly two decades she’s consistently worked hard in Hollywood to create a name for herself. She’s navigated Hollywood, building her brand one project at a time. And she put all that hard work at risk by coming forward against a single father of two daughters, liked and admired by many. Think about that career move. And the courage it took her to get there.
That’s the thing about sexual harassment. It’s not just happening to people on the big screen. It’s happening to your colleagues, your classmates, your friends, your neighbors and even your family members. We won’t stay silent any longer.
Alexsandra (Alex) Sukhoy, a globally networked creative and business professional, is founder of Creative Cadence LLC. Her career coaching and marketing communications skills have resulted in numerous success stories for her clients. Her 5-Star business book, Date Your Career: The Longest Relationship of Your Life, is now available on Amazon, in paperback and Kindle. Follow Alex on Twitter: @creativecadence