By: Patricia K. Gillette
Powerful men take note. Your threatening and bullying behavior used to prevent women from talking publicly about your predatory conduct has been unmasked . And that may end the traditional narrative on this issue by compelling men and women to take action that lasts longer than a news cycle and actually addresses this issue head on.
Historically, you have been able to get away with harassment because of the reluctance of women to talk about your bad behavior. We have seen it with the accusations against Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reily and Bill Cosby, to name a few. It is only when one woman who has kept silent for years, finally comes forward, that an avalanche of women follow and your conduct is revealed.
When that has happened in the past, however, these women would get the same response from the public. Surprise, shock and then questions: Why did it take so long? Can it be true if it is only now being revealed?
And the women would give the same answers. I thought it was my fault. I was afraid to speak up against this powerful man. I thought I would lose my job.
These multiple accusations then would lead to outrage – for a news cycle. Then the men who haven’t been outed would breathe a sigh of relief and their victims would remain silent.
But with the newest outrageous and pervasive misbehavior by Harvey Weinstein, perhaps the time is ripe to break this cycle, starting with the men.
First, let’s acknowledge that because men occupy the many more positions of power than women, that power can be abused and used to intimidate at any level. So let’s call on men to recognize they have an obligation to check their own behavior and that of their colleagues for overt and subtle forms of harassment and discrimination. And let’s tell them that being our champions means more than speaking up only after a brave woman has come forward. If they see something, they need to say something.
Then let’s remind women who have suffered at the hands of powerful men that they can’t wait for someone else to speak up. We have laws, policies, and allies in our organizations who can help us and offer protection. Let’s look at this not as a choice, but as an obligation to call out bad behavior when it happens. That is the only way to protect ourselves from the guilt and emotional turmoil that comes from not reporting predatory conduct when it occurs; that is the only way to protect other women who might fall prey to the same conduct by these men.
We have seen what happens when women speak up and these powerful men try to silence them with accusations, insults, and threats. But we can’t reward that conduct by remaining silent. It’s time for men and women to say to those who would demean and degrade women by their inappropriate conduct: No More.