November 20, 2017

Sexual harassment politics – why all men need to disavow the predators around them

Who has a worst problem with sheltering sexual predators – the Democrats or the Republicans?

This seems like a ridiculous question to ask, and in many ways an insensitive and pointless one, but it’s what many people are asking in light of the fact that Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein has been revealed as a serial sexual predator.

Weinstein is a big-dollar Democratic donor who gave to, among many others, Hillary and Bill Clinton’s nonprofit Clinton Foundation, which works on a wide variety of humanitarian issues. Because of this, the Weinstein scandal has been relentlessly politicized. Hillary Clinton and other beneficiaries of Weinstein’s donations have been asked by Fox News, CNN and others to comment on his actions and to consider returning his donations or giving them to another cause.

Many conservative commentators on social media have suggested that as a powerful individual, Clinton must have known about Weinstein’s behavior. There’s no real evidence of this, but it seems irrelevant given the hypocrisy inherent in the accusation. If these same conservatives  support Donald Trump, a man who has been publicly accused of rape and was filmed bragging about sexually harassing women, it doesn’t make much sense to point out that others might have known about predatory actions. We all know about Trump’s behavior, and we elected him anyway.

Yet there’s also no moral high ground in pointing out that Trump is a predator and using that to excuse similar behavior on the left. We all know about Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic congressman who was recently handed a prison sentence for sexting a 15-year-old girl. The Democratic Party kept giving Weiner second chances, after he was already exposed for repeatedly seeing unwanted sexual messages to women, until he crossed a line they couldn’t ignore.

And then there’s the matter of Bill Clinton himself, the other co-founder of the Clinton Foundation. It’s common knowledge that Bill Clinton had sexual relationships with vulnerable women who worked for him, and several women have publicly accused him of rape. If you believe the women who accuse Weinstein or Trump, you should believe these women too. Yet when you see a Democrat talking about Trump’s abuse of women, that doesn’t always mean they’ve disavowed Clinton.

It doesn’t matter who, exactly, knew about Harvey Weinstein’s actions. We know that he was surrounded by powerful people who did. Just like Weiner, Trump, Bill Clinton and so many others, Weinstein’s social circle was full of people who could have done something – more to the point, men who could have done something when the women who were victimized felt too powerless to speak out.

They didn’t and they won’t. The Trump-supporting men of America won’t wake up tomorrow and decide they can no longer stand for a president who’s guilty of sexual assault. The men of the Democratic Party aren’t going to stop inviting Bill Clinton to their events and taking his money. Former Republican House speaker Dennis Hastert was recently interviewed about his views on Trump’s Congress, despite being an admitted child molester. The list goes on and on and on, creating an endless drumbeat of predators redeemed or never punished in the first place.

The problem isn’t that Hollywood is uniquely guilty of sheltering sexual predators, or that the Republican or Democratic Party is. The problem is that they all do it. Every institution, every powerful group that is historically or currently male-dominated. Every one of them has a hero or a leader whose career success has been unimpeded.

The problem is silence. The problem is apathy. The problem, in a word, is men; men who see their fellow members of whatever boys’ club they belong to express misogynist opinions, make unwanted advances, grab at women’s bodies or lure them up to hotel rooms. If we focus on just one organization or one community, those men will still feel justified in turning their backs and closing their eyes.

It’s male power and male privilege that keeps the system in place which gives us men like Harvey Weinstein and leaders like Donald Trump. And we won’t be free of men like them until we tear the male power structure down.

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