You can’t go a couple of hours, it seems, without hearing about another previously admired man being exposed as a cad or a criminal.
Did you hear about Tavis Smiley? He got suspended by PBS for sexual affairs with staffers.
The most important stories are the ones right under our noses, the ones that have been happening for decades but were justified and normalized and minimized so that few people spoke up, and when they did, their stories were treated as anomalies.
That’s the way it was with sexual harassment. At first, we were surprised.
“Can you believe that? It’s so out of character. I never would have guessed.”
But we are hearing about new cases every day now. After Cosby and Trump and Louis C.K. and Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore and Trent Franks and Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose and Bill O’Reilly and Garrison Keillor and Al Franken and Roger Ailes and on and on, surprise no longer makes sense.
You can’t be shocked when a new bad guy is revealed every other hour. Now men are even starting to accuse themselves.
Morgan Spurlock, the “Super Size Me” guy, has admitted to sexual harassment and serial infidelity, without being accused by anyone.
Bad behavior has been pervasive. It has taken place in the military, the arts, politics, the media, academia and business. It has seemed to particularly take place when powerful men come into contact with less powerful women whose jobs or careers may be dependent on pleasing those men.
Blake Farenthold, a Texas congressman, has announced he won’t be running for re-election after two aides described the workplace he presided over as sexually hostile.
Power is relative, however, and you don’t have to be a Weinstein or an Ailes to have enough of it to manipulate and damage people who work for you.
You can be the boss at a pizza joint or a grocery or a gym and take advantage of your position to sexually harass your employees. Abuse in these more mundane settings is probably just as common as it is in the halls of Congress or on the movie lots of Hollywood, but it hasn’t gotten as much attention yet.
We will know this awakening has really taken hold when men who abuse waitresses are facing consequences as severe as men who abuse actresses.
Danny Masterson, the actor just fired from the Netflix series “The Ranch,” was accused of violent rape by four women.
This is a reckoning, and as often happens when justice has been long denied, the flood that is holding to account many who richly deserve it may also be sweeping up some who aren’t in the same category.
President George H.W. Bush has been accused by at least seven women of squeezing their backsides during photo-ops. Similar accusations led Al Franken to say he will resign from the Senate.
The reckoning is not only about unwanted comments and touching; it’s about respect for co-workers who happen to be women. It’s demeaning to be sexually objectified, and when it takes place at work, it can do long-term damage to your career.
All of this brings us to President Trump and his recent response to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s call for him to resign. Trump responded crudely, as he does, but Gillibrand had a good reason for saying what she did — the long list of women who have accused Trump of sexual assault.
“He groped me, he absolutely groped me. And he just slipped his hand there. Touching my private parts.” — Jill Harth, one of 16 women who have publicly accused Donald Trump of sexual assault or harassment.
Gillibrand is being accused of political opportunism, but she is speaking up for many women finally breaking their silence. This moment is an opportunity to change a destructive dynamic, and while lots of people are signing on now, Gillibrand has for years been speaking up for sexual assault victims in the military.
The effort has made its way to the local level — the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce held a sexual harassment training on Friday at The Queensbury Hotel.
No matter who they are and where they are, men are on notice that they cannot get away with the casual sexism and harassment that has been common in the workplace. It’s about time.