Rape Culture Rigs the System Against Women

[CN: sexual harassment]

With revelations now published on the daily of women navigating sexual harassment in their workplaces, a picture emerges quite clearly of its impact on women's careers, opportunities, and financial well-being.


Here's Laurie Kilmartin, on being a female comic in a profession that worships men like Louis CK, who has finally admitted that the rumors about his sexual abuse and manipulation are true:
"Standup comedy is hard on its women.... I'd say almost every female comic could name a comedy club she can't walk into, a booker she can't email or an agent she can't pursue because of the presence of a problematic guy. We are all avoiding someone who could help us make money."
Or, take the recent allegations of endemic sexual harassment against Andrew Kreisberg, an executive producer for Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow:
According to many interviewed by Variety, Kreisberg’s problematic behavior, particularly around women, got worse once he had a great deal of authority as an executive producer on several shows.
'The power went to his head,' says a male writer. 'It became clear to me that it would be very dangerous, career-wise, for me to confront him about his behavior.'

Two women say he would talk about how he hired staffers based on their looks, and one quoted him as saying, 'You should have seen the other dogs we interviewed for that position.' Kreisberg denies saying this.

'Younger women were constantly belittled and subjected to nasty comments,' says a writer who has worked with Kreisberg.

A high-level producer at a CW show says that a young woman who worked in two successive lower-level jobs was the object of Kreisberg’s 'obsessive crush,' and left due to his unwanted attention, an account confirmed by more than a dozen other sources"
Or, the allegations against DC Comics veteran editor Eddie Berganza:
"Liz Gehrlein Marsham had been working at DC Comics for less than three weeks when she said a veteran editor named Eddie Berganza cornered her, stuck his tongue in her mouth, and attempted to grope her.

For Marsham, who was 29 at the time, a foot in the door of DC had been a dream come true. 'I was so excited,' she told BuzzFeed News. 'I ran around the office the first week taking pictures of things and sending them to my parents.'

But the six years after that 2006 encounter were a 'period of slow heartbreak,' Marsham said. Berganza’s actions and DC’s response would change the course of her career — and become fodder for the rumor mill surrounding Berganza and the increasingly open secret of his misconduct. Marsham would be forced to choose between working under Berganza, who she said made her feel profoundly unsafe, or avoiding him at the cost of advancing the career she'd been so proud to start at DC.

'By the time I left,' Marsham said, 'I was really demoralized. I was physically ill from being stressed all the time and trying to hide it. I just felt like I needed to get out, however I could.'”
The article goes on to note that none of the women who reported Berganza are working at DC Comics, or any mainstream comics company, anymore.

It's said that not all superheroes wear capes. But, know this as well: Not all villains wear masks. Rape culture doesn't require them to. Sexual predators in the workplace, particularly the higher up they are, are often brazen and enabled by other, complicit powers-that-be.

Every anti-feminist backlash in the US has had its own version of the self-centered claim that feminists are motivated by the hatred of men. Yet, if the spate of recently-revealed "open secrets" has demonstrated anything, it's that it has always been the other way around.

That women are widely seen as not fully human like how men are fully human means that male reactions across the political spectrum often take a predictable turn: The other side does it too! Many men still view sexual harassment claims, not as wrongs inflicted on human beings who matter, but as ways to score points against political rivals, usually other men.

Or, they will engage in performative allyship, so that they can appear to be pro-woman without actually taking concrete steps to upend male supremacy in their fields:

The backlash to this spate of sexual harassment revelations will come, and probably quite soon.

The Damores and other Trump-ish intellectual mediocres of our time already habitually bemoan policies that they believe stifle white men from speaking their "courageous" "politically-incorrect" "truths" about how much better they are than everyone else. So, expect more of that. But,w e can also anticipate anti-feminist women getting paid to write rape apologia in major mainstream news outlets. The destiny of mankind, emphasis on man, is apparently for each successive generation to invent new ways of asserting that men are irreplaceable wunderkinds, while women are dime-a-dozen disposable.

Yet, we are living in an important moment. One thing the anti-feminists had right all along is that many feminists are angry. However, in a phenomenon that is quickly becoming problematic for misogynists, many more women and allies are joining us.

And so, last week, I opened Twitter to see that each of the ten top trending hashtags was about a man who was in some way actually facing consequences for having habitually abused his power. Many women are done being quiet. We are witnessing the phrase "the personal is political" clicking, for many women, after decades of smears against feminists had blunted its power.

To many of us, Trump is a symbol for every abuser who has gotten away with it, been rewarded for it, scarred our memories, and traumatized our lives and careers. So, while men couldn't help but share their oodles of generic, non-gender-based opinions on all the things that supposedly "led to Trump," what they largely overlooked was this: Rape culture. But, that's no surprise. Melissa has previously summed up the events leading to the 2016 election as "a catastrophic failure to listen to women." 

Well fellas, do you hear us now?

Feminist Catherine MacKinnon has referenced human rights violations that are thought to be "too extraordinary to believable or too ordinary to be atrocious." I think about that quote a lot these days. The conventional wisdom has long been that sexual harassment cannot possibly be that extensive, but if it is, is it really that harmful? What's a little office masturbation, anyway?

The working reality is that for every famous person who has courageously shared their story of harassment, predation, or rape at the hands of a famous or powerful man, thousands upon thousands of ordinary people, predominately women, have our own. These harms will likely never be in the news, because either we, or the abuser, are not famous.

Take the 700,000, predominately Latina, farmworkers who signed a letter of solidarity with those who have spoken out against gender based violence:
"We wish that we could say we’re shocked to learn that this is such a pervasive problem in your industry. Sadly, we’re not surprised because it’s a reality we know far too well. Countless farmworker women across our country suffer in silence because of the widespread sexual harassment and assault that they face at work.

We do not work under bright stage lights or on the big screen. We work in the shadows of society in isolated fields and packinghouses that are out of sight and out of mind for most people in this country. Your job feeds souls, fills hearts and spreads joy. Our job nourishes the nation with the fruits, vegetables and other crops that we plant, pick and pack.

Even though we work in very different environments, we share a common experience of being preyed upon by individuals who have the power to hire, fire, blacklist and otherwise threaten our economic, physical and emotional security."
Take the allegations within the labor movement itself, wherein Caleb Jennings, the lead organizer for the Fight For $15 campaign in Chicago, was recently fired after allegations of abuse and sexual harassment:
"In June 2016, over 50 staffers signed a letter calling for Jennings to be fired. The letter alleged that he shoved a 28-year-old female staffer Gönül Düzer against a door frame, and then later fired her. The letter described Jenning's attitude as 'sexist and aggressive.' A portion, obtained by BuzzFeed, read, 'Caleb has made himself well known for creating a toxic work environment… Making it more egregious in this instance is that the FF15 Organizing Coordinator attacked an immigrant and a woman of color, exactly the workers which the FF15’s success depends on.'"
In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received nearly 13,000 charges alleging sexual harassment, 84% of which were filed by women.

Meanwhile, EEOC charges almost certainly undercount actual occurrences of workplace harassment, as some people instead file with state authorities, some seek remedies within the workplace, some perform work that is not captured in these statistics at all, and/or some don't report the incident(s) at all. A 2013 YouGov/Huffington Post survey, for instance, found that 70% of people who had been sexually harassed in the workplace did not report it.

Many of us are ordinary people going about our lives, trying to make a living, when we find ourselves required to tip-toe around the egos, manipulations, and genitalia of powerful men, at great cost to our well-being, livelihoods, and careers.

What is no longer deniable in good faith is that what's being revealed en masse is a labor issue of rather significant proportions:

Rape culture rigs the system against women. And, we're pissed about it.

More to the point, as politicians across the political spectrum chase angry white male working class voters, they would be wise to start taking the women of this revived feminist movement seriously as a political force. Sexual harassment is a labor condition that predominately harms women. As such, many of us are also savvy enough to know that sexual harassment is not a problem that will be solved by simply "fixing the economy," eradicating "the global oligarchy," or whatever the generic white-man-centered panacea du jour is.

We must seek out and promote the politicians, pundits, and allies who share our anger and possess this understanding.

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