My hot take for the month: sexual harassment is bad!
More specifically, I can’t stop thinking about the evidently bottomless capacity for sexual harassment that men possess, or the equally endless ability to deny, deflect, and gaslight anyone who calls them out. Like, the absolute gall of Andrew Cuomo having his years-long campaign of harassment detailed in a damning 165-page report (by a political ally, no less!) and responding by holding a press conference to say his victims are simply confused and mistaken. It wasn’t a surprising move—it worked perfectly for Brett Kavanaugh, among others—but my god, was it depressing.
Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard (the latter half of which has made some of my favorite video games of all time) was recently sued by California for fostering a culture wherein men could freely harass and denigrate their female colleagues and employees for decades. That culture includes men getting sloppily drunk and walking around cubicles to hit on women, a group of manager-level men bringing women back to their self-styled “Cosby Suite” at a gaming convention, and passing around one employee’s nude photos at a company party. She later committed suicide. One recent executive has been ousted since the lawsuit in an offensively obvious PR move that won’t solve any underlying problems.
We had a real moment of reckoning in 2017–18 with Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo. That movement kicked off a broad cultural shift towards holding harassers and abusers accountable—it’s just that the sliding scale had been sitting way over at “HARASS AT WILL” for, well, ever, so shifting away from that has only brought us to “HARASS UNTIL YOU’RE CAUGHT.” And even then, so many of these men have suffered only brief repercussions. Kevin Spacey? New movie coming out. Louis C.K.? Kicking off a new tour next week. Bill Clinton? Continues to have a robust political career. Bill Cosby? Out of prison on a technicality. Google’s Andy Rubin? Got a $90 million exit package and a loving send-off after Google had already determined he probably raped an employee.
This is what happens to powerful men who harass and abuse and get caught: they continue on with their lives like nothing happened. Short of being prosecuted and convicted (a vanishingly rare occurrence), sexual harassers can simply deny everything until enough people have moved on. If that’s going to change, men have to clearly and affirmatively speak out against it, whether the perpetrator is the president or a colleague or a friend.