And so, another one falls. We all woke up Wednesday morning to hear that longtime Today Show host Matt Lauer had been let go because of inappropriate sexual conduct.
Just one more powerful, white, male media figure to be brought down because of apparent abuse of power and privilege. And then came Garrison Keillor in the afternoon.
Of course, media personalities and powerhouses aren’t the only ones toppling. Weekly we also hear of new allegations concerning powerful politicians, Hollywood executives, and more.
Are all men bad or prone to sexual misconduct, or is there something more? (And, by the way, misconduct is entirely too mild a word to use for much of this behavior.)
As the mother of two sons, the wife of a wonderful man, and a woman who works with and for many honorable and ethical men, I know it’s too simplistic to cast aspersions on an entire gender.
I also know that powerful positions in media and politics are largely held by men. In 2017, 105 women hold seats in the U.S. Congress, comprising 19.6 percent of the 535 members.
And a 2015 report found that Hollywood executives are still overwhelmingly white and male. Studio senior management was 92 percent white and 83 percent male. An obvious response is to elect and promote more women – but that is likely simplistic as well.
We all must commit to recognizing the power and privilege implicit in our relationships and treat everyone with respect and dignity. Like it or not, that power and privilege in our country continues to be largely possessed by men.
To that end, SAFE has created the SAFEMen Pledge, asking men to commit to a culture of nonviolence and respect. There is no assurance that signers have always acted with respect and nonviolence, but there is a pledge to do so moving forward — and words do, in fact, matter.
How to translate words into action:
- Speak up against gender violence and sexism and teach others to do the same. Don’t laugh at the “locker-room” jokes; instead say, “Hey, man — that’s not funny.”
- Understand consent. Teach your children about consent and always demonstrate respectful behavior.
- Support, mentor, and encourage girls and women. Invite them to run for office, to step up at work, and to expect respect in all relationships.
- Ask that corporations — media and otherwise — not only hold these perpetrators accountable, but take the time and the energy to ensure that their culture is safe and respectful to all.
The time is now
I have been asked, “Is this just a flash in the pan or will sexual harassment and assault slide back into complacency and dark corners?”
This is a door that should never be closed. Courageous survivors have shown the light on discriminatory, harassing, and abusive behaviors. We should honor their bravery by working to ensure others do not have to suffer the same.