It’s the System, Stupid: Why Weinstein Isn’t Just About Weinstein | Equal Rights Advocates
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It’s the System, Stupid: Why Weinstein Isn’t Just About Weinstein

October 27, 2017 | by

This post originally appeared on Executive Director Noreen Farrell’s Medium account.

There’s more to this story than just one bad actor.

Don’t get me wrong. Harvey Weinstein has revealed himself as a master sexual predator who should bear full responsibility for his actions. He lured women into hotel rooms under false pretenses to harass and assault and coerce sex for work. He even forced his staff to set up his predatory “meetings.” All of this (and probably more) is on Weinstein. Nobody intends on letting him off the hook.

But something different is happening as this scandal unfolds. For once, because of the sheer number and similarity of complaints, we stopped questioning whether harassment and assault happened. In a much-needed change in discourse, more are asking how and why sexual harassment continues, often without real consequence to predators.

Unencumbered by credibility attacks against Weinstein’s survivors, we have reached a deeper understanding of the broader system that enables, protects, and indeed profits from the sexual harassment, assault, and exploitation of women.

Unencumbered by credibility attacks against Weinstein’s survivors, we have reached a deeper understanding of the broader system that enables, protects, and indeed profits from the sexual harassment, assault, and exploitation of women.

Reports suggest that the Weinstein Company contracted to keep Harvey Weinstein employed, no matter how many times others accused him of sexual harassment or assault. Even worse, the Weinstein Company actually stood to profit from Weinstein’s misconduct, exacting hefty sums from him when he misbehaved. So long as the check was big enough, the Weinstein Company seemingly didn’t care that Weinstein may have assaulted or threatened women, or engaged subordinates as accomplices.

Some contend that Weinstein’s contract was an outlier. Most companies do not actually protect sexual predators, right? Think again. Similar deals have been reached in countless industries. Most recently, the New York Timesrevealed that Fox News renewed Bill O’Reilly’s $25 million per year contract after he paid a $35 million dollar settlement on a sexual harassment claim. Without consumer and advertiser pressure, Bill O’Reilly would still be at Fox News, harassing with impunity.

Beyond the contracts protecting sexual predators, the broader system enabling sexual harassment is vast. It includes non-disclosure agreements and settlement confidentiality clauses that prevent a survivor from telling her story and warning others. Forced arbitration clauses keep egregious complaints from the spotlight, squash collective action among those affected, and ensure those who complain never see a judicial process. These are most prevalent in low-wage industries, where companies exploit economically vulnerable women to keep a lid on their abuses.

And then, of course, there is the broader community of bystanders. Those who know what is happening but who ignore, minimize, or deny altogether what happens to women in their work spheres. While we celebrate and hope for more male allies, too many continue to refuse to bite the hands that feed them. This complicity protects the Harvey Weinsteins of every industry and is a silent cooperation that must stop.

So while Weinstein is a convenient fall guy, we must topple the system as well. Let’s expose contracts that keep sexual predators employed. Let’s abolish forced arbitration clauses and end the silence of non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses. Let’s challenge more men who know about sexual harassment and assault to become upstanders, not bystanders. Let’s support the collective spirit of #MeToo that uplifts survivors and disrupts the myths and stereotypes devaluing every women.

To take down the system behind the Harvey Weinsteins in this country, it’s going to take all of us — #YouToo.

Learn more about your rights in the workplace and what to do if you think you’re experiencing sexual harassment.

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