Lately, the endless stream of news stories about sexual assault by powerful men has made me feel pretty gross, not to mention increasingly worried.
Staying positive, while being exposed to one grimy detail after another, is a tough sell. Even as a woman, I had no idea these assaults were so commonplace among my peers.
Every morning brings a fresh batch of sexual harassment accusations aimed at some jerk who didn’t know how to keep his mouth shut, and his hands in his pockets and away from someone else’s body. Hollywood big-wig Harvey Weinstein’s bad behaviour seems to have kicked off the most recent epidemic of confessions, with each woman’s story sounding more repulsive and jaw-dropping than the other. I’ve lost count of how many have accused that man, who was once one of the most powerful men in entertainment. (I just checked – as of Thursday, the count is at 95 accusers, with 13 of those alleging rape.)
Weinstein, however, has plenty of company. At last count, 38 women have accused Oscar-nominated writer-director James Toback of sexually harassing them. He joins Fox News mouthpiece Bill O’Reilly; comedian Bill Cosby; celebrity chef John Besh; famous photographer Terry Richardson; and actor/producer Kevin Spacey, among many others.
This list clearly indicates to me that sexual harassment is not about political party or race or religion. Jerks come in all shapes and sizes. I’m struggling, though, with the realization that one very notable name is absent from the list of predators fighting to stay afloat in an industry that keeps a solid grudge: Donald Trump.
Harvey Weinstein is now a pariah. He has lost everything he’s spent the past few decades earning, and there will be no bouncing back for him.
James Toback has been fired by his production firm, his agent, and his publicist.
Bill O’Reilly has lost his job, his talent agency, and his credibility.
Bill Cosby is named in half a dozen lawsuits and has become the laughing stock of every comedian in America.
John Besh was forced out of the company he founded.
Terry Richardson had his work pulled from several notable magazines and is having a hard time finding anyone to publish his photographs.
Netflix has ended production on Kevin Spacey’s show, House of Cards.
And Donald Trump? He was elected President of the United States.
How is that possible? If the Weinstein ripple effect has taught us anything, it’s that accusers, newly validated, are coming out of the woodwork to share their traumatic experiences with horrible men, and we – their bosses, the media, the public – are happily obliged to grab our torches and pitchforks and eviscerate them until they’re sorry and pay for their disgusting actions with their career and reputation.
No less than 11 women came forward in the 2016 campaign to accuse then-Republican presidential candidate Trump of unwanted touching or kissing. He called the charges “pure fiction” and referred to the women as “horrible, horrible liars.” And of course, who can forget that audio tape of he and Access Hollywood frontman Billy Bush, when he flat out admitted (in the most sickening language you can imagine) that he has regularly, aggressively groped women without their consent.
The Weinstein scandal, which has featured graphic accounts of assault from a string of accusers, has sparked a national debate about sexual harassment. Many women, inspired by a #MeToo campaign, have taken to social media to tell their own stories, and there seems to be real momentum behind international outrage toward sexual predators abusing their power.
But for Trump’s accusers, the renewed debate offers a reminder that their allegations did not have the same effect. That they aren’t as important as the others, for reasons they (and I) don’t understand.
Polls last fall showed that a clear majority of voters came to believe that Trump had committed the kind of behaviour described by his accusers. A Washington Post poll three weeks before the election found that more than two-thirds of registered voters — including almost half of Republicans — thought that Trump probably had made unwanted sexual advances toward women.
And they still voted him in? They don’t want a sexual abuser producing their movies but they don’t mind one running their entire country?
It’s something I’ll never understand.