As of right now, upwards of forty-plus women have come forward with accusations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and/or rape against film producer, Harvey Weinstein. That means that over the years, over 40 women have been cornered in elevators or forced to lock themselves in hotel bathrooms. Over 40 women have been groped. Over 40 women have been coerced to perform sexual acts they did not consent to because they were scared, or because a well-established film producer told them that if they didn’t, their budding acting career would effectively be over. Forty-plus women over the past three decades have had their choices robbed from them and their bodies touched without permission, by one powerful man, in one industry. Thankfully, those forty women are now taking a stand.
#MeToo is currently trending like wildfire on all platforms of social media. Women around the globe are taking a stand and giving themselves a voice. Hundreds of celebrities, both women and men, are sharing their experiences and showing their support. People are taking to Facebook and Twitter with the help of a hashtag to let others know that they’re not alone; there is solidarity in their fight. It’s powerful, it’s commendable, and it’s a damn good start. But it is not enough.
The problem is, it’s not only big-wig film producers who are groping women and think they are entitled to your body. It’s also not only celebrities that are being groped, assaulted, and harassed. They’re not the only ones hiding in bathrooms, or having their job and livelihood threatened in exchange for sex. #MeToo applies to everyone. Weinstein is only gaining so much traction and attention because of who he is and who his victims are.
A recent poll discovered that 33 million American women have been sexually harassed: 14 million sexually abused in their workplace. 75% of women say that sexual harassment in their place of work is still an ongoing problem. Yet 95% of American women reported that their abusers are going entirely unpunished. Yes, 95%. That is nearly ALL of the working, American women that were polled. Read that again— nearly all of the American women that were polled who were sexually harassed or abused reported that the men that sexually harassed or abused them went without any form of punishment, within or outside of the workplace. And we wonder why #MeToo has exploded.
“Sexual harassment in the workplace is so prevalent, women have been conditioned to expect it”
We’re two months away from the year 2018, and yet women still have to take to social media with a hashtag to make a point about their sexual abuse. Women are still being groped, harassed, and assaulted. Women are still being forced to choose between losing the job they sometimes desperately need, or tolerate being groped, catcalled, and assaulted everyday of their lives.
The job market is shit right now. Everyone knows that. When you have a job, you need to keep it. Yet, as of 2016, women only held 34.1% of senior management rolls. Only 16.3% of CEO positions were held by women. Those numbers are an improvement from past decades, but you’d have to be a heady combination of naive and fucking ignorant to believe that women aren’t still severely outnumbered by men when it comes to having power within the workplace.
This is where most of our problem lies. We have to have the job, but everywhere we go is a man in power; a man with the authority to take your job from you at the drop of the hat. If he decides you’re going to put out in exchange for your position, then put out you will, or be left on the street. If he decides to rub your shoulders and grab your ass in the breakroom, then you’re left with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach and no other options. Because he’s the boss. Who’s to stop him? You’re left powerless because his male authority trumps the very skin you wear.
Now you can come at me with this “not all men” bullshit, and I can promptly tell you to fuck all the way off. Because no, it’s not “all” men. But the fact that it’s any men at all is an issue. And quite frankly, the statistics show that it’s an awful damn lot of men. When 75% of women report sexual harassment or abuse from a higher up in their workplace, I’m sorry to tell you, you “nice guys” are sorely outnumbered.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is so prevalent, women have been conditioned to expect it. I know this because I’ve been there. I’ve worked at jobs where I had to come up with a defense plan on my way to work, because I knew that my boss (who was a male doctor, 30+ years my senior) would be doing his best to corner me in his office at every given opportunity. I knew that he’d make less than savory comments towards me when he thought that no one else was around. I knew that he’d require me to stay late at least three times a week, for whatever arbitrary reason he could cook up: after every other soul had left the office and the lights had been turned down. I had come to expect him rubbing my shoulders, inviting me to hotels, telling me just how sexy my petite frame was in scrubs. I was also well aware that my job, the one that I had to have, was dependent on my responses to his advances.
I’ve also been cold and distant to other men in authority, in an attempt to ward off unwanted attention before it happened. I’ve carried pepper spray in my purse to work every day. I’ve even told people that I was gay. Sometimes that works, sometimes it fuels their fire. Either way, I knew that I was on my own. I knew that a man had authority over me. I knew that HR and harassment complaints were fruitless and would only make matters worse. I also knew that I had to have the job.
I’ve known women that were raped in exchange for their job. Some women have been so conditioned by this environment that they no longer believe that they were raped. That’s because they said yes, and so it no longer “counts.” It doesn’t matter that the “consent” was under distress. It doesn’t matter that they were coerced with the threat of losing their job. They became so hardened to the situation that they literally didn’t believe they were being raped.
Many of us are going to work scared. Many of us are giving “consent” to things, or at the very least not saying anything about the sexual harassment we face, because we’ve come to know better. We’re staying quiet and complacent, because what else can we do?
Then something like Weinstein happens. And we sit at our computers or phones and we draft out a #MeToo status over and over again. It’ll take us days to post it. We have to weigh out the possible repercussions. We have to decide whether it’s worth it or not. Maybe we’ll eventually post it. Maybe not. But we watch as our fellow women come forward. We’ll track the news as Weinstein loses his job and maybe even faces some consequences. Then we’ll watch as all the attention slowly dwindles back down. #MeToo will stop trending. People will be quiet again, and men will return to putting their hands where they don’t belong, because we’re not famous and no one actually cares.
So, while it’s still prevalent, do something about it. We know there’s a problem. The statistics show that there’s a problem. The millions of hashtags show that there’s a problem. So recognize it. Because it doesn’t only happen in Hollywood. It happens in hospitals and schools. It happens in gas stations and factories. It happens in multi-million dollar companies and it happens in call centers. It happens everywhere. Everyday. Someone is going to work scared and sick, knowing that as soon as they walk in the door their body doesn’t actually, really, completely belong to them anymore.
Stop letting it fall stagnant. Stop letting it become irrelevant again. Stop making women sign over their skin to keep their job. Stand the fuck up. Don’t allow this to only be significant if it’s surrounded by fame. Start fighting back. Start pushing for stricter laws and heavier punishment. Start holding a motherfucker accountable for their actions instead of excusing it because they’re a dick with power. Start making people realize that even when the hashtags go silent, we’re still being raped every damn day, and it’s still a fucking problem.
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Andrea is a freelance writer based out of Kentucky. She is the mother to a 3 year old little girl and step-mother to a 6 year old boy. She’s been married to her husband and best friend for 5 years. She enjoys fishing, camping, hiking and the occasional glass of wine by a bonfire.