Sunlight soap

To the surprise of no one, Harvey Weinstein wasn’t the only hotshot guy preying on women.

Following The New York Times and The New Yorker’s revelations about the film executive and alleged serial sexual harasser Harvey Weinstein, Lockhart Steele of Vox Media, the screenwriter James Toback, the critic Leon Wieseltier, and, on Thursday, Mark Halperin of MSNBC have found themselves outed and, in some cases, fired for alleged past behavior. Preceding Weinstein were reports about alleged harassment at Tinder and Uber, and the alleged predatory behavior of Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump, and Bill Cosby, among others. Many more disclosures are likely to come, as the politics, technology, news, and entertainment industries come to terms with the pervasive problems of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in their ranks.

It’s rather sad they waited until now to come to terms with the pervasive problems of sex discrimination and sexual harassment in their ranks. It’s not as if no one knew about them.

Up to 85 percent of women say that they have been sexually harassed at work, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The problem appears to be particularly acute in service industries, in which employees rely on tips and interface frequently with customers; in low-wage industries, in which employees have little power to begin with; and in industries dominated by men, like construction.

Which leaves…um…does it leave anything?

Sexual abuse is a consistent and pervasive feature of the modern workforce, but despite how consistent and pervasive harassment is, there is scant data and public information about it. Women tend to keep the knowledge of such incidents to themselves, for one. They more often than not do not report them, due to a fear of not being believed, a sexist culture in the workplace, a belief that nothing would happen or change, and reasonable concerns about retaliation.

Yeah that pretty much covers it. People who are bullied are afraid of more and worse bullying.

Within workplaces, too, a lack of recognition of the problem is common as well—helping foster a lack of accountability and a lack of repercussions for harassers. Take the case of Wieseltier, for instance. Numerous women have said that he had touched them, propositioned them, or made inappropriate sexual comments to them while he worked at The New Republic. (Wieseltier has apologized for “offenses” that made his former colleagues “feel demeaned and disrespected,” and Emerson Collective, which owns a majority share in The Atlantic, has cancelled his forthcoming publication.) In a piece by Jason Cherkis at HuffPost, former New Republic editors described a workplace culture in which male leaders declined to act on what was happening.

Wieseltier is important and they’re not.

The flood of public revelations about bad behavior in tech, media, and politics—from Susan J. Fowler’s whistle-blowing on the workplace culture at Uber to the stories about Weinstein and others to the Cosby allegations—has shown that sunshine can sometimes act as a disinfectant. Women coming forward to share their stories begets other women coming forward to share their stories begets consequences, in some cases and in some industries at least.

Maybe, and yet…here we still are, after all this time. I’m not brimming with optimism.

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