Each hour seems to bring new and revolting revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s decades of alleged rape and sexual predation. In the wake of the news has come a lot of soul searching: how did we let this happen? Why didn’t people expose him? Is it a Hollywood problem, or pervasive in society? How many more Harveys are there?
The answers aren’t the ones we want to hear. The reality is that institutional sexism and sexual abuse are pervasive across nearly all industries. But they are especially severe in highly competitive fields where a small number of people, mostly men, have enormous wealth and power. Harvey Weinsteins are everywhere, not just in Hollywood but on Wall Street and small towns and throughout society. Women (and some men) who face this sort of abuse are rarely listened to or believed, and the career consequences they face for speaking out are enormous.
Stopping these predators requires that our culture do everything it can to address fundamental sexism at all levels. Men–especially those who are not subordinate to the predators–need to do far more to stand up and hold them accountable.
The most common defense that men make in these cases is that they didn’t know about the behavior. Harvey’s brother Bob Weinstein says that he knew his brother was physically abusive and a serial philanderer, but didn’t know about his predatory behavior. Many others have acknowledged that Weinstein was a cruel bully, but say they weren’t aware of the level of his depravity. The same goes for many of Donald Trump’s acquaintances, who often acknowledged his abusive personality but claimed not to be aware of his much more serious assaults. Trump, of course, has not suffered the same repercussions from his base as Weinstein has from Hollywood and the left, which says a great deal about America’s current political divide.