Following the news that Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed and abused women for decades, waves of women in Hollywood are coming forward with allegations that describe a culture that permits widespread harassment and assault. This culture disproportionately affects women—but it does not affect women alone.
Actors Terry Crews, James Van Der Beck and Rob Schneider have all said that they have had executives or other powerful figures in Hollywood grope them or make sexual advances. Sexual harassment is not only about sexism. It’s the result of the patriarchy—and the way it works to give powerful men carte blanche to diminish others’ humanity.
Women are all too often singled out for sexual harassment in the workplace. A 2015 study of workplace harassment in Australia found that women filed nine out of 10 workplace harassment complaints, as just one example. Because of sexism, women are seen as sexual objects; as Andrea Dworkin wrote, women “are treated as if we are subhuman, and that is a precondition for violence against us.”
Sexual harassment is also the direct result of patriarchy—a system in which men hold the majority of the power, and in which masculinity is glorified. In patriarchy, masculinity and power are bound together. This means that power is inherently sexualized. The ultimate expression of power and authority in patriarchy is the ability to act with sexual impunity. And sexual impunity in patriarchy becomes an expected perk of power.
This is why many men in powerful positions wind up mistreating others. When Weinstein or Steven Seagal allegedly held meetings in a state of undress—or when Lyndon Johnson held meetings on the toilet— they were actively asserting their absolute power as patriarchs by showing they could violate bounds of sexual decorum. Donald Trump made this quite clear when he boasted about sexually harassing women. “When you’re a star they let you do it,” he said. Fame and power enable sexual abuse, and men act as if sexual abuse demonstrates fame and power. Read more via Quartz