Women of courage refuse to tolerate abuse

By Rong Xiaoqing Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/2 21:08:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

There's an epidemic of sorts spreading across the US and Europe. It has nothing to do with the flu, but rather it's a virus formed by a mixture of abuse of power, shameless audacity and excessive libido. It's called sexual harassment.

Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood tycoon who produced many award-winning films, has crashed and burned now that dozens of women, including numerous famous actors, have accused him of forcing himself upon them and even exposing himself. 

Film director James Toback has been accused of the same conduct. Mark Halperin, one of the country's top political journalists, is facing harassment accusations from several women. Roy Price, who was an executive at Amazon Studios, was forced to quit over similar harassment allegations, and even former president George H. W. Bush, who is 93 years old, has been accused by at least three women of touching them inappropriately. 

Sexual harassment is nothing new - what is new is that many women (and some men) have now found the courage to speak up.

These are not the first explosive revelations about powerful men abusing their authority over those who work for or are indebted to them. Think of Roger Ailes, former chairman of Fox News, who is now dead, or Bill O'Reilly, the ousted former Fox presenter. And then there is Bill Cosby, the legendary actor and serial predator.

Alyssa Milano, one of the women who helped expose Weinstein's disgusting conduct, triggered an avalanche when she initiated the #MeToo movement on Twitter to encourage women with similar painful narratives to come forward.

These high-profile allegations have largely emerged in the US and Europe, but men in countries like China should not feel smug. It's no secret in China that some powerful men, be it movie directors, corrupt politicians, successful entrepreneurs and renowned scholars, have been taking advantage of so called "unwritten rules" to harass and abuse women who depend on their help for career advancement. It's not yet an epidemic perhaps because many abused women have remained silent.

When such nose-wrinkling behavior is exposed, the predators can face immediate consequences. Many of these men have settled cases with big-money settlements, many have lost their careers and some are facing legal repercussions.

It remains questionable how much real change will occur following this bout of sex abuse allegations. Public rage is sure to dissipate over time. And to expect men to fundamentally change because of a public outcry is naive. Men do this, as former US president Bill Clinton famously said of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, "just because I could." There will always be men who cannot resist the temptation to over exert their power.

To punish the moral decay among the male gender of the species is important. They deserve it. But a fundamental change must also come from women. Revelations of these serial predators also reveal that a victim's silence creates additional victims. Those who are now facing down their abusers in public deserve applause. Yet there are still many who are dealing with bitter memories on their own. One estimate from The New York Times put the number of women who speak out about their experience with sexual harassment at fewer than 30 percent.

There's also a growing realization that many abused women became victims after their sisters remained silent.

They are victimized by women's traditional way of resistance. When put in a thorny situation, many women will try to solve the problem in a non-confrontational manner. They try to decline unwanted advances by using body gestures or ambiguous language, which the predators simply ignore. 

And then, there are sugar babies who deliberately use their sexuality to get ahead.

All of this sends the wrong message to the predators; that their outrageous behavior is somewhat tolerable.

To some extent, all women, including the sugar babies, are victims. They are the victims of a society which still gives men more credit and benefits than women receive. To survive this environment, many women find they are the ones who have to bend. Blaming the victim can no longer be tolerated.

But nothing will change unless we can face the fact that real change doesn't comes from those who hold power, but rather from those who are abused by it.

The author is a New York-based journalist. rong_xiaoqing@hotmail.com

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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