As Weinstein Sexual Assault Allegations Emerge, There’s Hope for Change in Hollywood–and the Workplace

Throughout human history, men, and more specifically, powerful men have held the cards. Women, for the most part, have been powerless, forced to rely on their husbands, brothers, fathers and other male relations to get by. As history has revealed, this power imbalance has led to sexual encounters that could not be labelled as consensual.

When stories of allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein broke last month, the floodgates have opened. The list of women who have accused Weinstein continues to grow almost daily: Well-known actors such as Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, and Angeline Jolie have come forward, accusing Weinstein assaulting them or trying to assault them. Moreover, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has announced that he will be presenting a case to the grand jury in response to the rape allegations by actress Paz De La Huerta.

And it’s not Weinstein who has been accused of sexual misconduct in Hollywood. Other big names such as Dustin Hoffman, Ben Affleck, Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Piven have been accused of similar crimes. Moreover, the reverberations of the accusations have been felt beyond the entertainment industry; male executives from several other sectors have been accused of sexual assault by female employees and have lost jobs—and reputations—as a result.

Sexual assault and rape are so much more than the physical act. It is the act of the powerful using their power to intimidate the less powerful or wielding sex as a tool to climb the career ladder. In the case of a male boss and a female employee, the boss may dangle a career opportunity or allow their female employee just to keep their job in return for sex or sexual favors. This story is as old as humanity itself; men are powerful, women are powerless according to this narrative. That men are fully formed human beings with thoughts, ambitions, opinions and desires, and that women are mere sex objects to be used and thrown away by men like a dirty rag that has been used to clean a kitchen.

The one bright spot in this revelation is it gives hope that things will improve. Male bosses who once thought they can get away with sexual misconduct will either more likely to be deterred or, if they do such acts and are accused, be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There’s also hope that women will not be afraid to speak up and go to the authorities when a male boss does sexually proposition them in the workplace. It will also mean that more companies will hopefully be open to granting management positions to women, thus reducing the risk of sexual misconduct allegations by women against male employees.

Sometimes change happens in slow, but steady spurts. Other times, change happens all at once, and comes out of nowhere, caused by an explosion, one that the Harvey Weinstein scandal opened the door for change. The casting couch and its incarnations across all industries as a means of advancement will be replaced by viewing female employees with professional respect and dignity, instead of being seen as just another conquest by their male superior.

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