Editorial: Outing harassers good; changing workplace culture, better


The brave women who came forward to describe the sexual abuse, professional intimidation and personal abasement they suffered from Harvey Weinstein, the overbearing man who produced understated films, have set off a revolution.

Not only did they topple the seemingly invincible Weinstein, but they set an inspiring example for scores of other women, and some men, to overcome long-stifled fears and unwarranted feelings of shame, and step forward with testimony of being abused by men who held power over them.

RELATED: Three CBS employees accuse Charlie Rose of sexual harassment

CBS This Morning anchor Norah O’Donnell, reporting Tuesday morning on the appalling allegations against her longtime colleague Charlie Rose, had it right. “There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive,” she said with clenched fury.

“This has to end. This behavior is wrong. Period.”

What is revolutionary is that, for the first time, the women are being widely believed. They are not being dismissed as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty” like Anita Hill when confronting U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, or an “Arkansas bimbo” calling out former President Bill Clinton during the 1992 presidential campaign.

Now, America is starting to regard these stories from the women’s point of view. By shifting the perspective, everything changes. That cultural rumble you hear is an earthquake.

In the less than two months since the New York Times and The New Yorker published the on-the-record allegations about Weinstein and the damage suffered by his victims, we’ve seen the downfall of one famous man after another across various professional and ideological landscapes — many of them men we’ve heretofore admired.

Comedian Louis C.K., award-winning actors Kevin Spacey and Jeffrey Tambor, influential journalist Mark Halperin and about 25 lesser celebrity names. They’re all pretty much kissing their careers goodbye. Maybe now they know what an unwanted kiss feels like.

And, of course, Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and Democratic Minnesota Sen. Al Franken. Their stories are still playing out.

In Florida, a powerful state senator who was running for governor, Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is being investigated by the Senate amid allegations by several unidentified women that he groped them and commented on their bodies. The chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, Stephen Bittel quickly resigned after several women accused him of leering at them and creating an uncomfortable work environment.

The charged atmosphere felled Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, who resigned as soon as an extramarital affair with a lobbyist became public, although by all reports it was a consensual relationship, not a case of harassment or abuse.

We endorse the response by several female legislators who want to change Florida ethics laws to make it a crime for elected officials to coerce someone into having sex in exchange for official acts. State law says officials can’t solicit or accept gifts, but “never mentions sexual harassment or assault or abuse of power of any kind related to withholding political power or exercising it in exchange for sex,” says Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation.

Book and state Rep. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, also want a task force to address the once-hidden issue of sexual harassment and misconduct in the Legislature, which some women say is pervasive in Tallahassee. Good idea.

RELATED: Legislative sex scandals lead McKinlay to seek women’s board revival

In Palm Beach County, County Mayor Melissa McKinlay has reacted constructively: choosing this time to propose re-establishing the Commission on the Status of Women. This creature of the 1970s expired in 1995, but, as McKinlay says, the 15-member advisory board is “more important than ever.” Its tasks, McKinlay said, would include making sure county government’s sexual harassment policies are in line with modern practices.

But the panel should see its job as much broader than that. Its purview should be nothing less than ensuring that women are fully respected throughout the county’s 5,500-person workforce. The best hope is that their work will set a tone for all other workplaces in this county.

As in all revolutions, things can go overboard: Innocent men may be unjustly accused. Punishments may exceed the crime, and not every offense is equal. But where is the line? Our society must sort this out with as much seriousness (and as little politicization) as we can muster.

This revolution is happening because men have taken terrible liberties with women, because a power imbalance gave them a sense of license and because our male-dominated culture was all too content to turn a blind eye.

Those days, as O’Donnell said, must come to an end. Women are speaking up — with contagious courage.

This revolution is happening because it is necessary.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Palm Beach Post editorial cartoon Tues, April 24
Palm Beach Post editorial cartoon Tues, April 24

CARTOON VIEW NICK ANDERSON
Opinion: Evangelicals can’t advance dignity by dehumanizing others

If the stages of a social movement are emergence, coalescence, bureaucratization and decline, the reaction against the Trump evangelicals among other evangelicals is still in the emergence stage. But one significant act of coalescence took place recently at Wheaton College, where a group of 50 ethnically and denominationally diverse evangelical leaders...
Opinion: Educational fraud continues

Earlier this month, the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka The Nation’s Report Card, was released. It’s not a pretty story. Only 37 percent of 12th-graders tested proficient or better in reading, and only 25 percent did so in math. Among black students, only 17 percent tested proficient or better in reading, and just...
Opinion: Barbara Bush: Fake pearls, genuine heart

Barbara Bush was an expert at throwing shade, even before the term existed. When Congressman Dan Rostenkowski gave the first lady a shampoo for white hair made in his Illinois district, she tried it on her dog Millie. “When I shampooed her with it, she became a brown and slightly yellow-haired dog,” she wrote in her memoir. “At this...
Opinion: Remembering Barbara Bush, grieving mother

My mother and Barbara Bush were contemporaries. Despite coming from very different backgrounds — daughter of a Kansas farmer and daughter of a New York City businessman — they had a common experience, a very human link. It’s a sad connection that I suspect also has many a woman feeling fondly toward Bush, who died Tuesday at 92. Both...
More Stories