The idea of a man like Harvey Weinstein wielding the power he has is terrifying. As one of the top Hollywood film producers and studio executives in the business, the recent outpouring of sexual assault allegations against him comes as less of a shock than fear and resignation. It seems as though women are unable to escape manipulative men at every turn, with the past year and half revealing the ugly truth about Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and now, Harvey Weinstein. How do we as a society nip this kind of behavior in the bud? Is this a case of generational misogyny that will disappear with older generations or something deeper?
And what message are we sending to women of all kinds if these events keep happening? We have men in top positions of power in all areas of our country, from Hollywood producers to the president of the United States who have bragged about and committed acts of sexual harassment against them and we’ve allowed it. In the past years with the public’s vocal push for representation in media, the placement of women in positions of power on our screens has allowed us all, but especially men, to give ourselves metaphorical pats on the back as sexism and sexual harassment has supposedly been extinguished. Women in the real world, however, are still lacking the career positions shown to them on screen and are therefore being taken down a peg or two over accomplishments only fictional characters have received. We’re taking steps back before we’ve truly made strides forward and revelations about our president, the director of Fox News, television hosts and recently, Weinstein only make matters worse. Not only are women not actually earning as much as men or taking on roles mainly dominated by men, but when they do manage to achieve some modicum of success, they’re sexually harassed by men who still tower above them.
This doesn’t even factor in the danger of male entitlement that can be found in this country. Male entitlement and the power they feel they are owed causes them to make light of sexism and leads to them actively practicing it. Men, specifically straight, white men, feeling they are owed everything and anything simply by divine right, now see the power challenged by an up-and-coming class of people. They see women as a primary threat and this can cost these women their lives through domestic abuse, rape and murder. According to a 2015 report from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “One in five women … will be raped at some point in their lives,” nearly “one in 10 women has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime,” and similar statistics from the Rape Response Services’ site states that “nearly 1 in 2 women have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime.”
This is all to say that this particular brand of man is obviously not true of all men; not every straight white man in America fits this definition and to say that it is so would be a gross exaggeration. However, while not every man is like this, it is safe to say that nearly all women have encountered a man who more or less possess these traits. There should therefore be more of an advocation for the destruction of toxic masculinity and the breakdown of ideas of what a man should be. Maybe then, instead of an ingrained entitlement that men feel they have to certain things, we can instill a true regard and respect for women and their abilities.
To connect this all to Weinstein, he is only the latest perpetuation of the dangers of toxic masculinity, the most recent example of what happens when men like him are allowed to make or break women’s careers. Men like him devalue women by treating them solely as sex objects, making them vulnerable and belittled. There needs to be an overhaul in teaching our men how to treat women because no one asks for this kind of ill treatment and no one ever deserves it.