Rebalancing power could prevent sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is one of the most common forms of the abuse of power. “If more women run the show, men aren’t going to act like such animals. They’re going to have women reminding them to be better behaved,” claims a Berkeley professor.  

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Rebalancing power could prevent sexual harassment - NewsMavens
A female and male politicians. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

There has been no shortage of correspondence about sexual harassment in the past few weeks. What started as a trickle of allegations against U.S. president Donald Trump and Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, turned into headlines about American actor Kevin Spacey, British politician Michael Fallon, Alabama senator Roy Moore, comedian Louis C.K. and many, many more.

The attention on sexual violence against women, and some men, as a result of workplace power imbalance, has been at an all-time high. The outpouring of anger, revelations, and allegations is ongoing, with news organisations releasing new exposés and fresh analyses every week.

For an analysis of sexual harassment at work, I spoke to multiple gender professors and academics. While some of them believed this to be a turning point, others said that society needs a rebalancing of power in order to foster a revolution to change behavior toward women at work.

“Until we change male dominance, I don’t think we’re going to see a real transformation in the way in which women are treated in the workplace," women’s rights advocate and lawyer Charlotte Proudman told me on the phone. "The focus on harassment is a good step forward, but I don’t think it’s enough.”

Psychology professor Dacher Keltner, who has studied power for 20 years and teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, believes society has reached a turning point.

“The fact that women have so much voice in this latest effort to curtail male abuses of power vis-a-vis women is really important,” he told me.

Perpetrators need to be punished but that is not all. Keltner stressed that if more women were in powerful positions in Hollywood and politics, fewer young women would be abused.

“If more women run the show, men aren’t going to act like such animals,” he said. “They’re going to have women reminding them to be better behaved.”

More recent allegations, like those against Democrat Al Franken and would-be Alabama senator Roy Moore, have prompted discussion and debate surrounding the diverse range, political and otherwise, of the accused. But one thing is across the board: power.

Louis C.K. even addressed the power imbalance between himself and the women who accused him of misconduct (allegations the comedian confirmed to be true).

"The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly," he said a statement.

If even perpetrators of sexual harassment accept the disparity of power across myriad industries, it must be time for change.

Details from the story:

  • Sexual harassment is one of the most common forms of the abuse of power.
  • Multiple figures, including senator Roy Moore, former president Bill Clinton, current president Donald Trump, comedian Louis C.K., newsreader Charlie Rose, actor Kevin Spacey, Democrat Al Franken, and many more, have been accused of sexual harassment.
  • Non disclosure agreements are "sanctioning the silencing of women."
  • This could be a tipping point for sexual harassment and gender equality.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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