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The Weinstein Effect and Empowering Others to Say #MeToo

by on November 20, 2017 5:00 AM

 

It’s being called the Weinstein effect.

In response to what seems to be a decades long pattern of sexual harassment and sexual assault of young actresses by Hollywood producer and director Harvey Weinstein, women across the country are stepping forward to share their stories. Survivors, young and old, male and female, are coming forward to share their experiences with the misuse of power and sex — from incidents that happened fairly recently to others that took place many years ago.  

The bravery of those first women to step forward to expose one of the most powerful men in the film industry is empowering others to do the same. The Weinstein effect is impacting not only the entertainment industry but elsewhere as well.   

The crisis in Hollywood has fed a social media campaign in which women across the world began posting #MeToo as a sign of solidarity and to demonstrate not only the shocking number of incidents but also to show how pervasive and widespread the crimes against women can be. Sexual harassment and abuse knows no socioeconomic, ethnic, religious or other boundaries.

I was a student, working a part-time retail job for spending money at college. I hadn’t really socialized much with my co-workers in the year or so I had worked there. I was the part-time college kid and most of them were working to support themselves and their families. Long story short, one night I decided to accept an invitation for an after-work gathering. When I got to the party, people had already been drinking. The store manager, a married guy who was probably in his mid 30s, was among them. My conversations with Tom prior to that night were superficial. I wouldn’t have been certain he even knew my name.

I can remember how uncomfortable it felt when he called me over and then enthusiastically asked me to sit on his lap. I remember looking around at my co-workers as if to ask “Is this some kind of joke?” The other women in the room seemed to feel as awkward as I was feeling. As he became more loud and more persistent, I made excuses and eventually went to another room. I left the party shortly after.

When I got to work the next time, Tom made a point of coming over to the department where I worked.  “I notice you don’t work on Saturdays” he said. “That’s right” I responded. “When I was hired, I explained that I have Penn State football tickets and was told I didn’t have to work on those Saturdays.”

“If you can’t work Saturdays,” he said, “then I can’t use you. We expect all of our employees to work on the Saturdays.” My direct supervisor was standing nearby and I can remember the surprised look on her face. My performance evaluations were excellent and this seemed to be coming out of nowhere.

I knew exactly where his decision was coming from.

Technically, I wasn’t fired. I quit. I’m not even sure I told my parents about it at the time but I do remember talking about it with my roommate. “You could probably sue or something” she said. How would I ever be able to prove what happened or if there was a link between his actions at the party and his sudden interest in my part-time schedule? Who would I call and who would believe me?

Looking back, I was extremely lucky. It wasn’t Harvey Weinstein in his bathrobe at a hotel or Al Franken prepping for a USO performance. He crossed the line in a room full of witnesses. It wasn’t my career or my livelihood at stake. I had options. I was able to say no.

The Weinstein case has brought to light how prevalent the abuse of power in the workplace can be.  

Our caution needs to be in politicizing the issue. I noted on Facebook that men were being told that they couldn’t join the #metoo movement because it’s a “female” thing. Wrong. Sexual misconduct knows no gender boundaries.  Similarly, when the political party of the abuser or the person stepping forward becomes the focus, we have the potential to lose sight of the real issue and for people to dismiss the issue as “politics.”

Selective outrage doesn’t serve any of us.

We also need to remember that people in this country are innocent until proven guilty. As much as I know in my heart that the link between the party and my termination were linked, I understand the importance of due process. Trying people in the press without the benefit of a defense, evidence and on the basis of “he said, she said” may, in the end, do more damage.  

The cases of Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey and others in Hollywood are shedding light on a horrible and seemingly accepted practice in the entertainment and film industry. That exposure is now extending to other industries as women – and men – are stepping forward to demand accountability for criminal behavior.

Perhaps good may likely come from some very bad.

 



Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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