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American author Rebecca Traister. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Five women who said the ‘wrong thing’ post-Weinstein

By Pieta Woolley

By now, we all know the facts. Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was a serial harasser and assaulter of less powerful women for decades. But’s he’s having his comeuppance — finally. And after the Weinstein story broke, other high-profile men had to face their own pasts and presents in completely new ways. 

Thanks to the flood of storytelling through #metoo on social media and elsewhere, we’re grasping how pervasive sexual harassment and violence is in the workplace. Of course, this is not where we thought actor Mary Tyler Moore’s revolution was leading us. So what to do with all of this information and rage?

Well, weed out and punish the perpetrators, for starters. But then what?

Not all women believe that the story ends there. In fact, a few brave women have pointed out in the media that the Weinstein and #metoo fallout must change both genders’ workplace behaviour in uncomfortable ways. And, of course, these same women are experiencing a profound backlash.

Now that the initial shock of the accusations has waned, those looking for a more complex answer to “what the hell happened to feminism?” should also challenge themselves by considering the "wrong things" these five women have said post-Weinstein.

1. Neuroscientist and actor (Blossom and The Big Bang Theory) Mayim Bialik

What she said: In an October New York Times article titled, “Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World,” she wrote about refusing to play the sex-symbol game.

“. . . I have also experienced the upside of not being a “perfect ten.” As a proud feminist with little desire to diet, get plastic surgery or hire a personal trainer, I have almost no personal experience with men asking me to meetings in their hotel rooms. Those of us in Hollywood who don’t represent an impossible standard of beauty have the ‘luxury’ of being overlooked and, in many cases, ignored by men in power unless we can make them money.

“I still make choices every day as a 41-year-old actress that I think of as self-protecting and wise. I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with. I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy.”

The fallout: After being accused of victim-blaming, she apologized for the piece.

2. Journalist Margaret Wente

What she said:
In a November Globe & Mail column, Canada’s greatest provocateur reminded women that there’s a cost for speaking up.

“The post-Weinstein era will be a better place for women. But there will be losses too. The ordinary, garden-variety banter of the office will be lost. Colleagues will be walking on eggshells, afraid that ordinary gestures of teasing or affection — including all kissing, touching, hugging, flirting and almost all kinds of humour — might be misconstrued and give offence. Men will no longer meet with women behind closed doors, alone. Casual informality and warmth will be replaced by stiffness, anxiety and prudishness. The world will be a slightly colder place. And that's too bad.”

The fallout: Mild in comparison to her usual haters, one of her commenters wrote: “Of course, Wente had to end on that note of alarm . . .  otherwise, she'd have risked alienating those among her readers who feel validated by her trademark brand of thinly veiled, regressive insouciance.”

3. New York Times fashion director Vanessa Friedman

What she said: In a November New York Times column titled, “Pinups in the Post-Weinstein World,” Friedman highlights the false empowerment inherent in sexy fashion, especially the Victoria’s Secret show and Love Advent Calendar.

“In the current cultural climate, where powerful men are tumbling like bowling pins because of bad behavior that has its roots in the objectification of women, what about the moral imperative [of pinup fashion projects]? What fantasy, exactly, is all this feeding? The issue of the pinup in a post-Weinstein world is more complicated than it may first appear.”

4. Writer Rebecca Traister

What she said: In November, the author of All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation wrote a long, nuanced essay on The Cut, noting that reflective women are recognizing how they’ve participated in the harassment game, by trading sex for power in the workplace (she also said loads of other stuff that is much more acceptable).

“Other women who played along with their bosses expressed a degree of shame, as well as pride. ‘Men have their fraternities and golf games to get ahead. Why shouldn’t I have used the advantage of my sexuality to my benefit? God, what else was I supposed to do?’ says one woman in her early 50s.”

5. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, and Carly Fiorina, a former Republican presidential candidate

What they said: Interviewed about Weinstein on different TV shows on the same November morning, both politicos went off script, Esquire magazine noted. Pelosi defended accused Democratic Rep. John Conyers on NBC. And Fiorina, on Fox News, named former Fox exec and harasser Roger Ailes in a list of problematic men.

“John Conyers is an icon in our country. He’s done a great deal to protect women,” Pelosi said.

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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